One of the key roles of any Cabinet Secretary is that of a firewall for the President — a person to take the blame when things go wrong. As the Solyndra scandal deepens, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu went to Congress this morning to fulfill that role … in part, anyway. Chu released his opening statement to the press this morning, in which he takes responsibility but ducks any remorse or blame for the Solyndra debacle:
“As the Secretary of Energy, the final decisions on Solyndra were mine, and I made them with the best interest of the taxpayer in mind,” Chu has written in testimony prepared for his first appearance before Congress to answer questions about the failed loan.
“I want to be clear: over the course of Solyndra’s loan guarantee, I did not make any decision based on political considerations,” says Chu’s prepared testimony, which was made public by his aides late Wednesday. “My decision to guarantee a loan to Solyndra was based on the analysis of experienced professionals and on the strength of the information they had available to them at the time.”
Well, that’s false on its face. DoE auditors raised red flags on the Solyndra loan well before its approval, but got overruled by the political appointees, including Chu. Not only did Chu approve the loan, the DoE also got Solyndra a sweetheart deal on the rate. Even Solyndra’s investors thought that it had turned into a risky bet, and the DoE was well aware of it at the time.
Taking “responsibility” is an empty gesture. Of course Chu is responsible for the Solyndra loan; he’s the Secretary of Energy, after all. He’d be equally “responsible” if the loan turned out well. We need to know why Chu and his staff overruled the auditors to push this loan at the same time that Obama bundler George Kaiser and his staff were paying visits to the White House to push subsidies for his company, and why the DoE interfered to keep Solyndra from announcing layoffs before the midterm elections, among many other questions. Chu’s responsible for those actions, too — but we need to know whether that responsibility goes farther than Chu.
Here’s another piece of news from Chu’s testimony today that isn’t exactly a shocker, either:
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Thursday he does not expect the government to recover much of the $535 million in loan aid it doled out to failed solar panel manufacturer Solyndra.
“That remains to seen, but I’m anticipating not very much,” Chu told lawmakers at a House of Representatives Energy and Commerce hearing on the government’s handling of the Solyndra loan.
And why is that? It’s because Chu and the DoE illegally subordinated taxpayer loan guarantees to a new investment infusion by Kaiser, protecting his money at the expense of ours. Chu probably wants to take responsibility without blame for that action, too.
We’ll have more from the Chu hearing today, I’m sure. Reason has a live blog going, and this little tidbit should have eyes rolling all over Capitol Hill and beyond:
11:16: Chu just said he didn’t know the Bush DoE had turned down Solyndra’s loan. Didn’t he?
He approved the loan without knowing that the previous administration had shelved it? This must be the New Competence that we get with Nobel Prize winners at the helm in the executive branch.