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The Obama-Biden Energy Legacy: Cronyism

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

On a joyous California stage late on Super Tuesday, former Vice President Joe Biden declared to a cheering crowd that reports of his campaign’s death had been greatly exaggerated. The legacy of the “Obama-Biden” democrat was alive and ready to make a second run at the White House. The past four years have seen an inner-party struggle for the soul of the Democratic party between Sanders/Warren socialism and the traditional party establishment. With one fell swoop, Uncle Joe had put himself back in the game.  

Pushed by the growing public concern of climate change, Democrats during this cycle have hotly debated the direction the party must pursue, which has led to an evaluation of the Obama-Biden legacy on Green-Energy policy. While most proclaim their forward thinking, it’s hard to ignore the corporate greed that permeated many of the administration’s policies. 

The Obama-Biden administration had many noted policies towards a greener America. Attached to many of those initiatives, however, were friends of the administration whose profits and dysfunctional businesses took precedent over American taxpayers. 

Infamously, the administration’s Department of Energy provided Solyndra with a massive loan. At the time, it was a solar panel manufacturing company that was promising significant returns. Despite knowing that the company never turned a profit, the administration fast-tracked the loan so that Joe Biden could stand on a California stage and promote the “forward-thinking” policies of Obama-Biden’s party. 

The company went bankrupt only a year after receiving $535 million in Obama administration-approved loan guarantees. Significant investigations on the administration’s corruption and foul play followed suit. At the same time, other probes found an array of companies with direct ties to administration officials that had received similar backdoor loans. 

While Solyndra is the most prominent example of the Obama-Biden White House’s green energy mirage, it certainly wasn’t the only one. Exelon – a Fortune 100 energy company and significant donor to the administration – also received significant favors from them. The company, tied closely to two Obama chiefs of staff and one of the administration’s top fundraisers, was very open about the specialized treatment the Obama-Biden White House provided to it. Elizabeth Moler, chief lobbyist for Exelon, even went on record saying that “Exelon (had) made countless millions off its political connections and (stood) to make a fortune off Obama administration energy policies.”  

Unfortunately, when Obama and Biden left Washington in 2017, their energy cronyism did not. Once their administration came to an end, much of the cronyism just expanded within the individual states. It is here that the Obama-Biden legacy lives on.  

Take Obama’s semi-home state of Illinois. Currently, the state is working on its Clean Energy Jobs Act. The bill has many reasonable green energy positions, but while built on a green-friendly framework, it is also filled with cronyism. One key example of favoritism is the provisions that would increase cost liabilities on Illinois taxpayers tremendously. It would do so by increasing the number of bailout giveaways for Commonwealth Edison, whose parent company is none other than Obama-Biden darling Exelon itself.

In short, Exelon has parlayed everything that it learned from the Obama years into a massive state lobbying strategy. The company is currently undergoing an extensive federal investigations by the FBI and SEC for its crony influence-peddling within the Illinois statehouse, similar to the many probes that took place into Obama-Biden’s White House energy endeavors.  

Chicago media recently even obtained e-mails showing that a ComEd/Exelon lobbyist even virtually served as a full-time staffer for Michael Madigan, the Illinois House Speaker. He went so far as to offer edits for his inaugural address and joke about his virtual dual role with Madigan’s Chief of Staff.

Generally speaking, this type of influence-peddling doesn’t produce good legislative outcomes. With its taxpayer-funded bailouts to Exelon, the Clean Energy Jobs Act is not an exception to this rule – it’s just the latest example, and one that continues to be deliberated in the midst of the investigations.

Given Obama-Biden’s role in the popularization and magnification of this energy cronyism, is there any reason to believe this type of activity wouldn’t expand under a Biden administration?

Well, when he occupied the White House, the New York Times reported that “Exelon executives were able to secure an unusually large number of meetings with top administration officials.” More troubling, it seems these meetings came “at key moments in consideration of environmental regulations that have been drafted in a way that hurt Exelon’s competitors but curb the high cost of compliance for Exelon and its industry allies.” There’s something about Biden and energy companies that seems to always end in corruption.   

As voters continue along the primary process, they’ll be continually spoon-fed the Obama-Biden legacy and its desirability to return. But as voters dive deeper into the actual legacy of their policies, they may find that the legacy of the past should remain there. We need to start legislating that puts citizens’ interests first, not well-connected corporations. We should reject all legislation that gives taxpayer handouts to corporations like Exelon, and all politicians who facilitate it. 

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