On Solyndra and Obama's 2011 SOTU Avoidance, Politico's Samuelsohn Misses the Big Kahuna: By That Time, Everyone Knew

On Friday, Darren Samuelsohn at the Politico (HT Hot Air), the place where it seems that inconvenient stories go so the Associated Press, the New York Times and the rest of the establishment press can claim they have an excuse not to cover them (respective proofs as of about 3:30 p.m. in the current instance are here and here), covering -- or I should say attempting to cover -- the latest of the White House's ritual Friday document dumps, reported that a White House communications official rejected an apparent proposal to seat Solyndra executives at the President's January 2011 State of the Union address, and that others within the White House already knew that Solyndra was in deep trouble before then.

And he almost got to the real meat of the story, but not quite. In this instance, not quite isn't anywhere near good enough (bolds are mine throughout this post), nor is the "nothing new here, you really don't need to read this" headline:


W.H. on Solyndra: 'Ugh'

... The idea of seating Solyndra officials with first lady Michelle Obama in the Capitol during the president's nationally televised speech came up around the same time that DOE was preparing a controversial change to the company's $535 million federal loan guarantee, which wound up increasing the risk to taxpayers.

... (Friday's doc dump) offers further confirmation of White House aides fretting over the struggling company. POLITICO obtained the emails from a government source late Friday.

On Dec. 8, 2010, for example, White House energy and climate adviser Carol Browner and her top deputy agonized over Solyndra's pending collapse.

"You hear solyndra is in a severe liquidity crises and we areent likely given next doe loan? Banner week," Heather Zichal wrote. Browner’s reply was quick: "Yep. Ugh"

... The White House’s red flags also were flying in late May 2010, just days before Obama visited the company's Silicon Valley headquarters for a tour and speech during which he declared Solyndra a stimulus success story.

... "FYI. We may want to be measured in how POTUS talks about Solyndra on his California visit," added Joseph Aldy, a White House staffer who worked for both Browner’s Office of Energy and Climate Change and the National Economic Council.

... In a cover letter accompanying the materials, top White House lawyers repeated their contention that the documents do not support GOP allegations of favoritism to Obama campaign contributors or improper involvement in the loan guarantee decision-making process.

Samuelsohn "cleverly" never mentions Obama bundler and frequent White House visitor George Kaiser, and never notes that the vaguely described "increasing risk to taxpayers" mentioned in the first paragraph directly relates to the "allegations of favoritism to Obama campaign contributors or improper involvement in the loan guarantee decision-making process" mentioned in the last.

That's not reporting; that's deliberate obfuscation.

Even Samuelsohn's vague phrase -- "increasing risk to to taxpayers" -- is a whitewash of what really happened. The correct description would be "increasing the amount of money taxpayers were destined to lose," as Hot Air's Ed Morrissey explains (bolds are mine):

Those familiar with the timeline of Solyndra’s collapse and the loss of more than a half-billion taxpayer dollars will understand the significance of these e-mails. Just a few weeks later, the Department of Energy “restructured” Solyndra’s loans so that taxpayer money was subordinated to later investors, allowing Solyndra to get $75 million in new financing. That financing came from Obama campaign bundler George Kaiser, who gets his money out of Solyndra’s assets before taxpayers see one thin dime, which means that we won’t see that thin dime any time soon, if at all. The restructuring also either gave Solyndra sweetheart interest rates or perpetuated them despite the subordination, a move that the DoE and the White House have never explained.

So the question raised is this: If the White House comms group and its climate czar both knew that Solyndra was an embarrassment, and so much so that the comms group nixed having Solyndra execs attend the 2011 SOTU in person, then why did Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu agree to restructure the loan less than a month later on such unfavorable terms? Solyndra’s woes must have been common knowledge in the West Wing for the “director of White House message events” to have that kind of wherewithal in advance of the January 25th speech. If so, then the decision to forge ahead with the restructuring that protected an Obama bundler’s late investment while illegally subordinating taxpayer investment becomes much more curious.

"Curious"? How about "illegal" and "corrupt," Ed?

On November 27, ABC News reported the following from Energy Secretary Steven Chu's Solyndra-related testimony before Congress:

He said the decision to restructure the loan deal as the company was struggling was a tough decision, but one he felt was in the government's best interest. When asked if that decision was legal -- even as it placed the government second in line behind private investors to recoup its losses during a bankruptcy -- Chu defended his department.

... "The number of red flags about Solyndra that were raised along the way -- many from within DOE -- and either ignored or minimized by senior officials is astonishing," said Energy Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Michigan.

Since no conceivable plausible deniability about Solyndra's condition remains, no reality-based person can explain how granting other parties superior status in bankruptcy at a company which is on its way to bankruptcy is "in the government's best interest." Because it's not, in any conceivable way.

Oh wait, maybe there is an explanation which works. If this is it, it would be grounds for a complete housecleaning of everyone in a significant decision-making capacity in the U.S. government. That would be if those in charge think it's "in the government's best interest" to completely bankrupt the country by throwing money down ratholes like Solyndra and and are willing to roll the dice on what comes out of it at the other end. Is that what Chu was telling the committee and the American people? Is there any other explanation which is even in the neighborhood of making "sense"?

The chances of Solyndra having a liquidation value above $75 million appear to be virtually zero -- and in case there's any doubt, the company has been recklessly destroying valuable inventory and paying outsized bonuses to those who remain during the mop-up. Whatever the investors recover should have and really still should come back to taxpayers.

Kaiser's association (note that I didn't say directly proven involvement, but the distance to that point isn't far at all) is not in dispute. The fact is that "Argonaut Private Equity, an arm of the (George) Kaiser Family Foundation ... was a major investor in Solyndra and was involved in negotiations with the DOE to restructure the failed company’s loan agreement."

Readers who are unfamiliar with the investment involvement of the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the Argonaut Private Equity investment firm with which Kaiser is associated -- namely, about 90% of the American people, because news of his association has rarely been mentioned in the press, and almost never in the non-Fox broadcast press -- won't see much significance in Samuelsohn's writeup. The Associated Press, the New York Times, and the rest of the establishment press will say, "It's not that big a deal, and Politico covered it anyway."

I believe that's why Samuelsohn's report was written up as it was.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.