The Silicon Valley company, a centerpiece in President Obama’s initiative to develop clean energy technologies, had been tentatively approved for the loan by the Energy Department but was awaiting a final financial review by the Office of Management and Budget.
The August 2009 e-mails, released exclusively to The Washington Post, show White House officials repeatedly asking OMB reviewers when they would be able to decide on the federal loan and noting a looming press event at which they planned to announce the deal. In response, OMB officials expressed concern that they were being rushed to approve the company’s project without adequate time to assess the risk to taxpayers, according to information provided by Republican congressional investigators.
Solyndra collapsed two weeks ago, leaving taxpayers liable for the $535 million loan.
One e-mail from an OMB official referred to “the time pressure we are under to sign-off on Solyndra.” Another complained, “There isn’t time to negotiate.”
“We have ended up with a situation of having to do rushed approvals on a couple of occasions (and we are worried about Solyndra at the end of the week),” one official wrote. That Aug. 31, 2009, message, written by a senior OMB staffer and sent to Terrell P. McSweeny, Biden’s domestic policy adviser, concluded, “We would prefer to have sufficient time to do our due diligence reviews.”
White House officials said Tuesday that no one in the administration tried to influence the OMB decision on the loan. They stressed that the e-mails show only that the administration had a “quite active interest” in the timing of OMB’s decision.
“There was interest in when a decision would be made because of its impact on whether an event involving the vice president could be scheduled for a particular date or not, but the loan guarantee decision was merit-based and made by career staffers at DOE,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.
With the Solyndra decision becoming a national story, there are many misconceptions of it all means. Wonkblog’s Brad Plumer explained the five myths about the Solyndra collapse:
1) This scandal is no big deal. To the contrary, evidence is mounting that there was something irregular about the way the Solyndra deal got greenlighted. My colleagues Joe Stephens and Carol D. Leonnig have obtained e-mails showing that the White House pressed the Office of Management and Budget to hurry up in finalizing the deal (note that this came after the Energy Department had already approved the loan), even as OMB officials voiced concern about being rushed.