That President Barack Hussein Obama has made “green energy” a priority of his administration is no secret. Under the Obama watch, the Department of Energy (DOE), headed by Dr. Steven Chu, has spent, loaned, or guaranteed loans, and the total amount is $80 billion. And we all know that Solyndra failed, costing taxpayers over $500 million. So what? you say. That’s old news. Well, as the late (great IMHO) Paul Harvey used to say, here is “the rest of the story.”
Believe it or not politics played an important part of Obama’s green energy policy. As Gomer Pyle used to say on The Andy Griffith Show, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!” Obama’s entire $80 billion clean-technology program now looks like a political liability for an administration about to enter a bruising reelection campaign. With that in mind, let’s “follow the money,” let’s see how politics played a part in the entire Solyndra and green energy scandals.
Obama’s green-technology program was rife with politics at every level. Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, the DOE, and White House officials. But to no avail. Obama and his administration remained steadfast in its support for Solyndra. Rarely, if ever, was there discussion of the impact that Solyndra’s bankruptcy would have on laid-off workers or on the development of clean-energy technology. “What’s so troubling is that politics seems to be the dominant factor,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “They’re not talking about what the taxpayers are losing; they’re not talking about the failure of the technology, whether we bet on the wrong horse. What they are talking about is ‘How are we going to manage this politically?’”
The Obama administration gave easy access to venture capitalists with stakes in some of the companies backed by the administration. Many of those investors had given to Obama’s 2008 campaign. Some took jobs in the administration and helped manage the clean-energy program. “This was a merit-based decision made by expert staffers at the DOE,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said. (personal comment: If you believe Schultz’s statement, I own a bridge in NYC in which you may be interested!)
Two days before Obama’s visit to Solyndra, fundraiser Steve Westly warned presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett that an appearance by Obama could be problematic, citing Solyndra’s financial problems and that the company’s failure could generate negative media attention. Wrote Westly, “The president should be careful about unrealistic/optimistic forecasts that could haunt him in the next 18 months if Solyndra hits the wall.” After assurances from DOE officials that their policy was sound and that Solyndra’s troubles would be short-lived, Obama made the appearance. However, Solyndra’s financial picture did not improve, and by the end of 2010, the company was failing. Its investors pitched bailout plans, seeking help from what a Solyndra executive referred to as the “Bank of Washington,” his term for U.S. taxpayers. Said Solyndra board member Steve Mitchell, “The DOE really thinks politically before it thinks economically.” Solyndra eventually realized that it had to lay off workers. But DOE urged company officials to delay the move until after the contentious November 2010 midterm elections. An e-mail among company investors stated, “No announcement till after elections at doe request.” [emphasis mine]
But that’s not all. Solyndra’s strongest political connection was to George Kaiser, an oil industry billionaire, and major Democrat fundraiser, who had once hosted Obama at his home in Oklahoma. Kaiser’s family foundation owned more than a third of Solyndra, and Kaiser took a direct interest in its operations. Kaiser flew to Las Vegas, NV, days before the 2010 midterm elections and was a guest at a private fundraising dinner for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and was seated next to Obama at the dinner. During the dinner, Kaiser complained to Obama about Chinese manufacturers dumping cheap solar panels on the US market. After dinner he pressed Obama’s deputy chief of staff about the need for a “Buy American Act” for federal agencies. The company was intent on making the federal government a major customer of Solyndra.
We now know that none of these political connections and string pullings helped, and Solyndra filed for bankruptcy on August 24, 2011. The first $75 million recovered from Solyndra’s sale is expected to go to Kaiser’s nonprofit organization and other investors. It is unclear how much, if anything, will be left for taxpayers.
All of this “politics” was played out around Solyndra and its loan guarantee from DOE. And we know that DOE provided loan guarantees for numerous other green energy projects. So what other “political” surprises await us? And all of this from the guy who promised us (taxpayers) an unprecedented transparent and open government. And I’m reminded of the definition of an “honest” politician: when he’s bought, he stays bought!
But that’s just my opinion.