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Energy-loan watchdog became Obama donor
Question of the Day
A veteran Wall Street executive who performed a review that exonerated the Obama administration’s program of loans to energy companies contributed $52,500 to re-elect President Obama in the months since completing his work, according to an Associated Press review of campaign records.
The executive defended the integrity of his conclusions and said he decided to donate to Mr. Obama after his work was finished.
The campaign contributions to Mr. Obama started just after Herbert M. Allison Jr., in congressional testimony in March, minimized concerns that the Energy Department was at high risk in more than $23 billion in federal loans awarded to green-energy firms.
Mr. Allison gave $2,500 to the Obama campaign on March 29, two weeks after he testified to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about his review. In May, he gave $15,000 to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee that supports both the president’s re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Allison gave the same amount to the fund again in June and then $20,000 more in July.
However, Republican officials and congressional critics of the energy loans said Mr. Allison’s donations raise doubts about his objectivity and highlight his decision not to assess multimillion-dollar loans to two companies that later went into bankruptcy — the troubled Solyndra solar-panel company and Beacon Power, an energy-storage firm.
Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Energy oversight subcommittee, said the “financial support for the Obama campaign undermines credibility and shows once again that the president did not want a careful, independent review of his risky green-jobs scheme.”
Mr. Allison’s report, completed in February and touted by the White House, acknowledged that the Energy Department could lose as much as $3 billion in loans, but it concluded that was far less than the $10 billion set aside by Congress for high-risk companies. The review did not assess the two bankrupt firms because those loans were no longer current.
Mr. Allison defended the integrity of his review in an interview with the Associated Press. He said that he did not make the decision to back a presidential candidate until after he had finished his work and that Energy Department lawyers had approved his selection to “ensure there was no hint of bias or conflict of interest.”
“It didn’t hew to anybody’s political suasion, I think, and it had to be fully factual, or it wouldn’t be credible,” he said Wednesday in a telephone interview from his home in Westport, Conn.
Mr. Allison said he made his decision to support Mr. Obama after he saw “his administration in action and decided that I believe broadly in the things he’s trying to accomplish.”
Mr. Allison has donated money to both parties, but his gifts in the past have tended to be much smaller than his current contributions, typically no more than $1,000 or $2,000, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The White House defended Mr. Allison, pointing to his hiring over the past two decades by Republican presidential administrations and campaigns as proving his independence. During Sen. John McCain’s failed 2000 presidential-primary campaign, he served as national finance chairman.
“Mr. Allison was selected to do this study because of his relevant expertise, and he is a public servant widely respected by Democrats and Republicans alike,” said Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman.
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