White House Circulated a Plan to Replace DoE Secretary Chu

Erika Johnsen
Posted: Nov 11, 2011 7:12 PM

Funny. Sitting at my desk this afternoon, I thought to myself, "Hmmm. I wonder to what sort of Friday evening news dump the White House will treat us this week? I think I feel another Solyndra-related scoop coming on." It does seem to be a recurring trend, and it turns out that my political intuition in this case wasn't too far off the money.

Top officials at the White House circulated a plan calling for the ouster of Energy Secretary Steven Chu and other top Energy Department officials as the administration braced for a political storm brewing over the failing solar energy company Solyndra. ...

The emails were released late Friday by the government in response to a subpoena by House Republicans, who are investigating a $528 million federal loan received by Solyndra. The firm later went bankrupt and laid off its 1,100 workers. ...

The memo [an e-mail from Dan Carol, a former issues adviser in Obama's campaign, was circulated by then-Chief of Staff Peter Rouse and seen by more than a dozen senior White House officials, including senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and then-energy adviser Carol Browner] also says the energy secretary should be "comfortable meeting with bankers," adding that the bookish Chu is not comfortable doing that. Carol also recommended an overhaul of Energy Department staff, including Chu's deputy, the department's chief of staff and its undersecretary.

Carol acknowledged that Obama was unlikely to replace Chu, "out of personal affection of perhaps concern of perceived public perception of failure."

Even if Chu were not reassigned, Carol added, the Energy Department should redirect its efforts on the $38 billion loan guarantee program and other spending. "There is a still A LOT of money over there that could be repurposed to better uses," he wrote.'

Carol suggested Navy Secretary Ray Mabus as a replacement for Chu, adding that the new secretary should not come from Silicon Valley. Such an appointment "will get caught up in the wave of GOP attacks that are surely coming over Solyndra and other inside DOE deals that have gone to Obama donors and have underperformed," Carol wrote.

Why, why, why should the secretary of energy need to be comfortable meeting with bankers? Why is the $38 billion loan guarantee program still happening? Is "underperformed" the biggest understatement of the century? Have they no shame?

Guy and I plan to bring you live coverage of Secretary Chu's Solyndra testimony in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday of next week, so tune in. I have yet another feeling that Chu is going to take a political beating, as it's looking more and more likely that Chu and other DoE officials deliberately misled the public on this. The fact that Obama officials were recently looking to, er, 'redistribute' him (see what I did there?) does not bode well.