By Donald Lambro
December 27, 2012
WASHINGTON - Have you seen the latest development in President Obama's waste-ridden, clean energy program that's now under federal investigation at the U.S. Treasury Department?
Three of the country's biggest residential solar panel installers -- SolarCity, SunRun and Sungevity -- have been subpoenaed by Treasury's Office of Inspector General for their financial records to determine if they had inflated the market value of their costs when they applied for federal reimbursement.
The firms have reportedly received more than $500 million in federal grants and tax credits. Officials in two of them, Solar-City and SunRun, have been among some of Obama's most generous campaign donors.
The money these companies tapped into flowed from a $13 billion investment fund in Treasury that came from the president's economic stimulus program which has poured huge sums of money into clean energy programs across the country.
Obama has sunk billions of tax dollars into a scandal-ridden swamp of other energy deals that were crafted and promoted by administration business cronies who also were among his biggest fundraisers.
After an exhaustive analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal e-mails about Obama's green-technology spending program, the Washington Post concluded that it was "infused with politics" at every level of the decision-making process. Political considerations dominated the White House's deal-making and all too often overruled warnings that billions of tax dollars would be lost on shaky energy projects that should never have been approved.
Take, for example, Sanjay Wagle, a venture capitalist and one of Obama's fundraisers in 2008. He left his firm in California to work in Obama's Energy Department on a $40 billion spending program to stimulate the economy by investing in clean technology companies.
It's questionable just how much "stimulus" much of this money provided to the economy when unemployment is still close to 8 percent, and a number of these firms went bankrupt and eventually laid off thousands of workers.
Nevertheless, over the next three years the Energy Department officials Wagle was advising plowed $2.4 billion into clean energy corporations that Wagle's former company, Vantage Point Venture Partners, had invested in.
"Overall, the Post found that $3.9 billion in federal grants and financing flowed to 21 companies backed by firms with connections to five Obama administration staffers and advisers," the newspaper reported at the time.
Those insider connections helped grease the wheels for dubious clean energy investments that went belly up, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill on loans guaranteed by the government.
One of them was a $535 million loan to the now-bankrupt solar panel firm Solyndra that Obama promoted against the better judgement of top budget and contract officials who warned the White House against the deal.
What has come to light so far as part of a congressional investigation is the administration's willful order to approve a bad loan, despite dire warnings from a number of federal officials that the California-based Solyndra was in deep financial trouble.
A steady stream of government e-mails released by a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee tell a sordid tale of a company Obama turned into an energy showcase for his $40 billion loan program -- until Solyndra declared bankruptcy in August, putting 1,100 employes out of work.
One of the people promoting Solyndra's $535 million million loan, which will be paid off by federal taxpayers, was Steven J. Spinner, a senior Energy Department adviser, an Obama campaign fundraiser, and a Silicon Valley investor given the job of guiding the administration's clean technology investments.
He was not only one of Solyndra's insider defenders, his wife worked for the California law firm that represented the solar panel company and helped it file for the federal government loan her husband was promoting, according to the Post investigation.
While growing internal concerns were being raised about Solyndra's shaky finances as early as the summer of 2009, Spinner e-mailed a top aide to then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that Solyndra was a financially solvent company that fully deserved the administration's support. "I haven't heard anything negative on my side," he assured Emanuel's aide in an e-mail about the warnings.
As the loan deal stalled over internal criticism of the firm's looming insolvency, Spinner grew more impatient. "How [expletive] hard is this?' he wrote to a career Energy staffer on Aug. 28, 2009 about its delayed clearance by an Office of Management and Budget official. "What is he waiting for?"
But complaints from Office of Management and Budget and Treasury officials about Solyndra's finances, as well as its favorable loan terms, still persisted.
"In an administration that said it would curtail lobbyists' influence, the documents show ardent lobbying by political appointees inside the agencies and significant White House access given to venture capitalists with a major stake in the $40 billion stimulus investment program for clean energy," the Post reported.
The demise of Solyndra and the loss of 1100 jobs was one of the administration's many investment failures.
Others have included Ener 1 that was awarded a $118 million "stimulus" deal from Obama, only to go bankrupt on Jan. 26, 2011; the North Las Vegas-based solar power firm Amonix that laid off 700 workers and shut down in May after receiving $6 million in federal tax credits and a $15.6 million federal grant; and Abound Solar that reaped a $400 million federal loan guarantee to build photovoltaic panel factories before halting production and laying off 180 employes in February and has since declared bankruptcy.
Although Obama declared that the energy grants and loans were all "based solely on their merits," Hoover Institution scholar Peter Schweizer reported in his book, "Throw Them All Out," that 71 percent went to "individuals who were [fundraising] bundlers, members of Obama's National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party."