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After that come the two most onerous developments. In July 2011, Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison went to Washington, D.C. to tout the company, telling policy-makers they should “separate Solyndra and its business results from the political process that is ongoing.” He also claimed the company was in a “strong financial position.” Two weeks later, it was over: the company closed its doors, laid off 1,100 workers and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Harrison and CFO Bill Stover were supposed to appear before the committee yesterday, but a spokesman for the duo claimed that complications arising out of the bankruptcy forced them to re-schedule for some time next week. There is speculation that both men may plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.
Despite all of this happening on the Obama administration’s watch, Director Silver of DOE’s Loan Program Office attempted to pin equal shares of blame on the Bush administration, which initiated the process for Solyndra in 2006. Silver asserted that the current administration did nothing more than stay “on the exact schedule that had been developed during the Bush administration,” when it approved the loan in 2009. The DOE itself got on the bandwagon as well. During the hearing yesterday, it sent out emails attempting to promote the message that Solyndra was a “bipartisan problem.” Republicans countered with internal DOE emails showing that the Bush administration’s loan evaluators made the unanimous decision to shelve Solyndra’s application two week before Obama took office.
Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) tried a different tack, claiming Republican attempts to turn this investigation into a political albatross for Democrats “is all part of an agenda here that deals with the solar industry and the wind industry.”
Yet it was not the FBI under the Bush administration that raided the offices of Solyndra’s headquarters in Freemont, CA last week, or visited the homes of its CEO and founder. Nor did the former administration have anything to do with an announcement by the Treasury Department late yesterday afternoon that it, too, would be joining the investigation, due to the fact that the $535 million in loan guarantees arranged by the Energy Department were processed by the Federal Financing Bank. That government lending institution falls under Treasury’s control. “We’re going to look at everything the FFB had to do with its role in this thing,” said Rich Delmar, spokesman for the Treasury Department’s inspector general.
That makes a total of three separate investigations, at least one of which (the one conducted by the FBI) has been characterized as “criminal.” The Democratic Party and Obama administration talking points revolve around the idea that this was nothing more than a bipartisan “bad bet” on one company in an industry that requires massive government intervention in order to compete against “unfair” foreign competition. Unfair competition that is one of the principal reasons for Solyndra’s demise. Republicans contend that the Obama administration’s crony capitalist tendencies to pick “winners and losers” motivated them to cut corners at best, or condone and/or engage in criminal activity at worst.
Who’s right? That’s what three investigations will decide. But one aspect of this issue, the attempt by Democrats to drag the Bush administration into the middle of this story, smacks of desperation. In order to understand how, one only has to imagine the exact opposite scenario. If Solyndra were a booming success, what are the odds the Obama administration would highlight the Bush administration’s foresight in considering their loan?
Next week, when the top two executives of Solyndra testify – or don’t – we’ll get a much clearer picture of where these investigations are headed.
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