Pay attention, folks -- this is getting big. For months, Katie has been faithfully covering another simmering White House scandal that has slowly intensified with each passing revelation. The Solyndra case, by contrast, has blown up in less than a week. Here's the cliffsnotes version: A solar panel manufacturing company that received over half-a-billion taxpayer dollars in federal "stimulus" loan guarantees from the Obama administration in 2009 has filed for bankruptcy and laid off all of its employees. One of the principal investors in Solyndra was a major Obama donor. He and various Solyndra officials visited the White House repeatedly before and after the controversial loan was approved. The president toured the company's California headquarters in 2010, using the setting to tout his green energy agenda and the Recovery Act. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Solyndra imploded last month.
Last week, the FBI raided Solyndra's offices, seeking undisclosed evidence of impropriety. We also learned that Obama Energy Department representatives sat in on numerous Solyndra board meetings in the months leading up to the company's failure. They knew it was coming. Oh well, the White House argues, there are always risks in these sorts of things -- and besides, the Solyndra loan process began during the Bush administration. That house of cards is now collapsing. Yesterday, ABC News dropped the bombshell that Bush era Energy auditors actually nixed the loan as unsound, and that Obama OMB staffers raised similar concerns upon their own evaluation. The White House's political team seemed to disagree, putting the deal on a "fast track." Mere days later, the massive government loan to the unstable "green" poster-child -- backed by major Obama donor cash -- was fortuitously approved. Here's investigative reporter Brian Ross' excellent report on his findings:
Be sure to watch, and rewatch, this report to help digest this story's myriad complexities. Pay special attention to the tail end of the clip, when Ross repeats the administration's assurances that no political pressure was brought to bear on behalf of this terrible deal, which may cost taxpayers hundreds of millions. All of the evidence suggests this is a lie. More from ABC News' website:
Newly uncovered emails show the White House closely monitored the Energy Department's deliberations over a $535 million government loan to Solyndra, the politically-connected solar energy firm that recently went bankrupt and is now the subject of a criminal investigation.
The company's solar panel factory was heralded as a centerpiece of the president's green energy plan -- billed as a way to jump start a promising new industry. And internal emails uncovered by investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee that were shared exclusively with ABC News show the Obama administration was keenly monitoring the progress of the loan, even as analysts were voicing serious concerns about the risk involved. "This deal is NOT ready for prime time," one White House budget analyst wrote in a March 10, 2009 email, nine days before the administration formally announced the loan.
"If you guys think this is a bad idea, I need to unwind the W[est] W[ing] QUICKLY," wrote Ronald A. Klain, who was chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, in another email sent March 7, 2009. The "West Wing" is the portion of the White House complex that holds the offices of the president and his top staffers. Klain declined comment to ABC News.
I realize I'm retreading some old ground here, but this is an absolutely crucial bit from the same story:
The White House also noted to ABC News that the Bush administration was the first to consider Solyndra's application and that some executives at the company have a history of donating to Republicans.
Blame Bush! The gall and predictability of these people is incredible. But wait...
The results of the Congressional probe shared Tuesday with ABC News show that less than two weeks before President Bush left office, on January 9, 2009, the Energy Department's credit committee had voted against offering a loan commitment to Solyndra. Even after Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, analysts in the Energy Department and in the Office of Management and Budget were repeatedly questioning the wisdom of the loan. In one exchange, an Energy official wrote of "a major outstanding issue" -- namely, that Solyndra's numbers showed it would run out of cash in September 2011. There was also concern about the high-risk nature of the project. Internally, the Office of Management and Budget wrote that "the risk rating for the project sponsor [Solyndra] … seems high." Outside analysts had warned for months that the company might not be a sound investment.
So, again, Solyndra's Bush-era application was denied because of concerns over the company's balance sheets and business model. Obama's own OMB staffers were waving bright red flags, essentially shouting "no!" One even presciently predicted that Solyndra could run out of money....right about now. Funny, that. And yet, the irresponsible loan was fast-tracked for approval, apparently at the behest of Obama's "West Wing" (ie, political) aides. Remember, these aides were regularly conferring with one of the company's primary investors, George Kaiser, -- who just happened to be a top Obama campaign fundraising "bundler" during the last campaign. After misleading the public about the Bush administration's role in this mess, the Obama White House now tells us all of those meetings with Kaiser had nothing to do with the risky loan in question. Does anyone believe that? Anyone? This is far from over.
Incidentally, kudos to Brian Ross and his team for fearlessly chasing this scoop. You'll recall that Ross was the first MSM journalist to touch the Rev. Wright story in 2008. His piece for ABC News blew that story up, and forced the rest of the press to cover it.