Benghazi isn’t the only White House cover up being exposed through leaked emails. State Department staffers aren’t the only career officials being blamed for President Obama’s inexperience, questionable judgment, and obvious cover up. A similar saga has just been exposed in the latest chapter of the green-energy crony-corruption scandal.
On October 30, The Daily Caller ran a feature titled: As many as fifty Obama backed green energy companies bankrupt or troubled. The piece cited the work Christine Lakatos and I did in our three-part “green-energy failures” series released in October. Immensely popular, the DC article was picked up by numerous sites, including Fox Nation and GOPUSA. That night, Newt Gingrich was on Fox News’ On the Record with Greta Van Sustren. After discussing the incriminating Benghazi emails, he pointed to another possible “October surprise.”
Gingrich teased: “The other big story, I think, that is going to break is on corruption and extraordinary waste in the solar-power grants and direct involvement by the Obama White House, including the President, in the solar-panel grants involving billions of dollars, and I suspect that’s going to break Wednesday and Thursday of this week.”
His sources were dead on. The next day, Wednesday, October 31, at 1:30PM ET, we received a tip regarding the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s release of more than 150 mails, equaling hundreds of pages of convicting evidence, accompanied by a five-page “Memorandum” with the following subject line: “Update on Committee’s Oversight of the DOE Loan Guarantee Program: New Emails Show President Obama, Senior Administration Officials Misled American People about Role of President and White House in Program.”
Through the research and writing we’ve done, Lakatos and I felt confident that there was direct involvement, after all, of the 26 loans (of which the majority were junk-rated) issued through just the 1705 Loan Guarantee Program to 21 firms, virtually all of them had meaningful political ties (bundlers, donors, supporters, etc.,) to the White House and other high-ranking Democrats. Despite the obvious connection, President Obama has repeatedly denied any involvement. As it has done with Benghazi-gate, the White House, this time through Senior Advisor David Plouffe while on Meet the Press (October 30, 2011), shuns responsibility for something politically uncomfortable: “decisions about the loan program were made by career officials in the Department of Energy on the merits.”
Likewise, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, while testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in November of 2011, stuck to the talking points when, referencing the Solyndra debacle, under oath, he said: “I am aware of no communication from the White House to the Department of Energy saying to make the loan or to restructure.” More recently, March 2012, before the House Oversight Committee, Chu claimed: “we looked at the loans on their own merits.” At that same hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), pressed Secretary Chu on nine of the firms that received loans, revealing their political connections. Chu countered that the loans were based on “merit.” Yet Jordan was perplexed, “so if you weren’t helping your buddies, and you were basing your decisions on the merits of the loan, how do you explain the fact that 23 of 27 recipients of the loan guarantees were rated as junk status investments?” Jordan concluded, “If it wasn’t your political buddies, it had to be incompetence.”
Also under oath, in the July 18, 2012, Oversight Hearing specifically addressing Abound Solar (now bankrupt and under investigation for securities fraud, consumer fraud and financial misrepresentation), former Executive Director of the Loan Program Office (LPO), Jonathan Silver stated, “Because I am no longer at the department, I do not have access to the analysis done for the Abound project. As a result, I cannot comment in detail about the transaction, but what I can do however, is give you a flavor for what we try to do on this, and every project… The loan would have gone through multiple reviews independent of the loan program’s office, including detailed reviews by career credit professionals at DOE, and career staff at OMB, Treasury, and the National Economic Council.”
Silver then emphatically informed the Committee, “This loan––like all the loans underwritten by career professionals, supported by outside specialists––it was reviewed by career professionals from multiple executive branch offices.” “It was not rushed, the review took place over several years.” “It was not given to friends––indeed no one in the Loan Program had any idea what individuals were involved in this [Abound] or any other transaction, nor did we care.” The questioning continued. Silver was asked if he saw any evidence of pay-to-play during his tenure. Silver’s response: “None whatsoever, Sir—as I say, almost nobody that I am aware of in the Loan Program even knew who the individuals were who had invested, either directly or indirectly into these companies.”
During the October 11 Vice Presidential debate, when Paul Ryan challenged him on the oversight of the “$90 billion in green pork to campaign contributors,” Vice President Biden sang the same tune: “His colleague runs an investigative committee, spent months and months and months going into this. Months and months. They found no evidence of cronyism.”
Just last week, October 26, 2012, President Obama continued the ruse, when he told a Denver, Colorado news anchor that decisions made in the loan program office are “decisions, by the way, that are made by the Department of Energy, they have nothing to do with politics.”
Clearly the stories were coordinated, and were contrary to the obvious conclusions a thinking person would draw—which prompted the Oversight Committee to probe further. However, until the leaked emails were made public on Thursday, we had no proof. We needed the smoking gun.
The tale-tellers, at the least, “misled the American people,” behaved unethically, and may well be guilty of perjury.
Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy
The emails revealed that Secretary Chu may well have perjured himself—though as Jordan implied, he may just be “incompetent.” We’ve written extensively on the interaction of decision-makers in the Administration and its “buddies.” In the March 2012 hearing, Jordan asked specifically: “Did the White House call you about, talk to you about any of these…did someone from the White House talk to you, the Chief of Staff, someone from the White House, talk to you about these respective companies, involving these individuals?”
Our research shows involvement of then-White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley in the BrightSource loan—one of the projects Jordan was asking about.
The new emails show Chu personally issued orders to prioritize a project favored by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer—Unistar.
Email #13 shows that Silver wrote to Chu’s Chief of Staff in a December 10, 2010, email: “since aldy [White House staff Joe Aldy] personally promised the edf management group [one of the sponsors of the Unistar loan guarantee project] that he would lead an inter-agency review of this topic, we should tell him that he should be the one to call and deliver the news.”
#14: “there has been a commitment from S1 [Secretary Chu] to Steny Hoyer on this.”
#15: “Just came down from the Secretary’s office. He is adamant that this transaction is going to OMB by the end of the day.”
LPO Credit Advisor Jim McCrea (possibly the source of this massive email leak, as his name is one of the most consistent in the email text), had hesitation about the project, stating in #16: “Ordinarily, over an issue like this, I would refuse to sign the credit paper and refuse to send it to OMB tomorrow but given the direct order I was personally given by S1[Secretary Chu]…”
Didn’t someone say the loans were not politically motivated and were based solely on merit? Oh, yes, it was the President who said “they have nothing to do with politics.”
Jonathan Silver, Former Executive Director of the Loan Program Office
Silver (reported to be an Obama bundler and Democratic donor) resigned in early October 2011, amidst the Solyndra scandal. His claim that loan reviews took place over “several years” and that loans were not “given to friends” is perjurious.
First, the loans couldn’t have been reviewed over “several years.” Obama wasn’t President until January 2009. The Stimulus funds were made available in February 2009. The first company to go bankrupt was Solyndra, in September 2011, having been granted the loan in September of 2009. Clearly, there was no “several years” in there.
While logic and simple math tell us that the loans were not reviewed over “several years,” the emails prove the rushed process. In the 350+ page Appendix II, the very first email is from McCrea to Silver—subject line: 28 day clock. In it he complains about things being rushed. He opens with “I do not have a good sense of why the DOE and OMB agreed to a 28 day clock…” Though by the end of the page-long email, McCrea seems to concede: “I am not sure that the 28 day process is really as much of a constraint as it might appear at first glance.”
Again, we covered Silver’s involvement with many key players including John Woolard, CEO of BrightSource Energy. Silver is very well connected having served in the Clinton Administration, he parties with Al Gore, was a frequent White House visitor and participated in meetings with Chief of Staff Bill Daley. Silver used his personal email account to conduct DOE business. But there is no hard proof there.
Also found in Appendix II, is that early on (December 2009), way before the DOE finalized the $1.6 billion loan guarantee for BrightSource Energy, there was a strong push by Silver, and others inside the energy department in getting this loan approved.
“DOE is another story. We are hearing that despite a strong push by Silver, Spinner, Rogers and others internally, the process is getting sideways by any number of bureaucratic hold ups and there is now real potential for consideration of the project to slip until next year.”
Now, as noted under testimony this past July, Silver made this denial: “…as I say, almost nobody that I am aware of in the Loan Program even knew who the individuals were who had invested, either directly or indirectly into these companies.” However, in response to their concern we find this: “Do you all think we should have vantage point insist on mtg with chu or silver or Rodgers? Should John and I try to fly out for something similar? Looking for some game changer but perhaps we’ve done all we could. Is dc shut down by the snow or is there some impact we could make? Joshua”
And we know that Vantage Point Partners is the majority stakeholder in BrightSource, where Sanjay Wagle was a principal and is currently a “renewable energy grants adviser” at the Department of Energy under Secretary Chu.
While we know that Silver had cozy relationships with quite a few of those seeking green-energy funding, these emails confirm that lobbying the White House and the Vice President’s office achieves results, not only with getting a loan approved, but clearing obstacles with the Department of Interior (DOI) that put their entire billion-dollar project at risk.
Email #5, drafted by Bright Source CEO John Woolard for then-Board Chairman John Bryson to send to then-White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley: “This project is now at significant risk due to delays in permitting at the Department of Interior…”
#6, from Woolard stated: “we are making good progress in DC. Whitehouse [sic] does seem to be very focused on this issue, in fact it is being elevated through the office of political affairs as well as VP Bidens- so we are starting to get them focused on the massive political risk- it helps that Bloomberg called Ivanpah ‘Obama’s energy project’ so it does have their attention.”
#7, two weeks later, BrightSource got what it wanted: “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued their revised Biological Opinion, prompting the Bureau of Land Management to issue a new notice to proceed allowing continued construction at Ivanpah units 2 and 3.”
The BrightSource case reeks of political connections, yet we are supposed to believe the loans “had nothing to do with politics.”
Joe Biden, Vice President
Biden’s denial comes from his one debate of this campaign season, about which Diana Furchtgott-Roth writes for Real Clear Markets: “In Thursday’s vice presidential debate, Joe Biden denied any ‘cronyism’ in the award of Energy Department grants and loan guarantees to encourage the development of renewable energy. Plus, he asserted that government-assisted green energy projects had a better ‘batting average’ than do projects backed by investment bankers. Just one problem: Neither of Biden’s assertions was true. Plus, the Vice President himself had a role in the cronyism.”
Email #6, proves her point: “…It is being elevated through the office of political affairs as well as VP Bidens…”
Then there is #4: “Pressure is on real heavy on SF [Shepherds Flat] due to interest from VP.”
Additionally, as we addressed, though not revealed in the emails, Bernie Toon, who served then-Senator Biden as his Chief of Staff, became a lobbyist for BrightSource Energy.
The White House and President Barack Obama
President Obama did keep himself somewhat isolated—having made fewer denials and being involved in fewer emails, however, he cannot be omitted from the discussion, as he was clearly party to the loan approvals. Plus, the emails show that DOE officials were pressured by the political interests at stake.
Email #1, from McCrea to Silver: “I am growing increasingly worried about a fast track process imposed on us at the POTUS level based on this chaotic process that we are undergoing…by designing the fast track process and having it approved at the POTUS level (which is an absolute waste of his time!) it legitimizes every element and it becomes embedded like the 55% recovery rate which also was imposed by POTUS.”
#2, from David Schmitzer, DOE LPO Director of Loan Origination to McCrea: “Jonathan just said at our staff meeting that, opposite the message received on Thursday, AREVA is now a ‘go” (seems on Friday POTUS himself approved moving it ahead).”
#3, from Silver to McCrea, encouraging him to remind a Treasury official of White House interest in now bankrupt Abound Solar: “You better let him know that WH wants to move Abound forward. Policy will have to wait unless they have a specific policy problem with abound.”
Despite Obama’s claim that the decisions regarding the loans had “nothing to do with politics,” it is clear that they had everything to do to with politics—and not just his own. Loans were used to bolster Senator Reid’s re-election chances in the tight 2010 race.
Email #8, McCrea wrote: “Since this is not going to go into the DOE, and just to be clear, the translation is: Reid may be desperate. WH may want to help. Short term considerations may be more important than longer term considerations and what’s a billion anyhow?”
#9, Silver wrote: “I need some stats on how many projects we have funded or have in DD [due diligence] as a percentage of totals. Reid is constantly hit at home for not bringing in the federal dollars.”
If all of this were a novel, or better yet a dramatic feature film, we’d find it most entertaining. We’d leave the theater shaking our heads at the gall of the movie’s starring actor. Instead, this full-color story (White House,green energy, Silver connections) leads to red ink—money borrowed from China that the US taxpayer will be paying back for generations.
The coercion, corruption, cronyism and, cover up of the President’s pet projects is really a horror flick, after all, the emails were released on Halloween. Each one of us is a victim of an expensive trick.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.
Photo credit: charlesfettinger (Creative Commons)