Biggest DoE solar-power loan guarantee went to firm that hired former Biden chief of staff
posted at 2:41 pm on June 6, 2012 by Ed Morrissey
How does one go about getting a federally-guaranteed loan for solar-power technology in the era of Hope and Change? Well, you have to show that your company has solid fundamentals, competes on price, and can attract private financing based on … oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh out loud. While Barack Obama tries to defend his green-tech stimulus spending and public-equity decisions, the Wall Street Journal exposes yet another political machination from the Obama administration. The administration that once decried lobbying and its influence on government awarded the largest solar-technology loan guarantees to a firm who had to hire Vice President Joe Biden’s former chief of staff to close the deal:
The recipient of the Obama administration’s biggest loan guarantee for solar energy won federal money after an intense push in early 2011 that included hiring a former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden to lobby the administration, according to federal records and people involved in the approval process.
The lobbying blitz came as the $1.6 billion loan to BrightSource Energy Inc.—a centerpiece of the administration’s program to promote nascent green-energy projects—faced a do-or-die moment, and the company called on its Democratic connections to help push the deal forward, according to emails, records and those familiar with the loan.
The White House says … it’s just a coincidence. Nothing to see here. Move along:
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the Department of Energy made the loan-approval decision, not Mr. Biden nor other White House officials. A Department of Energy spokeswoman said it chose BrightSource, whose solar power plant in California continues to move ahead, based on the project’s merits.
Well, you decide. Here’s the timeline as laid out by the WSJ:
On March 9, 2011, just days after being hired, Mr. Toon went to the White House with three BrightSource executives, according to Senate and White House records. There he visited a former colleague, Alan Hoffman, now the top aide to Mr. Biden, whose office was working on green-energy programs, the records show. The White House didn’t make Mr. Hoffman available for comment.
The company’s message to the administration, according to Mr. Judge, was that by allowing the BrightSource deal to languish, “you are kind of shooting yourselves in the foot in terms of your own policy” of promoting green energy.
Mr. Toon was hired because he had previously lobbied for BrightSource contractor Bechtel Corp. and was familiar with the project, BrightSource said. Reached for comment, Mr. Toon said he couldn’t talk about clients.
Another visit came March 15, when BrightSource executives went to the White House for a meeting with the Office of Management and Budget, which also was reviewing the loan, White House records show. A top Washington energy lawyer with Perkins Coie LLP accompanied the BrightSource team.
Brightsource got the contract on April 5th. Toon’s contract then ended. For the single month of work, Toon got … $40,000. Since then, Brightsource has canceled an IPO planned for two months ago because of “poor market conditions.” Oddly, at that time the stock market was performing rather well; apparently Brightsource wasn’t.
Wasn’t this the kind of influence that Obama himself decried in 2007-8? This was exactly the kind of transaction that “Hope and Change” was supposed to end, no? Instead, Biden’s crony ended up with $40,000 for four weeks of work, and taxpayers funded yet another green-tech company that couldn’t survive on its own.
Speaking of green-tech stimulus, it appears that Fisker Automotive — one of the Obama administration’s high-profile recipients — has had to recall more of the handful of vehicles it has produced since getting its cash:
Fisker Automotive is recalling another 19 of its Karma luxury plug-in hybrid sedan because of a fire hazard, according to a report posted over the weekend on the Web site of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The action widened a recall undertaken in December, which affected 239 vehicles.
Fisker said 10 of the 19 additional vehicles were in the hands of consumers.
By the way, that’s nearly 2% of their total output. ABC News reports that Fisker might now never produce any vehicles inside the US, the reason for getting the loan guarantees in the first place:
The luxury carmaker Fisker Automotive continues to signal it could ditch plans to build its next generation hybrid electric vehicle in the United States, despite the nearly $200 million in Obama administration loan money it has already received.
Fisker received federal funds in part to help purchase a shuttered General Motors plant in Delaware, where it predicted it would one day employ 2,000 auto workers to assemble the clean-burning gas-electric family car, known as the Atlantic.
But company executives began hinting in February that it would reconsider that plan and look for a cheaper place to build the car after the Department of Energy froze the $529 million green-energy loan the company had received, and had been drawing on since 2010.
Fisker used the first $169 million in taxpayer funds to bring to market the Karma, a flashy $100,000 hybrid sports sedan that it assembles in Finland. After a series of delays and stumbles, the company announced it had sold its first 1,000 Karmas, bringing in $100 million in revenues so far this year. The sleek, high-end model has been well received by critics, and the company reported this week it has started to sell in Europe, and could soon be on sale in the Middle East.
And thankfully, drivers in Europe and the Middle East will enjoy those cars at a lower price, thanks to subsidies provided by American taxpayers that will eventually create no American jobs.
I’m not sure which is worse — the incompetence or the corruption.