WaPo: Hey, there were a lot of politics going on green-tech boondoggles
posted at 12:00 pm on December 26, 2011 by Ed Morrissey
Color me shocked, shocked at this revelation from yesterday’s Washington Post. Politically-connected investors influencing government subsidies? Inconceivable!
Meant to create jobs and cut reliance on foreign oil, Obama’s green-technology program was infused with politics at every level, The Washington Post found in an analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal e-mails. Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and White House officials.
The documents reviewed by The Post, which began examining the clean-technology program a year ago, provide a detailed look inside the day-to-day workings of the upper levels of the Obama administration. They also give an unprecedented glimpse into high-level maneuvering by politically connected clean-technology investors.
They show that as Solyndra tottered, officials discussed the political fallout from its troubles, the “optics” in Washington and the impact that the company’s failure could have on the president’s prospects for a second term. Rarely, if ever, was there discussion of the impact that Solyndra’s collapse would have on laid-off workers or on the development of clean-energy technology.
I’m not picking on the Washington Post, which has actually done a decent job of reporting on Solyndra and other green-tech boondoggle flops — better than most, but not as well as their polling partner ABC, especially on Solyndra. The article focuses most of its attention on George Kaiser, whose foundation was a major investor in Solyndra, and whose later investment got protected by the Obama administration — at the expense of taxpayers. While Kaiser didn’t have an official role at the foundation, the Post’s reporting shows that Kaiser didn’t mind leveraging his access to the West Wing — and urged others in the foundation to do the same in order to protect Solyndra:
With the 2010 midterm elections just days away, Kaiser flew to Las Vegas to help the party cause. He was a guest at a private fundraising dinner for Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), but the real attraction at the event was its headliner — Obama. Realizing he might have an opportunity to talk with the president, Kaiser’s staff prepped him with talking points about Solyndra.
Kaiser did not have to angle for Obama’s attention. Organizers seated him next to the world’s most powerful man — for two hours. …
Kaiser did not squander his time. While he avoided the use of the word “Solyndra,” according to the account he later gave to colleagues, he complained to the president about Chinese manufacturers dumping cheap solar panels on the U.S. market and pressed Obama’s deputy chief of staff about the need for a Buy American Act for federal agencies. The company was intent on making the federal government a major customer — part of what a Solyndra investment adviser called the “Uncle Sam” strategy — and the new act would give Solyndra an advantage. …
Nonetheless, records show that Kaiser, a frequent visitor to the White House, was in contact with officials at Solyndra and its biggest investors, and advised them on leveraging the power of the West Wing.
“Why don’t you pursue your contacts with the WH?” Kaiser advised a Solyndra board member in October 2010.
This is the bottom line from the Post’s reporting:
“What’s so troubling is that politics seems to be the dominant factor,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “They’re not talking about what the taxpayers are losing; they’re not talking about the failure of the technology, whether we bet on the wrong horse. What they are talking about is ‘How are we going to manage this politically?’ ”
Well, why not? It’s pretty clear that this administration never had taxpayers in mind with Porkulus in the first place. The result of the subsidies was to pay off important constituents and constituencies, whether that was George Kaiser in the green-tech stimulus, Philip Falcone in the broadband push, or Big Labor in the decision to interfere with the bankruptcy process of GM and Chrysler. Everything they have done in their domestic agenda has been about improving their position politically rather than actually growing the economy and creating jobs.