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So why did Chu persist? Spokesman LaVera released a statement saying that restructuring the deal gave Solyndra “the best possible chance to succeed in a very competitive marketplace and put the company in a better position to repay the loan.”
Yet once again, released emails show a different picture. Two days before the Friday email dump it was revealed that the administration had actually considered making an additional taxpayer-funded loan of $469 million to the company in April and May of 2010. An email characterized by the Washington Post as “gallows humor” revealed the doubts expressed by an unnamed official at OMB. “Possible to close and default on one [government loan] before closing on a second??? Could be a new record,” it read.
Still earlier emails reveal that Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, and former Economic Council Director Lawrence H. Summers took part in discussions about Solyndra. Jarrett was contacted by VP Chief of Staff Klain, who expressed concern about the company with regard to the president’s planned visit on May 25, 2010, noting that “we clearly need to make sure that they are stable and solid.”
But Ms. Jarrett was also contacted by Steve Westly, Managing Partner of the Westly Group who expressed concern the visit could hurt the president. “Could you perhaps check with DOE to make sure they’re comfortable with the company? I just want to help protect the president from anything that could result in negative or unfair press,” he wrote. Jarrett checked back with Klain, who checked with DOE and got a thumbs up. He got back to Jarrett. “Sounds like there are some risk factors here–but that’s true of any innovative company that POTUS would visit. It looks like it is OK to me, but if you feel otherwise, let me know.” Ms. Jarrett responded. “I’m comfortable if you’re comfortable,” she wrote.
Summers emails reflected an ongoing exchange with Brad Jones of Redpoint Ventures, an investment firm whose investments included Solyndra. Jones expressed his general concerns about government investment in clean energy per se. “The allocation of spending to clean energy is haphazard; the government is just not well equipped to decide which companies should get the money and how much…One of our solar companies with revenues of less than $100 million (and not yet profitable) received a government loan of $580 million; while that is good for us, I can’t imagine it’s a good way for the government to use taxpayer money,” Jones wrote. Summers replied. “I relate well to your view that gov is a crappy vc [venture capitalist] and if u were closer to it you’d feel more strongly. But suppose we think there are all kinds of externalities to renewable investments. What should we do?”’
The Jarrett and Summers email exchanges were part of a report released by the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Democratic Staff to Democratic Members of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The report concluded that the documents produced “do not contain evidence that government decisions relating to Solyndra were influenced by considerations relating to campaign donations,” further noting “there was internal disagreement within the Administration about Solyndra’s viability and the effectiveness of the loan guarantee program throughout the process. According to the documents, the decisions relating to Solyndra were made on the merits after vigorous debate and with awareness of the risks involved.”
Republican investigators on the Committee weren’t buying it. “The paper trail released by the White House portrays a disturbingly close relationship between President Obama’s West Wing inner circle, campaign donors and wealthy investors that spawned the Solyndra mess,” said Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL) in a joint statement. One of those donors is George Kaiser who like Steven Spinner, raised considerable amounts of money for the presidents’s political campaign. The George Kaiser Family Foundation released a statement denying any investment in Solyndra by Kaiser himself, further noting that the Tulsa-based billionaire “did not participate in any discussions with the U.S. Government regarding the loan.”
Which assessment of this debacle rings truer will eventually be determined. But it is worth remembering that the top two executives at Solyndra, CEO Brian Harrison, and senior VP and CFO Wilbur G. Stover, both asserted their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when questioned by the Committee, and that the FBI has confiscated company files in what they have characterized as a “criminal investigation.” It is also telling that Democrats, whether they realize it or not, have apparently chosen to portray the Obama administration as incompetent–unless one is inclined to believe the decision to fund a company that had never made a profit was based on merit–because it’s abetter option than having it viewed as politically corrupt.
If this were the only potential scandal in which the Obama administration was embroiled, one might be inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt. But it isn’t. Two dead border patrol agents and approximately two hundred dead Mexicans killed with guns “walked” by the ATF into the hands of Mexican drug cartel members–and the ongoing stonewall of that investigation–demonstrate that corruption, rather than incompetence, is a better bet when it comes to making judgments about this administration.
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