Only ABC’s World News on Thursday investigated whether the Obama administration is “playing favorites” with investments related to a prominent fund-raiser for the Democratic President.
Reporter Brian Ross looked at investor Steve Westly and whether White House connections and fund-raising played a part: “Four companies tied to Westly have secured over a half billion dollars in loans and grants. And the White House has since had him appointed to a special advisory board for the Secretary of Energy.”
NBC and CBS have yet to cover this story and a report by the Government Accounting Office that “found officials were favoring some companies and disadvantaging others.” Ross explained, “Westly, in fact, boasts of his connections to the Obama administration. His website says his investment company is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the billions in government loans.”
Update: A representative of Steve Westly called to inform us that he has no connection with Solyndra, the solar power company mentioned by ABC in the Brian Ross piece (and featured in a clip of Barack Obama). An online version of Ross’ piece does not make the implication.
As this story develops, it will be interesting to see if NBC and CBS follow ABC’s lead and investigate.
A transcript of the March 31 segment, which aired at 6:40pm EDT, follows:
DIANE SAWYER: And with oil and gas prices sky-high, President Obama delivered an ambitious speech about energy independence today. His goal, cutting U.S. oil imports by one third over the next 15 years and increasing alternative sources. But who stands to gain from that? Tonight, Brian Ross investigates whether the administration has played favorites with some of the billions of dollars in energy loans.
BRIAN ROSS: With great fanfare from the President-
BARACK OBAMA: Hello everybody.
ROSS: The federal government guaranteed a $535 million loan to this California solar panel company, which promised to create 1,000 new jobs.
OBAMA: It's here that companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.
ROSS: But despite the huge government support, the company has recently closed a factory and laid off workers.
REPRESENTATIVE CLIFF STEARNS (R-FL): I would suspect it's already a loss for taxpayers.
ROSS: The company says it's on the right track and just needs more time. But now, congressional investigators are questioning whether connections to the White House helped this company and others get their government loans. At least one of the company's big backers is a major Obama fund-raiser. And a report by the Government Accountability Office found officials were favoring some companies and disadvantaging others.
FRANK RUSCO (GAO): We don't know whether they've issued the loans to the best credit risks and therefore, we don't know how the public's money is being protected.
ROSS: An ABC News investigation with the Center for Public Integrity found that a number of other elite fund-raisers for the President have also benefited hugely from the energy loan program. Most notably, Steve Westly, of California, the President's guest at a recent state dinner. Four companies tied to Westly have secured over a half billion dollars in loans and grants. And the White House has since had him appointed to a special advisory board for the Secretary of Energy.
ELLEN MILLER (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION): Westly should not have been put on that advisory board. There's no question about that.
ROSS: Westly, in fact, boasts of his connections to the Obama administration. His website says his investment company is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the billions in government loans. It was not something he wanted to talk about with ABC News.
STEVE WESTLY (Westly Group): I can't speak to that. This is an off the record meeting. I'm so sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We're out in the public.
ROSS: In addition to the cold shoulder from Mr. Westly, the White House told us we have it all wrong. That politics has no role in who gets the billions of dollars in coveted loans for green energy company startups. It's all about merit they say, Diane.