Jewish World Review Oct 18, 2011 / 20 Tishrei, 5772
President Inexperienced again picked style and enthusiasm over caution. He must pay
By Dan K. Thomasson
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The Solyndra case that has stuck U.S. taxpayers with a half a billion-dollar bad debt, with little prospect of getting any back, isn't going away soon nor should it. It isn't just the amount spent on this solar panel fiasco that matters the most, although that certainly is substantial when the nation's economy appears headed once again into a recession.
What is also important is what this debacle says once again about White House policy: Mainly that there really isn't any. As in other initiatives, President Barack Obama has made lofty pronouncements about alternative energy without delineating any coherent coordinated plan for moving forward. His approach has been to throw out one idea after another without connecting the dots into an overall initiative
If you haven't kept up with it, Solyndra is the failed manufacturer of solar panels that the president once cited as a cornerstone of his energy hopes. The White House, although denying it, clearly was behind the expedited efforts to fund Solyndra despite all the warning signs. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden both visited the company and paid it enormous compliments as the first in the president's energy plans.
So anxious was the administration to give this company taxpayer money, Energy secretary Steven Chu personally approved more cash even though Solyndra had already defaulted on one loan. It has since declared bankruptcy and two of its chief officers have taken the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination before a congressional committee investigating the matter. And, oh yeah, the FBI raided the company's offices not long ago.
There are a number of things besides bad judgment that could make this case an election year nightmare for the president. One of the major investors in the company is George Kaiser, a billionaire fund
The newspaper also pointed out that October a year ago Solyndra donated $7,500 to the California Democratic Party and that company employees had kicked in $20,000 to Democratic candidates. They also contributed to the Republicans. But the Times said records show that about 72 percent of the company's political contributions went to the Democrats and only 27 percent to Republicans. Contributing to Solyndra's failure were allegations that once it received the government-backed loans, it spent funds willy-nilly, including on a new $700-million plant deemed unnecessary by some company insiders.
Solyndra obviously didn't ride into the energy picture on the proverbial load of pumpkins and the big loan guarantee it was rewarded came about in a normal Washington manner -- through influence and strong lobbying. The company reportedly spent heavily on lobbying firms and lawyers who prepared the application process that in fairness had begun during the George W. Bush administration. Lobbyists apparently assured influential lawmakers that business was good. Actually, it wasn't. The Chinese, for instance, had moved into the market with a similar but less expensive solar panel version and Solyndra's days were numbered.
These things have a way of hanging around, especially in an election season. Some years ago, this matter might have been dubbed "Panelgate" or "Solargate" after the Watergate scandal and resulted in appointment of a special prosecutor. The matter at the very least raises questions about whether the Energy department had failed to perform its due diligence under pressure from the White House. Energy department sources have said that they expressed concern about the project but were ignored at the top.
Under these circumstances and with new facts emerging, it will be difficult for the White House to remain aloof. The president and vice president are too openly on record here. This just may be another case where Obama's style and enthusiasm trumped the caution a more experienced chief executive might have shown. In any case, history makes it a solid bet for a campaign issue.
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