People can debate all day whether government should be in the business of picking winners and losers in the marketplace by selectively awarding loan guarantees. What’s beyond dispute is that any official decision that results in the loss of half-a-billion tax dollars should elicit an apology from somebody in government. Just don’t expect that somebody to be Energy Secretary Steven Chu, even though he’s the guy who ignored multiple warnings beforehand and approved the $535 billion federal loan guarantee to the now-bankrupt Solyndra solar panel maker. He’s also the guy who approved a loan restructuring that resulted in private investors — including one of President Barack Obama’s wealthiest campaign contributors — being repaid before the taxpayers, an arrangement virtually without precedent in the government.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan gave Chu an opportunity during yesterday’s hearing by asking him “who has to apologize for the half a billion dollars in taxpayer money that’s out the door?”
Here’s how Chu responded: “Well, it is extremely unfortunate what has happened with Solyndra. Was there incompetence? Was there any influence of a political nature? I would have to say no.”
The clueless Chu displayed not even the faintest hint of a regret that his decision lost more money than most Americans will earn in their lifetimes. Evidently, Chu believes the old maxim: “Never apologize, never explain. Get it over with and let them howl.”
The energy secretary’s arrogance likely will inspire a lot more howling about Solyndra and a host of similar loan guarantees handed out by Chu and his fellow Obama appointees. What many of these loans have in common with Solyndra is that all used tax dollars to line the pockets of key Obama fundraisers and donors.
Take, for example, Solar Reserve, which received an even bigger loan guarantee — $737 million — than Solyndra. Solar Reserve’s biggest investor is a company owned by Michael Froman, former deputy assistant to the president who bundled as much as $500,000 for Obama in 2008.Then there is Abound Solar, which got a $400 million guarantee. A key investor in Abound Solar is Pat Stryker who contributed $87,000 to Obama’s inauguration festivities.
Next up is Granite Reliable Wind Generation, which got a $168.9 million loan guarantee. Granite’s majority owner is a firm formerly headed by Nancy Ann DeParle, deputy White House chief of staff and head of communications during the Obamacare campaign — and wife of New York Times reporter Jason DeParle. Finally, there’s BrightSource Energy, whose principal adviser is Robert Kennedy, Jr., one of Obama’s earliest backers in 2008. Kennedy’s firm received $1.6 billion in loan guarantees.
Chu wants us to believe political influence had nothing to do with any of these decisions. He might as well tell us the moon is made of green cheese. Leave it to the Hoover Institution’s Peter Schweizer, who has studied the energy loans in detail, to state the obvious: “This is a payoff to people who are your political backers and supporters. And this is really a wealth transfer from middle class taxpayers to billionaires.”