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Emails Suggest WH Pushed For Solyndra Loan

From a surprisingly interested Washington Post:

Solyndra loan: White House pressed on review of solar company now under investigation

By Joe Stephens and Carol D. Leonnig, Published: September 13

The Obama White House tried to rush federal reviewers for a decision on a nearly half-billion-dollar loan to the solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra so Vice President Biden could announce the approval at a September 2009 groundbreaking for the company’s factory, newly obtained e-mails show.

The Silicon Valley company, a centerpiece in President Obama’s initiative to develop clean energy technologies, had been tentatively approved for the loan by the Energy Department but was awaiting a final financial review by the Office of Management and Budget.

The August 2009 e-mails, released exclusively to The Washington Post, show White House officials repeatedly asking OMB reviewers when they would be able to decide on the federal loan and noting a looming press event at which they planned to announce the deal. In response, OMB officials expressed concern that they were being rushed to approve the company’s project without adequate time to assess the risk to taxpayers, according to information provided by Republican congressional investigators

One e-mail from an OMB official referred to “the time pressure we are under to sign-off on Solyndra.” Another complained, “There isn’t time to negotiate.”

“We have ended up with a situation of having to do rushed approvals on a couple of occasions (and we are worried about Solyndra at the end of the week),” one official wrote. That Aug. 31, 2009, message, written by a senior OMB staffer and sent to Terrell P. McSweeny, Biden’s domestic policy adviser, concluded, “We would prefer to have sufficient time to do our due diligence reviews.”

What is more important? That the taxpayers get their money back or that Joe Biden has a nice photo op?

White House officials said Tuesday that no one in the administration tried to influence the OMB decision on the loan. They stressed that the e-mails show only that the administration had a “quite active interest” in the timing of OMB’s decision.

But there was no pressure. The White House emails the OMB on a daily basis, just to keep in touch.

“There was interest in when a decision would be made because of its impact on whether an event involving the vice president could be scheduled for a particular date or not, but the loan guarantee decision was merit-based and made by career staffers at DOE,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said

The White House has previously said that it had no involvement in the Solyndra loan application and that all decisions were made by career officials based on the merits of the company

And how can argue that the Solyndra loan wasn’t merited?

The Sept. 4, 2009, groundbreaking event went ahead as scheduled, with Energy Secretary Steven Chu in attendance and Biden speaking to the gathering by satellite feed

Well, then it was all worth it. Even if it did cost taxpayers half a billion dollars. But notice that all of this fuss, Mr. Biden didn’t even show up in person. So maybe the photo op wasn’t so important after all, and other factors were at work.

In one e-mail, an OMB staff member questioned whether the review team was using the best model for determining the financial risk to taxpayers in evaluating the Solyndra deal.

“Given the time pressure we are under to sign-off on Solyndra, we don’t have time to change the model,” the staffer wrote

But you see, it was "time pressure." Not political pressure from the White House. 

In one e-mail, an assistant to Rahm Emanuel, then White House chief of staff, wrote on Aug. 31, 2009, to OMB about the upcoming Biden announcement on Solyndra and asked whether “there is anything we can help speed along on OMB side.”

An OMB staff member responded: “I would prefer that this announcement be postponed. . . . This is the first loan guarantee and we should have full review with all hands on deck to make sure we get it right.”

In another message, a White House staff member wrote that officials were “walking a fine line with Solyndra needing to begin notifying investors to fly in” for the groundbreaking. It stressed that “this OMB piece” of the review was not final and pointed out that if word of the groundbreaking leaked to the public prematurely, that would “leave us in an awkward place.”

Again, what’s worse? That the White House is left "in an awkward place," or that taxpayers on the hook for a bad $535 million loan? They have their -priorities.

But even if by some miracle there is no untoward politics involved, isn’t this a pattern with the Obama administration? To ram through things as quickly as possible, before anybody has a chance to realize their flaws?

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, September 14th, 2011. Comments are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Emails Suggest WH Pushed For Solyndra Loan”

  1. Chase says:

    I bet the career of the OMB staffer who wanted to “get it right” did not last very long….

  2. Airmail56 says:

    In January 2009, Bush put it on hold. By the end of the month, obama had it fast tracked.

    Quid Pro Quo

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