Solyandragate: An example of White House corruption?
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Investigators are looking into allegations that the Obama White House acted inappropriately in putting U.S. taxpayers on the hook for a $535 million loan to a failed solar energy corporation.
Solyndra went bankrupt two weeks ago, after receiving $535 million in stimulus money from the White House.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - A series of emails from 2009 released to The Washington Post, reveals that White House Officials pressured the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on just when they would have a decision regarding a federal loan to Solyndra, a now defunct solar energy company.
Solyndra announced that it was filing for bankruptcy two weeks ago and just one week ago, it was the target of an FBI raid.
Solyndra was a favorite of the Obama administration, with the President and the Energy Secretary Steven Chu making visits to the company's headquarters. President Obama used the company as an example of its clean energy technology initiatives. Emails suggest in his enthusiasm to align himself with Solyndra, his administration pressured the OBM to rush a decision on the $535 million loan, highlighting a coming deadline for the company's groundbreaking ceremony at which Biden was to announce the deal.
The concern for investigators however, is that the stream of emails from the White House expressed urgency and pressured the OBM into approving the loan, which had been previously and tentatively approved by the Energy Department, without allowing them time to complete a proper risk assessment.
Emails from one OMB official alluded to, "the time pressure we are under to sign-off on Solyndra." Another official complained, "There isn't time to negotiate."
The OBM emails reveal the pressure worked, causing officials to speed approvals without performing due diligence. One official confessed, "We are worried about Solyndra."
The White House has already said, that the decision to approve the loan was entirely in the hands of OBM officials based on the company's merits.
On Tuesday, the White House defended its position again, saying they made no effort to influence the decision on the loan. They were only anxious to have one, because they wanted Biden to attend the company's groundbreaking and announce the deal. The administration claims it was simply a necessity of scheduling.
The question many are asking is, why was the White House been playing favorites with intended recipients of stimulus money. If the White House is using its influence to push approval of loans to its pet corporations, then such activity could be construed as corruption. In any case, the pressure exerted by the White House has cost taxpayers $535 million which will never be repaid.
Congressional investigators have been looking into the allegations for six months, long before the collapse of Solyndra. They have already concluded that the White House's barrage of emails had a tangible impact on the OMB's risk assessment.
Other emails question the model that was being used to evaluate Solyndra's risk and refer to "time pressure." One email from Rham Emanuel, the White House Chief of Staff asked if, "there is anything we can help speed along on the OMB side." The OMB response was, "I would prefer that this announcement be postponed. . . . This is the first loan guarantee and we should have full review with all hands on deck to make sure we get it right."
However, with the White House setting a decision date before the decision process had even begun, they didn't get it right.
Solyndra's groundbreaking went ahead as planned and Energy Secretary Chu, was present. Vice President Joe Biden did not attend, but spoke to the crowd via satellite.
Now, just two years and an FBI raid later, Solyndra is filing for bankruptcy and American taxpayers are out $535 million that could have been spent elsewhere.
Republicans are saying that the recent FBI raid confirms their belief that Solyndra was a "bad bet" from the outset. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) who is chairman of that panel's oversight subcommittee released a statement on Tuesday, "Solyndra was the hallmark of the President's green jobs program and widely promoted by the administration as a stimulus success story, right up until its bankruptcy and FBI raid. Let's learn the lessons of Solyndra before another dollar goes out the door."
Others, even Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have questioned Soylandra CEO Brian Harrison as to why he, "did not convey to us the perilous condition of the company."
At best, Obama Administration has made an expensive mistake. At worse, they have actively engaged in corruption. After the conclusion of an FBI investigation and a Congressional review, we should know which.
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