As Ed pointed out last week, President Obama announced in his July 3 weekly address that the federal government will back nearly $2 billion in loans to two solar power companies as part of its “green jobs” and stimulus programs. The $2 billion is supposed to produce 5,100 jobs–but most of them are only temporary construction jobs. A company called Abound Solar claims its $400 million loan will produce 1,500 permanent jobs in Colorado and Indiana, and–this is a fact Obama conveniently left out of his remarks–the $1.45 billion loan to the Spanish company Abengoa Solar will only produce 85 permanent jobs. That’s right: 85. I’m not cutting off any zeros.
As crazy as it may be to invest millions of dollars per job, this story actually gets much worse. As Andrew B. Wilson writes in the latest issue of The Weekly Standard, there’s a culture of corruption angle:
Russell Kanjorski, the vice president for marketing at Abound Solar, was one of the principals in another energy company in northeast Pennsylvania, called Cornerstone Technologies LLC, which attracted $9 million in federal grants before it halted operations in 2003 and later filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. As reported by the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, “Cornerstone reported $14,100 in assets compared with $1.34 million in debt” in its bankruptcy filing. The $9 million in federal grants to Cornerstone were earmarked by Kanjorski’s uncle, Representative Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises.
Russell Kanjorski’s old coal technology company already fleeced the government of $9 million in earmarks, and the government has decided to reward his new solar power company with another $400 million in loans. Brilliant. If Kanjorski’s company or the Spanish company default on their loans, taxpayers will be on the hook for paying back 80% of them, according to the Department of Energy.
To get an idea of how much of a scam the Kanjorskis’ Cornerstone Technologies was, watch this Fox News exposé on Rep. Kanjorski’s corrupt earmarks (the whole segment is worth watching but the part on the Cornerstone scandal begins at the 6:30 mark):
“It was clear that these guys are clueless,” Harold Schobert, a Penn State professor of fuel science, told Fox. “It was sort of like trying to collaborate with the cast of Looney Tunes.” Schobert says he knew something was up when Cornerstone officials didn’t even know how to order chemicals and wouldn’t let him on the company’s premises.
So why did the government decide to bet hundreds of millions of dollars on another Kanjorski company? We don’t know. The Department of Energy and Abound Solar declined to release their loan application, citing proprietary reasons. And a White House official did not respond to messages from The Weekly Standard requesting an interview.
(You can read the whole story by Andrew Wilson at weeklystandard.com.)