After much stonewalling, the Obama administration finally released some but not all documents pertaining to internal communications over the approval of a federal loan guarantee to the now defunct solar panel maker Solyndra. The Hill reported:
An administration official said the documents offer little new insight into the loan guarantee to the failed solar panel maker.
“The Bottom line: No news here. It’s the same stuff you’ve seen before,” the administration officials said. “There’s no evidence of any wrongdoing.”
The White House sent the committee documents Friday afternoon that fall into four categories.
The categories include: Whether campaign contributions influenced the decision to grant the Solyndra loan guarantee; White House involvement in the decision to offer conditional and final approval of the loan guarantee; and involvement by the White House to restructure the loan in February in such a way that ensure private investors would be repaid before the taxpayer if Solyndra went under.
An interesting piece of news, according to Fox News, was found within e-mail communications among Obama administration officials. Dan Carol, a former issues adviser in Obama’s campaign said that Energy Secretary Stephen Chu was a brilliant man but “not perfect” for other critical DOE missions, including creating jobs:
The emails were released late Friday by the government in response to a subpoena by House Republicans, who are investigating a $528 million federal loan received by Solyndra Inc. of Fremont, Calif. The firm later went bankrupt and laid off its 1,100 workers.
A White House spokesman said Friday the plan to oust Chu was not taken very seriously.
Dan Leistikow, a spokesman for Chu, called Carol “an activist with an agenda” and said his email was not solicited by the White House. His suggestion about Chu was not taken seriously, Leistikow said.
Rouse, in a March 14 email to Deputy Chief of Staff Nancy-Ann DeParle, passed along Carol’s proposal, saying he was “not that interested in Dan’s criticism of Secretary Chu,” but said Carol was smart and shared the president’s views on energy policy. Rouse asked White House officials to comment on Carol’s analysis of the administration’s energy policy.
In the three-page email, Carol said Chu should be reassigned as chief scientist at Energy, where he could “reinspire and reorganize” DOE’s labs.
In a previous post on the Water Cooler blog on October 4, I posted an interview we had with Secretary Chu’s deputy at the Energy Department, Daniel Poneman. We asked Mr. Poneman if Secretary Chu would be submitting his resignation to the president over the Solyndra loan controversy, but Poneman refused to answer. President Obama already said he had “full confidence” in the abilities of Secretary Chu.
However, two days after we tried speaking with Poneman, Jonathan Silver, head of the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program did resign.
As far back as July 2010, The New York Times reported that Chu would likely have problems in Washington:
Dr. Chu has admitted his naïveté on certain policy questions, like OPEC production quotas, and is still getting used to the scrutiny that comes with a cabinet job. At the same time, he is struggling to get his arms around one of the most perplexing and intractable bureaucracies in Washington and to efficiently disperse what remains of $39 billion in funding from the stimulus package with virtually no top-level support.
Some of the department’s top appointed positions remain unfilled, leaving him largely reliant on career staff members to manage 114,000 employees and contractors and a budget that has more than doubled this year. The task at times appears overwhelming, and some in Washington quietly wonder if Dr. Chu is in over his head.
Yet as he takes on one of the toughest policy and management challenges in government, he brings certain assets that none of his peers or predecessors have had: a Nobel Prize, a YouTube following (for his lectures on climate change) and an unofficial theme song (“Dr. Wu” by Steely Dan). He is a major celebrity in Taiwan, where scientific achievement is rewarded with rock star status. He is a member of Academica Sinica, Taiwan’s most distinguished scholarly society, as was his father.
Could Chu be on his way out? Why did the White House drop that e-mail in the document dump on Friday is the real question right now. Secretary Chu will be testifying before Congress about the Solyndra loan on November 17.