President Obama is selling a repackaged “jobs” spending spree to the nation. Americans need assurance that blowing another half-trillion dollars on stimulus - the American Jobs Act - isn’t a recipe for more crony capitalism.
It’s telling that hours before the president pitched his plan last week to a joint session of Congress, the FBI raided the Fremont, Calif., offices of Solyndra, a solar-panel manufacturer Mr. Obama once held up as a model for the coming “green” economy. The firm blew through $535 million in federal loans to build a state-of-the-art facility. Then on Sept. 6, the company abruptly filed for bankruptcy, laying off most of its 1,100 employees.
The suddenness of Solyndra’s demise suggests its business plan was unsound from day one. Investigators ought to find out whether political favoritism was behind the decision to funnel cash from the first stimulus to the manufacturer of solar panels that are too pricey to compete in an open marketplace. One of the company’s principal investors was George B. Kaiser, an Oklahoma oil billionaire who served as a bundler of campaign contributions for Mr. Obama’s election bid in 2008, according to news reports.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee saw this coming early on. Even before the FBI’s raid, the panel had scheduled a hearing this week to quiz Obama administration and company officials on details of the loan approval. Rep. Fred Upton, the committee chairman, said in a statement Thursday that he had not been notified of the bureau’s search beforehand. “Over the last six months, our investigation has encountered a number of needless partisan roadblocks and repeated pushback, protest and even misleading claims on Solyndra’s viability by administration officials, company executives and congressional Democrats,” the Michigan Republican explained.
The raid’s timing raises questions of whether the FBI, a branch of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s Justice Department, acted preemptively to remove records from Solyndra’s offices to keep any documents embarrassing to the White House out of reach of House investigators.
Solyndra is not the only company to benefit from the O Force drive to lavish taxpayer greenbacks on companies that style themselves green. In June, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $2 billion in loans to two California solar projects that would put 1,800 people to work building parabolic mirrors to turn concentrated sunlight into electricity for 100,000 homes. The day following Solyndra’s collapse, Mr. Chu granted a partial loan guarantee for $344 million to the San Mateo, Calif.-based Solar City for its SolarStrong Project, which would mount solar panels on 160,000 houses at 124 military bases in 33 states.
The reality coming to light is White House energy policy wastes scarce taxpayer funds on uneconomic schemes that happen to have powerful political backing. It’s no wonder that a Battleground Poll conducted late last month found that 72 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. Further investigation into the Solyndra debacle will reveal whether Mr. Obama’s allies have been profiting from taxpayer losses. It’s looking increasingly likely that so-called clean energy has been tainted by filthy lucre.