Gore’s orbit extended deeply into the administration, with several former aides winning senior clean-energy posts. Among them were Carol Browner, a former Gore political operative who became the president’s climate change czar, and Ron Klain, Gore’s former chief of staff who went to work for Vice President Biden overseeing the stimulus.
Those connections were underscored in October 2009, when Jonathan Silver, under consideration to head the $38 billion clean-energy loan program, hosted a party to help Gore raise money for the Alliance for Climate Protection.
Silver invited the Department of Energy’s chief financial officer, days before the official was scheduled to meet Silver to discuss the job.
“At the risk of seeming presumptuous, I want to mention that my wife and I are holding a small event for Al Gore at our home this coming Thursday evening,” Silver wrote in an e-mail. “I expect there will be about 40 people or so, generally folks we know who are interested in this issue and have the capacity to write significant checks and a couple of others with professional involvement in the topic.”
Help for a portfolio
Gore’s investments coincided with the government’s largest investment in clean tech. A full 10 percent, estimated at $80 billion to $90 billion, of the 2009 stimulus package was devoted to clean energy.
Like thousands of other companies, those Gore invested in entered the competition for a piece of the pie. (An administration official said more than 80 percent of applicants the first year were turned away.) Several companies in Gore’s portfolio emerged as winners. Of the 11 companies he mentioned in his 2008 slide show, nine received or directly benefited from stimulus or clean energy funding.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee and is a leading critic of clean tech funding, said Gore’s portfolio “is reflective of a disturbing pattern that those closest to the president have been rewarded with billions of taxpayer dollars . . . and benefited from the administration’s green bonanza in the rush to spend stimulus cash.”
Department of Energy officials have noted that many of the funds that went to companies Gore invested in were available to all eligible firms, and some had won funding from the Bush administration.
“Decisions about the competitively awarded grants and loans were made on the merits by career civil servants after a careful review of the applications,” said Dan Leistikow, director of public affairs at the Department of Energy, which administered the awards.