PA lobbyist out at Transportation, gets transferred to energy regulatory agency

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission named Anthony Pugliese as chief of staff. He previously served as a White House adviser to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, left. CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

President Donald Trump’s beachhead team member at the Department of Transportation has moved to the federal agency that regulates the nation’s electric power and natural gas industries where he will be serving as chief of staff.

Former Pennsylvania lobbyist Anthony Pugliese was selected to fill the chief of staff position at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under its new chairman, Neil Chatterjee. The chief of staff’s duties include promoting cooperation among divisions at FERC and working to ensure the chairman’s policy objectives are followed.

On Inauguration Day, the White House sent groups of Trump advisers, many of whom worked on the president’s campaign, to lead beachhead teams at every Cabinet agency. Their duties included informing department heads of the White House’s policy priorities. They also oversaw the arrival of new political appointees and coordinated with the White House on the agency’s direction.

At the Transportation Department, Pugliese often traveled back and forth between the White House and Transportation Department headquarters, the Washington Post reported in March. His office was only 20 paces from Secretary Elaine Chao’s, according to the article.

Pugliese worked on pipeline safety and regulatory issues and also played a leadership role in the development and planning of Trump’s infrastructure proposal, FERC said in a press release Monday announcing his selection as chief of staff.

Prior to joining the Trump team, the 31-year-old served as a lobbyist for Pugliese Associates, a Pennsylvania lobbying firm where he worked on solar, oil, and natural gas issues, according to FERC. Pugliese’s father, Rocco, founded the lobbying firm in 1980.

Pugliese also previously served on Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, a 30-member panel charged with recommending natural gas drilling policies the governor.

Pugliese worked as a policy coordinator for former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s (R) successful gubernatorial campaign in 2011 and served on the governor’s transition team. From January 2011 to February 2012, he served as director of legislative affairs for the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development in the Corbett administration.

After working as a lobbyist at his father’s firm from 2012 to 2016, Pugliese left to run for a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He lost in his bid for the Republican nomination for the Pennsylvania 92nd House district, coming second in a five-way race.

In early May, Politico reported that the White House started to dismantle its beachhead team and that the members were getting reassigned. At the time, Pugliese was expected to be transferred soon from his position as a member of the shadow cabinet at the Transportation Department.

Pugilese’s relationship with Chao at the Department of Transportation was rocky at times, according to news reports. “He told the secretary that once we both agree on something, then we can push it out,” a source told Politico. “The Secretary was like, ‘Um, what’s your name again?'”

The chief of staff position at FERC is a relatively low-profile position, although it may grow in stature if Chatterjee or his successor attempts to implement Trump’s energy policies at the independent federal agency. Chatterjee is serving as chairman only temporarily while the commission awaits the expected Senate confirmation of Trump’s nominee to head the commission, Kevin McIntyre.