With their entire economic approach under fire after the collapse of Solyndra — and no small amount of speculation as to the motives behind the Obama administration’s approval of over a half-billion dollars in subsidies for the solar-tech flop — the White House has launched their own investigation into Solyndra’s failure. Are they looking at their own decision to sink tens of billions of dollars into a decades-old industry that has never produced a return on such subsidies before? No, they’re looking to blame China for, er, doing exactly what Obama did in 2009 (via Jimmie Bise):
The Department of Labor has become the latest federal agency to open an inquiry into the bankruptcy of Solyndra, the solar panel manufacturer in Fremont that President Obama once hailed as “a testament to American ingenuity and dynamism.”
But unlike the inspectors general of the Energy and Treasury Departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who are looking into possible wrongdoing in connection with the company’s $527 million federal loan, the Labor Department is examining a more prosaic economic question: Did Solyndra’s workers lose their jobs because of competition from China? …
The inquiry was set in motion in response to a petition filed by Alameda County under the little-known Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, which provides for additional benefits to American workers when their jobs are lost to foreign trade. In the petition, Patti Castro, the interim director of Alameda County’s Workforce Investment Board, said that “Solyndra and other U.S. solar industry manufacturers have been affected by a worldwide plunge in solar cell prices, based in part on huge subsidies Chinese solar manufacturers receive from their government.”
According to the Department of Energy, solar panel prices have dropped 42 percent since January, largely because of $30 billion in Chinese government subsidies to its solar sector. The United States share of the worldwide solar-panel market has fallen from a peak of 43 percent in 1995 to just 7 percent last year.
China floated $30 billion in subsidies to its solar sector? Wow, that’s so totally unfair. Why, the US would never stand for such a thing! That’s why Obama included almost $40 billion in green-sector subsidies as part of his 2009 Porkulus package, of which $17 billion has already been spent. And let’s not forget that over a half-billion dollars of that money got spent specifically on Solyndra alone.
To call this hypocrisy undersells the laugh factor. This is nothing less that chutzpah, as well as a strange sort of xenophobia in laying the blame at the feet of the Chinese for this administration’s decision to invest in a fiscally unsound enterprise like Solyndra. China didn’t force Obama to expedite the approval of Solyndra’s loan application over the objections of internal and external auditors. Hilda Solis now want to make an argument that China’s subsidies were inherently unfair, while ours were — what? Merely incredibly stupid, and possibly corrupt?
The corruption comes from the proximity of Obama donor George Kaiser to the Solyndra sinkhole. Kaiser was one of Solyndra’s big investors, and the Obama administration restructured its loans late in the game to favor Kaiser in a bankruptcy. Kaiser and his Solyndra colleagues were frequent visitors to the White House, which raises questions about the administration’s efforts to steamroll auditors in getting a quick approval of the loan. The Daily Caller reports today that Kaiser may have been sweetening the pot a bit by dropping some big money into the coffers of a charity favored by the Obamas:
A Daily Caller review of the George Kaiser Family Foundation’s income tax returns found that during the same year billionaire investor George Kaiser successfully secured $535 million in government loan guarantees for the now-failed solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, his private philanthropy donated to a political cause close to the hearts of several high-ranking Obama administration officials.
Kaiser, a major Obama donor, was a frequent White House visitor during the week before the Obama administration approved that taxpayer-underwritten financial deal.
A $10,000 donation to the Urban Health Initiative at the University of Chicago Medical Center appears on the group’s 2009 tax forms. It was also in 2009 that Kaiser successfully sought to lock down a loan guarantee for the green-energy company Solyndra through his two investment vehicles: Argonaut Ventures and the GKFF Investment Company.
While this donation seems small compared to the far larger numbers involved in the Solyndra scandal, it adds to the pattern of possible connections between the Obama administration and the growing Solyndra scandal.
It certainly appears that Kaiser intended to curry favor inside the White House at just the same time that the administration pressed the DoE to approve loans to the already-stumbling Solyndra. And no matter how much this administration attempts to blame China, the focus of Solyndra will remain on the administration who threw away a half-billion dollars in taxpayer money to help out a big campaign donor.