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EDITORIAL: The dirty politics of clean energy
Federal funds skew business investment during Obama term
Disturbing revelations continue to emerge about how more than half a billion dollars of taxpayer dollars were shoveled into the Solyndra solar-panel boondoggle. It is becoming increasingly clear that the only "green" involved in this scandal is money.
There is no compelling reason to empower the government to use public funds to engage in risky investments. There also is no reason to believe that government bureaucrats - especially political appointees, not usually known for their business acumen or technical expertise - are smart enough to pick winners in competitive business sectors. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has proved that receiving a Nobel Prize in physics doesn't make one qualified to make key judgments about which companies can survive in a complex emerging market. The real experts were lined up against Solyndra. They knew the company was a failure waiting to happen, and they were right.
What the experts didn't know was that the deck already was stacked. The reason Solyndra was given shockingly preferential treatment was not because of its promise as a profitable business venture but because of its insider connections to President Obama and his administration.
This was not the story the public was told originally. The Obama administration defended its actions based on an ideological attachment to "green energy," a liberal faith bordering on mania. The administration pleaded not guilty by reason of sincerity; the environmental cause is so pressing, so dire, that its well-intentioned failure should be excused. All decisions administration officials made were based on merit, they claimed, and at least they were trying to do something.
The appearances of impropriety, however, are hard to ignore. Newly released documents show that in 2010, Solyndra board member Thomas Baruch met with then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who afterward reportedly pushed for "POTUS [president of the United States] involvement" with Solyndra. Mr. Emanuel, who is now the mayor of Chicago, claims he can't remember any of this. Meanwhile, at least three companies in which Mr. Baruch invested have received federal support. Another Solyndra investor wrote that when the company was mentioned at a meeting, Vice President Joseph R. Biden's staff "about had an orgasm."
Billionaire Solyndra investor and Obama fundraiser George Kaiser's role is most curious. It was reported initially that Mr. Kaiser was only vaguely involved with the company in which his family foundation had a one-third ownership stake. But Steve Mitchell, who managed the George Kaiser Family Foundation investment fund, sat on Solyndra's board and consulted regularly with Mr. Kaiser on matters relating to the company. Documents reveal that Mr. Kaiser kept close tabs on Solyndra, actively pushed for federal assistance, and had an "intoxicating" two-hour discussion on solar panels with Mr. Obama at a 2010 fundraising dinner in Las Vegas.
There are no allegations that Mr. Kaiser has engaged in any illegal activity, but the nexus between Mr. Kaiser's political contributions and the intense White House interest in Solyndra cannot be ignored. This and numerous other personal, financial and political links between Solyndra and the Obama administration send a signal to those businessmen without insider connections that the system is rigged. Just how extensively it was rigged remains to be revealed.
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- EDITORIAL: Our ideological president
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