The House Energy and Commerce Committee released some brutally damaging emails for the Obama administration this morning, showing how reliant failed solar energy company Solyndra was on the government to stay afloat toward the end. As the Washington Post reports, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget found that it would be financially safer for the government to cut its losses in Solyndra rather than green-lighting additional loans — and yet the administration continued to gamble on the flailing company:
As the Obama administration moved last year to bail out Solyndra, the embattled flagship of the president’s initiative to promote alternative energy, a White House budget analyst calculated that millions of taxpayer dollars might be saved by cutting the government’s losses, shuttering the company immediately and selling its assets, according to a congressional investigation.
Even so, senior officials in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget did not discourage the Energy Department from proceeding with its plan to restructure a federal loan to Solyndra — a move that put private investors ahead of taxpayers for repayment if the company closed, the investigation by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee found.
The White House continues to deny there was any political favoritism involved, despite Obama’s cozy relationship with Solyndra execs and one of its main private backers, George Kaiser. But why else would the administration take such a financial risk on a likely loser, despite the findings from its own OMB? Why restructure a loan to let private investors get repaid before taxpayers? From an objective standpoint, the decision should be cut-and-dry. Even if the Obama administration didn’t care about squandering taxpayer money, you would think it would at least take it out of a high-risk investment when it had the option.
But the story gets even worse for the White House. The Washington Times reports that newly released emails also indicate that Solyndra was hoping to make the federal government its biggest customer for solar panels, in an effort to stay above water:
“Getting business from Uncle Sam is a principal element of Solyndra’s channel strategy,” one investor wrote in an email months after Mr. Obama’s May 2010 tour of the now-bankrupt company, according details of an investigative report Thursday by Republicans on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
The now bankrupt company’s founder, Chris Gronet, “spoke very openly to Obama about the need for installation of Solyndra’s rooftop solar panels on U.S. government buildings,” Tom Baruch, founder of CMEA Capital, an investor, wrote to another Solyndra official.
“I heard Obama actually promise Chris he would look into it when he got back to Washington,” the email continued.
In other words, taxpayer money was going to be used to buy unprofitable solar panels from a company that was already being kept afloat by government loans. This was a company that was never interested in standing on its own feet, and whose entire existence — past and future — was dependent on the federal government.