President Obama said Friday the decision to give millions in taxpayer money to a now bankrupt solar company in Colorado “was made by the Department of Energy,” and had “nothing to do with politics.”
But e-mails published by Colorado reporter Todd Shepherd reveal Department of Energy officials pushing the loan to Abound Solar based on pressure from the White House. Complete Colorado has the full e-mail exchanges:
DOE loan executive Jonathan Silver tells DOE credit advisor Jim McCrea, “You better let him know the WH wants to move Abound forward.” It appears to be a mild scolding to a Treasury advisor, Ian Samuels, who is not moving fast enough to schedule calls regarding Abound.
The second page of the email thread makes mention of “…transaction pressure under which we are all now operating…” This entire email thread happened just a few days before President Obama would hail the government-backed loans as a job creator for Colorado.
Abound Solar, which counts major Obama bundler Pat Stryker among its early backers, is now under criminal investigation for misleading investors. It went bankrupt in mid-2012, leaving employees out of work and taxpayers with the bill. The company had gone through $70 million of a federal loan guarantee worth $400 million. It was supposed to create 1,500 permanent jobs, according to the president’s 2010 announcement of the loan.
Upon its closing in June, Rep. Darrell Issa, the head of the House Oversight Committee, suggested Abound’s weak financials at the time of its loan suggested political motivations over taxpayer protection:
As part of its examination of President Obama’s failed green energy agenda and botched loan program, the Oversight Committee spotlighted in January the very real risks to taxpayers from Abound’s weak balance sheet. Abound received a junk credit rating of B, below that of the failed Solyndra
Today, that risk has become a reality, demonstrating yet again that taxpayers pay the price when the Obama Administration makes politically-motivated decisions as part of its failed green energy agenda.
Stryker’s involvement wasn’t the only evidence of political cronyism surrounding Abound, as The Weekly Standard reported in 2010.
The Huffington Post noted at the time that Abound received $3 million from DOE under President George W. Bush, and has been backed by Republican politicians, particularly in Indiana, where the company has another plant.
Here’s President Obama, speaking with local Denver TV reporter Kyle Clark Friday:
KYLE CLARK: In a national address, you touted the stimulus money going to Abound Solar – a Colorado company connected to one of your billionaire fundraisers. Now, as you may know, Abound Solar is out of business and under criminal investigation. The jobs are gone and taxpayers are out about 60 million dollars. How do you answer critics who see Abound Solar as Colorado’s Solyndra – a politically connected clean energy company that went under and took our money with it?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Laughs) Well, Kyle, I think that if you look at our record that these loans that are given out by the Department of Energy for clean energy have created jobs all across the country and only about four percent of these loans were going to some very cutting-edge industries that are going to allow us to figure out how to produce energy in a clean, renewable way in the future and create jobs in Colorado and all around the country. And some of them have failed but the vast majority of them are pushing us forward into a clean energy direction. And that’s good for Colorado and good for the country. And these are decisions, by the way, that are made by the Department of Energy, they have nothing to do with politics.
Other DOE e-mails unearthed in October reveal just how risky some officials thought these loans were:
“l really cannot fathom how one figures out whether a loan to a PV manufacturer is being made to one that will survive. Everything about the business argues for the failure of many lf not most of the suppliers.”
The “PV” reference is to photovoltaic solar panel manufacturing technology. Solyndra and Abound Solar both used PV technology.
The writer, a senior DOE official, concludes, “All in all in the solar field, l think it is extremely easy to pick losers and l really do not know how to pick winners.”
No wonder the White House pretends not to know about any of this.