Two months ago, Congressional investigators discovered that the Department of Energy urged the now-defunct Solyndra in late October 2010 to delay the announcement of hundreds of layoffs to just after the midterm elections. Last night, the Obama administration conducted a Friday-night document dump in a long-awaited response to a demand for documentation on communications related to Solyndra, and it turns out that the White House knew about the layoffs in advance, too:
The Obama administration knew before the 2010 election that Solyndra LLC, a solar-panel maker that received a $535 million U.S. loan guarantee, planned to fire workers, according to e-mails released today.
The messages don’t indicate that anyone from the White House directed Solyndra to delay announcing the layoffs until after the vote. Previously released e-mails, indicating the Energy Department urged Solyndra to postpone the cuts, have been cited by House Republicans who say politics influenced Solyndra’s award and last-ditch rescue bid that put taxpayers behind $75 million in private investment.
Perhaps the messages don’t indicate direction from the White House to Solyndra, but the dates on those messages certainly suggest it. This is what — and more importantly, when — an Obama adviser on climate change wrote on October 27, 2010:
“Here’s the deal — Solyndra is going to announce they are laying off 200 of their 1200 workers,”Heather Zichal, a White House adviser, wrote to Carol Browner, then director of the office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, and other officials on Oct. 27, 2010. “No es bueno.”
Here’s what transpired on the DoE/Solyndra end:
Solyndra’s chief executive warned the Energy Department on Oct. 25, 2010, that he intended to announce worker layoffs Oct. 28. He said he was spurred by numerous calls from reporters and potential investors about rumors the firm was in financial trouble and was planning to lay off workers and close one of its two plants.
But in an Oct. 30, 2010, e-mail, advisers to Solyndra’s primary investor, Argonaut Equity, explain that the Energy Department had strongly urged the company to put off the layoff announcement until Nov. 3. The midterm elections were held Nov. 2, and led to Republicans taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“DOE continues to be cooperative and have indicated that they will fund the November draw on our loan (app. $40 million) but have not committed to December yet,” a Solyndra investor adviser wrote Oct. 30. “They did push very hard for us to hold our announcement of the consolidation to employees and vendors to Nov. 3rd – oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date.”
Let’s straighten out that timeline and connect a couple of dots, shall we?
- 10/25/2010 — Solyndra CEO writes to the DoE that he will announce worker layoffs on 10/28.
- 10/27/2010 — In the White House, climate change adviser Zichal sent out an e-mail to Obama adviser Browner and several other officials warning of a layoff announcement in very specific terms — “200 of their 1200 workers” — and added, “No es bueno,” which is Spanish for “not good.”
- 10/28/2010 — No announcement comes forth from Solyndra on layoffs.
- 10/30/2010 — Solyndra investor explains that the DoE “push[ed] very hard” for a delay on the announcement until November 3rd, the day after the election, even remarking that the DoE “oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date.”
One does not have to be Sherlock Holmes to see the game afoot in this sequence. The DoE alerted the White House to the “no es bueno” situation at Solyndra, which would have undermined Democratic arguments that their spending spree in 2009 created real jobs rather than unbearable risk for borrowed taxpayer funds. After the White House got alerted to the situation, suddenly the Solyndra announcement never takes place, and two days later the primary investor has to explain internally that the DoE pressured them to delay the announcement.
Something smells very badly. It’s clear that the Obama administration at some level used taxpayer funds as leverage to manipulate a private enterprise for purely electoral benefit to the President, and it seems clear that the direction to do this came from the White House. I’ll bet we have a few more Friday night document dumps to go in this scandal.