Whoa: White House Pressured Solyndra to Postpone Layoffs Until After 2010 Elections

Posted: Nov 15, 2011 1:54 PM

Hello, bombshell revelation:

The Obama administration urged officers of the struggling solar company Solyndra to postpone announcing planned layoffs until after the November 2010 midterm elections, newly released e-mails show. Solyndra, the now-shuttered California company, had been a poster child of President Obama’s initiative to invest in clean energies and received the administration’s first energy loan of $535 million. But a year ago, in October 2010, the solar panel manufacturer was quickly running out of money and had warned the Energy Department it would need emergency cash to avoid having to shut down.

Solyndra’s chief executive warned the Energy Department on Oct. 25, 2010, that he intended to announce worker layoffs Oct. 28. He said he was spurred by numerous calls from reporters and potential investors about rumors the firm was in financial trouble and was planning to lay off workers and close one of its two plants.

But in an Oct. 30, 2010, e-mail, advisers to Solyndra’s primary investor, Argonaut Equity, explain that the Energy Department had strongly urged the company to put off the layoff announcement until Nov. 3. The midterm elections were held Nov. 2, and led to Republicans taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives.  “DOE continues to be cooperative and have indicated that they will fund the November draw on our loan (app. $40 million) but have not committed to December yet,” a Solyndra investor adviser wrote Oct. 30. “They did push very hard for us to hold our announcement of the consolidation to employees and vendors to Nov. 3rd – oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date.”

Yes, very odd, isn't it?  Actually, it's so transparently obvious that even Joe Biden could piece together this mystery:  Team Obama knew their party was already headed for a world of hurt on election day and wanted to mitigate the damange to the greatest extent possible.  Plus, by dropping this ugly news on November 3rd, the entire news media would be suitably distracted by the (important) task of breaking down just how devastating the previous night's GOP tidal wave had been.  From the White House's perspective, it was a win/win strategy.  They could escape or delay electoral consequences for their own abysmal failures, then try to slip the entire development past the American people.  So they applied enormous pressure and dangled a $40 million carrot in front of Solyndra's CEO to "persuade" him to play ball.  Lo and behold, he did. 

A month later, Solyndra partially defaulted on its loan -- which, it's worth noting, the White House knew from day one was a wildly risky taxpayer-funded gamble -- thus violating its terms.  They were duly "punished" for this violation with a generous restructuring of their loan guarantee, which authorized politically-connected private financiers like Obama donor George Kaiser* to recoup the first $75 million if (or, more accurately, when) the company went belly-up.  This it is precisely what happened in early September of 2011.  This arrangement may have violated the law, but legal concerns were shrugged off.  The big question: Regarding the politicized layoff notification delay ploy, who knew what, and when?

[Solyndra CEO Brian] Harrison’s e-mail was forwarded to program director, Jonathan Silver, who then alerted White House climate change czar Carol Browner and Vice President Biden’s point person on stimulus, Ron Klain. Browner asked for more information about the announcement, and Chu’s chief of staff explained he had left a voicemail message on her cellphone. On Nov. 3, 2010, Solyndra announced it would lay off 40 workers and 150 contractors and shut down its Fab 1 factory. The department agreed to continue giving Solyndra installments of its federal loan despite the company’s failure to meet key terms of the loan, and in February restructured its loan to give investors a chance to recover $75 million in new money they put into the company before taxpayers would be repaid. Silver resigned from the agency last month.

The White House was probably hoping that Silver would be the symbolic fall guy in this costly misadventure, allowing them to conveniently cite his ouster as proof that any potential improprieties had been adequately dealt with.  I suspect that just isn't going to cut it any more.  Based on the Post's report, these political directives came from inside the White House; the question now becomes how high up the totem pole that decision-making process climbed.  Perhaps this is why the Obama Administration is so keen on depriving House investigators of internal emails and documents related to the president's failed green pet.  Energy Secretary Steven Chu's scheduled testimony before the House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee on Thursday is going to be epic.

* A final reminder about billionaire Obama campaign bundler George Kaiser.  When this scandal broke a few months ago, White House visitor logs (you know, the things that the administration is now fighting in court to keep secret) indicated that Kaiser had stopped by 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue four times immediately before the $535 Billion Solyndra loan was approved over auditors' objections.  Kaiser and White House spokesman Jay Carney both adamantly insisted that the green energy loan was not discussed during any of those meetings.  Recently released emails have revealed those assurances to be outright lies:


This isn't the first time actors connected to this scandal have blatantly lied to members of Congress and the public, so keep that in mind as the spin machine kicks into high gear.  I'll leave you with a classic video of Captain Hopenchange from the day after his inauguration.  As you process this clip, contrast his rhetoric with the information contained in this post.  Shameless: