"Independent" watchdog on energy loans turns into big Obama donor

Well, well, well … what a coinky-dink.  The man who got picked to review more than $23 billion in Department of Energy loans and gave them a clean bill of health — without reviewing loans to already-defunct Solyndra and Beacon Power — waited a whole two weeks to start donating to Barack Obama’s re-election effort (via Drudge):

A veteran Wall Street executive who performed an independent review that exonerated the Obama administration’s program of loans to energy companies contributed $52,500 to re-elect President Barack Obama in the months since completing his work, according to an Associated Press review of campaign records. The executive defended the integrity of his conclusions and said he decided to donate to Obama after his work was finished.

The campaign contributions to Obama started just weeks after Herbert M. Allison Jr., in congressional testimony in March, minimized concerns that the Energy Department was at high risk in more than $23 billion in federal loans awarded to green energy firms. Two weeks later, Allison began giving to the Obama campaign. His contributions to Obama and the Democratic National Committee totaled $52,500 by last month. Allison previously was the former head of the government’s mass purchase of toxic Wall Street assets.

Allison did not make any Obama donations during his four-month review of Energy Department loans, and he has a long history of working with and giving money to both political parties. However, Republican Party officials and congressional critics of the energy loans said Allison’s donations to Obama raise doubts about his objectivity and highlight his decision not to assess multimillion-dollar loans to two companies that later went into bankruptcy – the troubled Solyndra solar panel company and Beacon Power, an energy storage firm.

Allison’s report, completed in February and touted by the White House, acknowledged that the Energy Department could lose as much as $3 billion in loans, but it concluded that was far less than the $10 billion set aside by Congress for high-risk companies. The review did not assess the two bankrupt firms because those loans were no longer current. Allison told Congress that “DOE has negotiated protections in the loan agreements that enable it to cut off further funding and to demand more credit protection if projects do not meet targets.” He also urged the Energy Department to toughen its oversight.

How much of a scandal is this?  It’s not as bad as it would have been if Allison had been contributing heavily to Obama before getting the appointment, obviously.  At worst, this looks like a quid pro quo for getting the job, but that’s a pretty ridiculous take, given that Allison hardly needs the work.  But the two-week difference still raises a lot of questions about when Allison stopped being an independent reviewer and started being a fan.  Allison addressed this by saying that his contacts with the Obama administration impressed him:

Allison said he made his decision to support Obama after he saw “his administration in action and decided that I believe broadly in the things he’s trying to accomplish.”

Fine and dandy; it’s Allison’s money, and he can do with it what he wants, within the law, of course.  However, the question arises whether he was so impressed during his “independent” review that he became an advocate rather than an analyst.  The curious decision not to probe the Solyndra and Beacon Power loans when both were the biggest examples of Obama administration mismanagement — and when Solyndra’s loan had ties to another big Obama donor, George Kaiser — raises that question even further.  Having decided that he liked the cut of Obama’s jib so much that he wanted to fork over $52,000, did Allison temper his report to boost the object of his new political affections?  Adding to that impression, the Associated Press reports that Allison had never donated more than $2,000 to anyone before now.

Clearly, we need an independent review of DoE green-tech loans to see what Allison’s “independent” review may have missed or overlooked.  We’re obviously not going to get that from this administration.