Documents Show Politics Powered Government Decisions on Solyndra

I am shocked—shocked!—but the new information uncovered by the Washington Post for the story under the headline above is nevertheless fascinating.

What stands out is that, while the Obama administration has taken a stance against lobbyists, the politicking around the Solyndra solar panels project that wasted more than half billion taxpayer dollars was cynical, old time political maneuvering.

The Post observes:

Since the failure of the company, [President] Obama’s entire $80 billion clean-
technology program has begun to look like a political liability for an administration about to enter a bruising reelection campaign.

Meant to create jobs and cut reliance on foreign oil, Obama’s green-technology program was infused with politics at every level, The Washington Post found in an analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal ­e-mails. Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and White House officials.

The story quotes Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog organization, saying how troubling it is that the documents show only a concern with politics and appearances and nothing about the loss of taxpayer money. It is pretty stunning and I encourage you to read the entire story.

The project was rushed and improperly vetted, despite warnings. But the president wanted to do a minutely stage-managed visit to the site (the company's chief executive was even given tips on what to wear that day) so the concerns were brushed aside..

It is interesting (and difficult to explain) why the administration went ahead with the appearance. There was a strong caution from Obama fundraiser Steve Westy, who said he was “speaking for a number of Obama supporters in asking the president to postpone the visit because Solyndra’s financial prospects were dim and the company’s failure could generate negative media attention.”

Like old energy executives, green energy people want to make money and the documents provide a “vivid glimpse into high-level machinations inside the world of clean-energy entrepreneurs.” One of the most delicious tidbits is fundraiser and oil billionaire George Kaiser’s dinner next to the president:

Realizing he might have an opportunity to talk with the president, Kaiser’s staff prepped him with talking points about Solyndra.

Kaiser did not have to angle for Obama’s attention. Organizers seated him next to the world’s most powerful man — for two hours.

“OK, I’ll admit it. It was pretty intoxicating,” Kaiser effused in an e-mail to an associate at 5:30 the next morning. “Charming and incisive as always. Casual conversation; not speechifying.”

Kaiser did not squander his time. While he avoided the use of the word “Solyndra,” according to the account he later gave to colleagues, he complained to the president about Chinese manufacturers dumping cheap solar panels on the U.S. market and pressed Obama’s deputy chief of staff about the need for a Buy American Act for federal agencies. The company was intent on making the federal government a major customer — part of what a Solyndra investment adviser called the “Uncle Sam” strategy — and the new act would give Solyndra an advantage.

You and I might sometimes find Senator Harry Reid a bit harsh, but Mr. Kaiser found him “mushy nice . . . Barack said privately that Harry would win by a small margin. I hope he’s right.”

Green energy may be relatively new but this is just the sort of old fashioned politics President Obama promised to end.

I’d like to second Mr. Alexander: what is missing from these documents is any sense of responsibility towards the American taxpayer whose money was being squandered.