The campaign to support McCarthy included the website standwithgina.com and a Facebook page. Republican senators led by David Vitter of Louisiana dragged out the review, posing more than 1,000 questions to McCarthy, and boycotted a meeting to consider the nomination.
The Senate confirmed McCarthy on July 18, more than four months after Obama named her to lead the EPA.
"You have to be prepared for people whose stated goals are to stop stuff," said Meehan, a former aide to Democratic senators including John Kerry, now the secretary of state, Barbara Boxer and former Majority Leader Tom Daschle. He said Binz's critics may "cherry pick pieces of fact and put it out of context."
If confirmed, Binz would succeed FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, who turned the agency from a sleepy regulator of the electric and natural gas network into an enforcement authority after Congress expanded its powers in 2005. FERC, an independent government agency, oversees the nation's interstate transport of electricity and natural gas.
Wellinghoff also backed renewable energy and efficiency technologies. Advocates for Binz want to ensure FERC continues in that direction. The Green Tech Action Fund, which describes itself as a nonpartisan, not-for-profit grant-making organization, has the same street address as the 22-year-old Energy Foundation. The foundation in 2011 issued $76.4 million in grants on $96.8 million in revenue, the latest available tax records show.
Binz last year received at least $10,000 from the Energy Foundation for consulting work, according to a personal-finance disclosure document filed with the Office of Government Ethics in June.
Binz's opponents, including the Colorado Mining Association, say that as a state regulator he blocked coal use at utility customers' expense, while benefiting Minneapolis-based Xcel, which has operations in Colorado.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission under Binz allowed Xcel to receive a 10.5 percent rate of return on construction costs associated with building natural-gas generators, Cooke and co-author William Yeatman wrote in a 2010 paper. The plan stemmed from a Colorado clean-energy law backed by then-Governor Bill Ritter, a Democrat, they said.
Cooke and Chris Horner, a lawyer for the Burke, Virginia- based Free Market Environmental Law Clinic, on July 29 filed a Freedom of Information Act request with FERC to find out whether the agency has had any contact with VennSquared or the Green Tech Action Fund, even before Obama announced Binz's nomination.
"Ron Binz's regulatory approach as chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission was sound," Amy Fuerstenau, the fund's executive director, said in an email. "Our support includes helping to make sure accurate information about Ron and his record are in the media."
"Mr. Binz is part of the White House's damn-the-voters strategy of imposing through regulation what Congress won't pass," according to the July 30 Wall Street Journal editorial, citing his comments that the Colorado agency was both an arbiter and an advocate. "Mr. Binz is the latest presidential nominee who doesn't understand the difference between making laws and enforcing them."
VennSquared's Meehan said he isn't surprised by the editorial or the dispute over Binz. Fights over nominees can become an extension of electoral politics and policy disputes and are less about a candidate's qualifications, he said.
"The rule of thumb in political Washington is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best," Meehan said.