And the probe doesn’t involve some bit players in an obscure program, either. The 1603 Program was one of the centerpieces of Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus, designed to subsidize a transition from hydrocarbon-based energy to renewables in the residential market, and federal government sunk $13 billion into the effort. Now the Inspector General of Treasury has opened a probe of the three largest providers of solar panel installations, who gained the most from the 1603 Program, and who may have fraudulently calculated their bills in order to claim more taxpayer cash:
Three of the country’s most prolific installers of residential solar panels are under federal investigation to determine if they inflated the cost of their work to increase the payments they would receive from the government, according to government and industry officials familiar with the probe.
SolarCity, SunRun and Sungevity have received subpoenas from the Treasury Department’s office of inspector general for financial records to justify more than $500 million in federal grants and tax credits the firms tapped for performing work. The probe seeks to determine whether the companies accurately reported the market value of their costs when applying for federal reimbursement, which was calculated at one-third of the costs.
The solar companies received money through the Treasury’s $13 billion program, known as the 1603 program, which used funds from President Obama’s stimulus initiative to offer cash grants to clean-energy developers. The goal was to spur the spread of wind farms, solar panels and other clean power sources nationwide.
SolarCity, SunRun and Sungevity have been by far the largest recipients among companies installing solar panels on homes. Working heavily in the sunny states of California and Arizona, the three firms collected hundreds of millions of dollars in federal cash grants to pick up a share of their costs on thousands of home installations during the past three years.
You know who’s missing from this story? Sheriff Joe Biden. Recall that when critics of the $800 billion porkfest predicted widespread fraud, Obama put Biden in charge of making sure that the money didn’t go to scams, which Biden admitted a few months later was an unachievable goal. Obama himself warned that his wrath would be mighty indeed if local-government recipients of Porkulus cash got sticky fingers.
Perhaps they didn’t have enough room at the Ritz Carlton for Biden to invite scrutiny of the three largest players in the 1603 Program. It’s tough to find parking there, after all.
And here’s another shocker:
SolarCity and SunRun have been generous political supporters of Obama. At SolarCity, for example, officials in the company and its two key venture capital firm backers, along with their relatives, donated an estimated $579,000 to Obama in 2008 and 2012, according to campaign reports.
Lucky for Obama that the announcement of the IG probe happened after the election, then. What a coincidence!