The chief of staff for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Anthony Pugliese, is taking criticism for unearthed messages that show he tried to meet with Brexit leader Nigel Farage and praised Italy’s right-wing deputy prime minister.
While on a work-related trip in London, Pugliese in June expressed interest in meeting Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom’s Brexit movement. A few weeks later in Italy, the FERC chief of staff lauded Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister, according to emails obtained by E&E News through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Pugliese’s email exchange was with Raheem Kassam, a former Breitbart London editor and former adviser to Farage. The two men evidently met at a birthday party on June 23. On that same night, Pugliese messaged Kassam with his FERC email address and informed him that he would be in London that same week and Italy in July.
“If you think there are a few people that would be worth meeting, let me know,” he wrote to Kassam in June.
While in London to attend meetings with the Electric Infrastructure Security Council, Pugliese later asked if there was “any luck” in arranging a meeting with Farage — to which Kassam answered in the negative. About a month after that exchange, Pugliese wrote to Kassam again while he was in Italy, saying that Salvini “seems like a boss.”
Salvini, a member of Italy’s populist Northern League party, is known internationally for his advocacy in reducing immigration to his country. Pugliese’s “boss” message came a few days after Salvini prevented a boat of illegal migrants from docking at an Italian port.
The emails raise concerns over the impartiality of FERC, a regulating body that is meant to be nonpartisan.
“If Mr. Pugliese offers his resignation, he will spare the Chairman [Kevin McIntyre] from having to weigh the risks of Pugliese further compromising the agency’s integrity and reputation, damaging the chairman’s own reputation for integrity, and wondering whether the White House will care about the loss of its apparatchik at FERC,” Alison Silverstein, a former FERC staffer, said in a statement to Utility Dive.
This is not the first time Pugliese has landed himself in hot water. He suggested FERC was helping identify which plants are essential to the country’s electrical grid, while speaking at a nuclear energy conference in August — indicating that the commission was working with the Trump administration in its bailout plan of coal and nuclear plants. (RELATED: America’s Oldest Running Nuclear Power Plant Is About To Shut Down)
The FERC chief of staff, however, has hit back on the email story.
“Your biased reporting appears to be making news out of nothing,” Pugliese said to E&E News through a spokesman.
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