The Solyndra scandal bubbled up and boiled over today, just as Mitt Romney is beginning his effort to define his alternative agenda for economic recovery and help for the middle class. What is more — the head of the Office of Management and Budget and now the White House chief of staff , Jack Lew, is implicated. The news, as the candidates start the final run-up to their respective conventions, follows a Gallup poll showing that “reducing corruption in the federal government” is the second-most important issue to voters.
As the Obama administration moved last year to bail out Solyndra, the embattled flagship of the president’s initiative to promote alternative energy, a White House budget analyst calculated that millions of taxpayer dollars might be saved by cutting the government’s losses, shuttering the company immediately and selling its assets, according to a congressional investigation.
Even so, senior officials in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget did not discourage the Energy Department from proceeding with its plan to restructure a federal loan to Solyndra — a move that put private investors ahead of taxpayers for repayment if the company closed, the investigation by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee found. . . .
The House energy committee is expected to release the results of its 18-month investigation into Solyndra this week. Its report, parts of which were obtained by The Washington Post, suggests that then-OMB Director Jack Lew let the refinancing move forward without intervening, even though some OMB analysts thought a refinancing plan that favored private investors might violate the law. Lew is now White House chief of staff.
Conservatives have pounced on the news, highlighting cringe-worthy e-mails between the White House and Solyndra. The House Energy and Commerce Committee report on the Solyndra loan guarantee features, for example, an e-mail from Chris Gronet, the CEO of Solyndra, referring to the feds as “the Bank of Washington.” Another e-mail from a Solyndra exec to the White House staff read: “Getting business from Uncle Sam is a principle element of Solyndra’s channel strategy. When President Obama visited Solyndra in June 2010, Chris Gronet spoke very openly about the need for installation of Solyndra’s rooftop solar on U.S. government buildings. I heard Obama actually promise Chris that he would look into it when he returned to Washington.”
Now in all of this, Obama never fired any advisers. He has not explained to the American people how this could happen, what went wrong and how he’d stop it. Now, however, with juicy tidbits flying out from the report, Obama will be pressed to explain how Solyndra got the loan in the first place and why the White House gave unprecedented treatment to the politically connected Solyndra team, treatment that put taxpayers in an inferior position to recoup the “investment” in a company that ultimately went under.
Maybe the reason Obama has such disdain for entrepreneurs is because the ones he is most familiar with feed at the government trough. The scandal also is completely at odds with the favorable statist ideal Obama is trying to paint, one in which the government will play a benevolent function in the economy, picking winners and losers as it goes.The Obama team, having tried to create controversies from Romney’s business background, faces a genuine scandal regarding its stewardship of the government.