New e-mails: Solyndra execs thought Obama's Energy Dep't cared more about appearances than sound business decisions

Heavy on image, thin on substance. I don’t think that criticism’s ever been leveled at the Obama administration before.

Remember, OMB was busy reviewing the Solyndra loan in late August 2009 with the groundbreaking on the company’s new factory set for early September. And rather than postpone a big photo op that they wanted to use to promote The One’s green-loans agenda, the hacks in the White House reportedly chose instead to pressure OMB into speeding up their review. We’ve known that for two months, but it’s nice to find out tonight that their priorities were transparent even to Solyndra itself.

“The DOE really thinks politically before it thinks economically,” a Solyndra board member wrote in December to George Kaiser, an Obama fundraiser whose family funds owned a third of the company.

At another point, an investment adviser to Kaiser wrote in an e-mail: “DOE is willing to accommodate Solyndra . . . but they appear to be concerned about ‘looking bad.’ ”

Apparently our energy secretary was also quite the willing shill for Solyndra, to the point where he was talking up the inevitability of the loan while the Energy Department was still negotiating it. Granted, Democrats are used to rolling over in negotiations from their decades of “bargaining” with public-employee unions, but c’mon:

In a February 2009 e-mail, Solyndra’s then-chief executive, Chris Gronet, listed 10 conditions under which the company would raise an additional $147 million in equity. One was that Chu visit Solyndra’s California factory and hold media interviews there, for use in the company’s fundraising efforts. Chu did visit Solyndra and help break ground for its new factory in September 2009…

In July 2009, a staffer in the Energy Department’s loan office criticized Chu for responding to reporters’ questions by saying that an announcement about Solyndra’s loan approval was “imminent” and that “the loan is theirs, as soon as they get the additional capital that’s required by statute.”

“This nonsense has to stop,” the staffer wrote in an internal e-mail. “The conclusion that ‘the loan is theirs’ doesn’t help our negotiation.”

In other words, so deep was the cronyism here that not only did Solyndra enjoy the “halo effect” of an Energy Department loan, they actually had the secretary himself acting as some sort of spokesman to help them drum up investments. And even that wasn’t enough for Chu: He ended up, in essence, negotiating against his own team by treating the loan as a fait accompli. Supposedly he’s going to accept full responsibility for this debacle when he testifies before Congress tomorrow, but that’s not good enough — especially now that we know about the extreme sleaze of DOE asking the company to time its layoffs to the midterm elections so that it wouldn’t hurt Obama. This guy has to go. Immediately.

Read all of the WaPo piece as there’s even more that I can’t quote here. Buried at the bottom is a murky allegation about one of Solyndra’s suppliers notifying the DOE that the company had asked to delay certain payments to it so that it could manipulate its balance sheet and qualify for the Energy loan. Supposedly that claim was found to be groundless; we’ll hear more about it tomorrow. Oh, and there’s also a tidbit about how, supposedly, Solyndra’s financial backers were prepared to let it file for bankruptcy back in December — until the DOE not only talked them out of it, but actually volunteered to subordinate the feds’ claim as creditors to that of private investors if those investors would pump in more cash to keep the company afloat. That’s how much more they cared about appearances than sound business decisions: They wanted to save the company and thereby avoid a political fiasco for the green loans program even more than Solyndra’s own investors did.