Potential Clinton energy cabinet takes form; Trump remains wild card

Source: By ANNALEN GRANT, MOLLY-KATHLEEN CHRISTIAN, Bloomberg • Posted: Monday, October 31, 2016

With a political career as long as Hillary Clinton’s, the list of potential cabinet members is lengthy and stacked with well-known candidates who could form her administration. But the same is not true for political outsider Donald Trump, who has campaigned on a platform of shaking up the status quo in Washington, D.C., and lacks any previous political experience.

“Obviously looking ahead to a potential Clinton administration cabinet is a great parlor game in Washington, D.C.,” said Elizabeth Gore, a policy director for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck who served in the White House under former President Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been tight-lipped as to who may be in contention for key cabinet positions, but Gore said there are plenty of high-profile names already being floated for the U.S. EPA, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy. “I think there’s a reluctance to look like [the campaign is] taking the election for granted and they want to wait until they get past November 8th, but that doesn’t stop the rest of us from kicking a bunch of names around,” Gore said.

Rarely in American politics does the same party hang on to the Oval Office following an election involving two non-incumbents. The last time was in 1988, when President George H.W. Bush won following Ronald Reagan’s final term. Days after that election, Reagan asked for the resignations of all of his cabinet members to ensure the incoming president had flexibility to build his own cabinet, according to a Los Angeles Times archived report. Even so, The Washington Post reported in August 1989 that Reagan appointees held a third of all jobs in the new Bush administration.

Gore, however, does not expect Clinton to hang on to many of President Barack Obama’s appointees should she win on Nov. 8, despite similar positions on certain policy issues, including clean energy and environmental policy. The one exception for the new cabinet could be Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “He’s very well known and well liked on Capitol Hill, and he’s got bipartisan support. I think people have been generally pleased with the way that he has operated,” Gore said.

Other possibilities for the energy secretary role are Jennifer Granholm, former governor and attorney general of Michigan. She has also been floated for EPA administrator. One of the odder rumors Gore has heard is that Clinton campaign manager John Podesta is on the list for energy secretary. “It’s persistent enough of a rumor that you feel you have to take it seriously. It’s a little strange to me, frankly,” Gore said.

While Podesta has been outspoken on climate change issues and supportive of Obama policies like the Clean Power Plan, Gore is not sure he would be a great fit for the Energy Department. “His work on climate change in particular, that’s not really the mission of the Department of Energy,” Gore said. The agency is more involved in research and development in the energy space, and nuclear defense issues.

As for the EPA, Administrator Gina McCarthy has indicated her desire to step aside and return to her home in Massachusetts. Gore said the EPA head has been commuting between Boston and Washington, D.C. for years.

Gore said EPA administrators with experience with state-level issues are a big plus. McCarthy fit that bill, having served as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, or DEEP, before joining the federal agency in 2009. Other candidates Gore has heard for the job are:

* Dan Esty, currently a professor at the Yale School of Law and formerly the head of Connecticut DEEP.

* Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, whom Gore said has been very influential as she led her state through comprehensive environmental regulations.

* Bill Ritter, former governor of Colorado and now director of the Center for the New Energy Economy, who Gore said is close to Clinton.

* Heather Zichal, former White House deputy assistant for energy and climate change under Obama.

For Secretary of the Interior, Gore sees a clear front runner in former Senator Mark Udall, whose family has deep ties to the agency. “He’s well known and well liked in the senate, which makes that confirmation process a little easier,” Gore said. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Alaska Sen. Mark Begich are other contenders.

The new president will have other values to weigh, too. “Putting together a cabinet is like a mosaic,” Gore said. While a president-elect may have someone specific in mind, they also have to consider geographic, gender, racial and ideological diversity.

“Even if you can identify the perfect person to run EPA, for example, it’s really part of this larger picture and so that makes it a little bit more complicated to figure out who the front runners will be. Because each agency isn’t in a vacuum,” Gore said.

A blank slate

While Gore is no expert on the inner workings of the Trump campaign, she said predicting the Republican candidate’s cabinet is even tougher because of his relative inexperience in politics.

“[Clinton’s] been around for so long, and her network is so broad, that the list of potential folks is long, particularly for EPA, which reflects a mission that has been so important to Clinton in her campaign,” she said. “But Trump in many ways is a bit of a blank slate because he just hasn’t been involved in government. It’s much more difficult to come up with the list of possibles because you just don’t really know what he’s looking for or who he relies on for advice, and who reflects his views on some of these issues.”

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, an energy adviser to Trump, said he was unsure whom the GOP nominee may appoint, but that Trump “likes accomplished, successful business people around him” who would run the government more like a business.

“I would expect that that’s where he would turn for his cabinet,” Cramer told S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The North Dakota lawmaker said Continental Resources Inc. Chairman and CEO Harold Hamm remains “at the top” of Trump’s list for energy secretary. Hamm helped educate Trump on the surge in U.S. shale oil and gas production and has served on the Trump campaign’s economic advisory team. The energy executive was also part of the push to lift the 40-year ban on U.S. crude exports, which Congress voted to end in December 2015.

“Harold being the type of patriot that he is, I would expect that he would be open to [that cabinet position],” Cramer said.

Cramer also commended Moniz for his performance as energy secretary and said if anyone were to hang around post-Obama, the energy secretary could be the person. “I’d say Gina McCarthy and [Interior Secretary] Sally Jewell would have to go like the next day, if not the day before, because they’re such activists. Ernie Moniz is not an activist. He’s an intellect,” Cramer said.

He also heard that Lucas Oil co-founder and president Forrest Lucas was rumored as a potential interior secretary in a Trump administration.

If Trump were to win the presidency, Cramer said the celebrity businessman would likely take a “proactive approach” to filling his cabinet and name possible appointees “very quickly.”

Like Clinton, Trump has ambitious energy-related goals for his first 100 days, although his priorities are very different from the Democratic nominee’s. Cramer said Trump would immediately start a thorough review of regulations that could be revised or eliminated and look at the legal process for undoing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.