Remember back in September when White House visitor logs came out showing more than a dozen visits from George Kaiser, a.k.a. billionaire George Kaiser a.k.a. top Obama donor George Kaiser a.k.a. major Solyndra investor George Kaiser? The press corps grilled Carney about it at the time, and after a little checking he came back and reassured them that those meetings had been about … charity. A few weeks later, another White House official familiar with meetings between Kaiser and top advisors said Solyndra never came up during their chats as far as he could tell.
Fast-forward to today. New from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, via Fox News:
Emails among George Kaiser, head of the George Kaiser Family Foundation; Ken Levit, the executive director of the Foundation; and Steve Mitchell, who manages Argonaut Private Equity and was a member of Solyndra’s board; show that Vice President Joe Biden’s office were very gung-ho.
“They about had an orgasm in Biden’s office when we mentioned Solyndra,” reads a Feb. 27, 2010, email from Levit to Mitchell. A follow-up email from Mitchell to Levit later that day responds with: “That’s awesome! Get us a (Department of Energy) loan.”
According to exchanges obtained by Fox News, in an email from Mitchell to Kaiser on March 5, 2010, Mitchell writes that “it appears things are headed in the right direction and (Energy Secretary Steven) Chu is apparently staying involved in Solyndra’s application and continues to talk up the company as a success story.”
In a Feb. 27, 2010, message from Levit to a party whose name has been redacted, Levit writes that there was a meeting with a group of people in “Biden’s office — they seemed to love our Brady Project — also all big fans of Solyndra.”
But wait — that only confirms that Kaiser’s top guys met with the White House about Solyndra, not that he did himself. If you want to parse the White House’s earlier denials very finely, you could argue that they still might technically be telling the truth. They never denied talking to Kaiser’s right-hand men about the company, just the boss. Why anyone would care about that distinction in the context of influence peddling is beyond me, but there’s your wiggle room if you want it.
On second thought, maybe there’s … not so much wiggle room after all:
In a letter to the White House, House Energy and Commerce committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich, and oversight panel chair Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., disclosed the emails including one from March 5, 2010 between Kaiser and Steve Mitchell, Kaiser’s venture capital firm Argonaut.
“BTW, a couple of weeks ago, when Ken and I were visiting with a group of Administration folks in DC who are in charge of the stimulus process (White House, not DOE) and Solyndra came up, every one of them responded simultaneously about their thorough knowledge of the Solyndra story, suggesting it was one of their prime poster children.”
That e-mail was written by Kaiser himself, so there’s the proof of direct conversations between him and Team Hopenchange about the company. In fairness, if you skip to page 4 of the embedded document below, you’ll see that Kaiser was cool to the idea of further involving the White House in Solyndra’s loan in October of that same year — although he never quite ruled it out, treating it as an option of “last resort” if the Energy Department was uncooperative. I’d be curious to know if he concluded later, as Solyndra circled the drain, that the moment of “last resort” had been reached and it was time to phone The One. His e-mail on October 8 is cryptic too; he seems to be saying that it’s okay to nudge the White House for help so long as it’s not in the form of a direct appeal, but it’s hard to tell for sure without the full context. (Mitchell’s e-mail on October 6 is more exculpatory, suggesting that there’s no “unnatural’ relationship with the White House that could force the DOE’s hand, but even that’s qualified by the fact that (a) Solyndra seemed to be hoping that there was an “unnatural” relationship and (b) Mitchell says vaguely that the White House had “offered to help” in the past.) And remember, there’s already evidence that the White House did apply pressure to executive agencies to blaze a path for Solyndra: More than one OMB analyst complained that they felt rushed to sign off on the company before their due diligence on the DOE loan was done.
According to Fox, investigators for the House committee interviewed Kaiser yesterday. Stay tuned. Exit question: Did Carney really tell a lie back in September? Solyndra was a charity, more or less.
110911 Upton Stearns Ltr to WH Ruemmler Re Nov 4 Ltr