Solyndra and Bush

Type in “Solyndra” and “Bush” at Google and you’ll get pages of media references (Fox, too, but not exclusively) to “Obama trying to blame Bush for Solyndra.” In the page I looked at, there was only one “Bush role in Solyndra…” From CNN to ABC to dozens more, the story is Obama Blaming.

Facts?

What emerges is that a bunch of Republican donors and allies had invested in Solyndra. That is probably the motivation for the Bush administration’s support of Solyndra. So the loan originated during the Bush administration and was passed along for renewal to the Obama administration.

Andrew Revkin does a nice job of “separating issues from myths” in the Solyndra matter. He also credits the reporting of the Washington Post’s Brad Plumer who sees the brouhaha as the “newest political chew toy.” Let’s look at the potential “irregularities” in how the White House dealt with Solyndra.

…Evidence is mounting that there was something irregular about the way the Solyndra deal got greenlighted. My colleagues Joe Stephens and Carol D. Leonnig have obtained e-mails showing that the White House pressed the Office of Management and Budget to hurry up in reviewing the deal (note, however, that this only came after the Energy Department had approved the loan), even as OMB officials voiced concern about being rushed.

Does that prove the White House engaged in cronyism, shoveling cash toward a political ally? Not necessarily. Democrats have pointed out that Solyndra’s loan process was initiated by the Bush administration and that many key investors were Republicans. Still, there could have been other reasons the deal was hastened. As a former Clinton energy aide stressed to me, it was arguably a mistake to sell the loan guarantees as job-creating stimulus (the program was expanded as part of the 2009 stimulus bill). “It means you try to force huge amounts of money quickly through processes that aren’t quite ready yet,” the aide said. “It’d be better to have a calmer, steadier source of funding.”

What also emerges — and many of us find this to be the real scandal — is that the right is using this as an anti-environmentalism cause and their attacks are gleefully supported (funded?) by America’s coal industry. Nice! The fact that Obama saw this as a way of creating jobs is probably another problem for the anti-job team on the right.

You still need a timeline on the loan guarantee? Here’s an excerpt from some research from the Center for American Progress:

December 2006: Solyndra Applies for a Loan Guarantee under the 1703 program.

Late 2007: Loan guarantee program is funded. Solyndra was one of 16 clean-tech companies deemed ready to move forward in the due diligence process. The Bush Administration DOE moves forward to develop a conditional commitment.

October 2008: Then Solyndra CEO Chris Gronet touted reasons for building in Silicon Valley and noted that the “company’s second factory also will be built in Fremont, since a Department of Energy loan guarantee mandates a U.S. location.”

November 2008: Silicon prices remain very high on the spot market, making non-silicon based thin film technologies like Solyndra’s very attractive to investors. Solyndra also benefits from having very low installation costs. The company raises $144 million from ten different venture investors, including the Walton-family run Madrone Capital Partners. This brings total private investment to more than $450 million to date.

January 2009: In an effort to show it has done something to support renewable energy, the Bush Administration tries to take Solyndra before a DOE credit review committee before President Obama is inaugurated. The committee, consisting of career civil servants with financial expertise, remands the loan back to DOE “without prejudice” because it wasn’t ready for conditional commitment.

March 2009: The same credit committee approves the strengthened loan application. The deal passes on to DOE’s credit review board. Career staff (not political appointees) within the DOE issue a conditional commitment setting out terms for a guarantee.

Once taxpayer money was involved, the Obama administration was reluctant to let Solyndra fail.

What critics fail to mention is that the Solyndra deal is more than three years old, started under the Bush Administration, which tried to conditionally approve the loan right before Obama took office. Rather than “pushing funds out the door too quickly,” the Obama Administration restructured the original loan when it came into office to further protect the taxpayers’ investment.

Republicans don’t, of course, want to yield their “chew toy.”

Republicans blasted Obama administration officials Wednesday for green-lighting a $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra, a now-bankrupt California solar company with close ties to the White House.

The GOP attack at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing focused on emails they said showed the White House tried to rush a final decision on Solyndra’s financing so that Vice President Biden could announce approval of the loan guarantee at the September 2009 groundbreaking for the company’s new factory. …The Hill

Cross posted from the blog Prairie Weather.

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Author: PRAIRIE WEATHER

  • Allen

    Republican dishonesty, treachery, and treasonous impetuosity continue to plague American politics. Until this reactionary ardor becomes inevitably squashed by public enlightenment, we will just have to bear their wild stupidity oppressing that most promising commodity our nation has ever, or will ever produce…it’s people.

  • http://www.americaincontext.com Barky

    Interesting chain of events there.

  • DaGoat

    From CNN to ABC to dozens more, the story is Obama Blaming.

    Probably because Bush hasn’t been president for 2 1/2 years, and as your essay admits possible mistakes were made by the Obama administration.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    Another take on the problem: Loan Was Solyndra’s Undoing

    The new factory built with Department of Energy funds foisted fixed costs on a company already struggling through an industry shake-out, they say. What’s more, the debt paradoxically made raising more money difficult.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Even though the “Solyndra affair” goes back two years into the Bush administration, Republicans are now focusing on only the last two years.

    When Obama took out Osama Bin Laden, Republicans quickly claimed that this success was due to the Bush administration’s previous efforts.

    No, this couldn’t be called opportunistic and selective recall…

  • Allen

    I don’t think so Dorian. You know these Republicans are prety objective.
    :-)

  • davidpsummers

    Yes, of course the Republicans are focusing on the last two years. And clearly, as we can see here, some Democrats think they can turn the blame back to Bush. Of course what both sides have no interest in is the idea that _both_ administrations (and a Congress that apparently demands rights to oversight but not responsibility for failing at it) are to blame. This is nothing more than the idea that pointing at what the other party does somehow excuses one’s own behavior.

    Shockingly, approval for all these institutions is at an all time low. Of course we _still_ have to vote for one or the other, at least until we can get real reform to the system.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Well said, DPS.

    On,

    “This is nothing more than the idea that pointing at what the other party does somehow excuses one’s own behavior,” I would say that when most of us point the finger at what the other party does,does not necessarily mean that we excuse our own party’s behavior—unless you can read our minds, or “extrapolate.”.

  • JSpencer

    “What also emerges — and many of us find this to be the real scandal — is that the right is using this as an anti-environmentalism cause”

    Agreed, this is the real problem: anti-environmentalism. There is no shortage of republicans who will gleefully latch on to a single negative environmental story and try to use it to paint the entire cause. Almost ALL of the serious problems we face today are related either directly or indirectly to lack of environmental priorities. It’s hard to imagine this wouldn’t be obvious to everyone, but then we live in a time when even science is politicized, so I guess it’s not surprising.

  • CStanley

    The TP piece is a crock. The Bush administration didn’t approve the loan because due diligence hadn’t been done yet and there were already red flags. All evidence from there points to a rush to process this without resolving the questionable finances of the company, due to political priorities. It isn’t necessarily that this was done as a political favor to a donor (though the probably illegal subordination of taxpayers to the private investors stinks to high heaven, regardless of whether this was done by Dems or GOP). Instead, the fiasco of this is the sheer incompetence of economic policy because this shouldn’t have been rushed through as part of the stimulus.

    A lot of us who opposed ARRA pointed out at the time, not about this deal specifically since the details of it weren’t known at the time, but even from a distance it was obvious that the priorities set out by the administration and Congressional Dems were more about the Democratic wish lists than things that made sense for short term stimulus spending.

  • CStanley

    Almost ALL of the serious problems we face today are related either directly or indirectly to lack of environmental priorities. It’s hard to imagine this wouldn’t be obvious to everyone, but then we live in a time when even science is politicized, so I guess it’s not surprising.

    Well you know js there’s that old saw cited by many on the left that conservatives shouldn’t be elected because they don’t believe in government’s ability to solve problems, therefore they (perhaps deliberately) govern badly in order to prove the point.

    So, then, what is the excuse for Democrats who were ostensibly elected to show that govt really can solve problems, but then prove to be incompetent at demonstrating those solutions?

    I’m not suggesting that clean energy (or even solar as part of that) is forever tarnished by this one screw up- but when you know that a lot of people are doubters anyway and then you deliberately skip doing due diligence before you make a particular company the centerpiece of a green energy initiative, it’s just a bit too convenient to say that this is the fault of the skeptics and ignore or excuse the sweeping incompetence.

  • Terrekain

    I hope you guys keep pushing this “Blame Bush” line into the MSM because it’s a delicious windfall for the other side.

    First: You’re blaming Bush because Solyndra sent an application for the program and was “considered” for “two years(!!!)”.

    Setting aside the fact that millions of applications from resumes to driver’s licenses to loans in the United States are “considered” every year, the fact that the Bush Administration let this particular loan languish for TWO YEARS is proof positive that they were letting it die a VERY slow death.

    I can only assume that the people here are financial novices (not to mention extraordinarily dumb) and don’t have the sense to realize they’re disproving their own conspiracy theory.

    And Second: The ultimate ringer is that the Bush Administration REJECTED the loan.

    Do not pass Go.

    Do not collect 527 million dollars.

    Right now, the conservative blogosphere is busy playing up the left wing “Blame Bush because his administration considered Solyndra for two years” meme.

    After all, the ultimate takeaway is to draw attention to Solyndra and how the Bush Administration refused to give the company half a billion dollars after the company “pestered” Bush for two years.

    Juxtapose THAT with the fact that the Obama administration APPROVED Solyndra’s 527 million within NINE DAYS after backroom meetings…

    Yes, thank you for drawing attention to how dumb Obama is compared to Bush.

    The more people listen to your clap-trap, the harder the “snap-back” will be when the facts are finally revealed to them.

    And the anger at Obama (and you) will be all the intense.

    Great job guys XD

  • ShannonLeee

    The Obama admin is totally wrong here. They pushed through a loan deal after being warned about the health and business plan of the company. It also does not look good when the CEO of the company makes numerous visits to the WH to meet with staff right before the loan was approved. This was a total f-up. This was politicians pushing policy instead of smart business. Bush did not approve this loan…Bush had nothing to do with the final decision.

    I am glad the admin wanted to support an e-startup with 500 million tax payer dollars. I wonder who could have actually been successful with that money??

    This will hurt badly in 2012.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    “Yes, thank you for drawing attention to how dumb Obama is compared to Bush.”

    ???? :) (You were doing somewhat OK until then)

  • CStanley

    Terrakain, you go too far in giving credit to the Bush administration on this.

    First off, the whole 1703 loan program was ill conceived. Government shouldn’t get involved with venture capitalism, particularly when it’s goal is to tip the scales in favor of a technology that can’t emerge on its own in the marketplace.

    And it’s an overstatement to say that the Bush admin rejected this application. The fact that it was in the hopper for years speaks to the nightmare of the federal bureaucracy, not to some master plan to keep stalling because they didn’t want to give approval (that’s just spin.) It’s true that they refused to bow to the pressure that Solyndra was putting on them in the final days of their administration, but who knows whether they would have ultimately have approved this or not had the term not been coming to an end.

    If you want to highlight the greater ineptness of the Obama administration, a more accurate point is simply to say that this was already an ill conceived idea that then was put on steroids by the new adminstration. It’s highly unlikely that the venture capitalist approach would work well even when taking a long view approach, but to fast track this idea as stimulus was exponentially foolish.

  • Terrekain

    @Cstanley

    Have you ever been an employer or know anyone in bank management or anyone who’s ever accepted any form of an “application”?

    You’ll find that there are always too many people dropping their fishing lines, applications and credentials. (With the web, it’s gotten alot worse).

    And more often than not, few if any of those applications will be answered, LET ALONE ACCEPTED. The vast majority die ignominously by being sent to the “pass” stack after a quick review. As an example, how many people during this economic downturn sent in resumes and never received a response saying “Yes” or “No”?.

    If you don’t understand this, you’re hopelessly ignorant.

    A loan of Solyndra’s size can be approved within 3 month’s time (one quarter) if the evaluators think they have their ship in order. That does not include the company’s own cyclic business models, cash flow projections and general foresight which means the financing was planned long before the formal application was sent (Solyndra showed no inkling of this to the Bush administration’s Energy Dept which was probably a big reason they were denied).

    And you’re telling me that after 2+ years you STILL don’t know whether an application has been “denied”? That you don’t understand the answer is “Don’t call us, we’ll call you?”

    By all means: Keep blaming Bush. It adds fodder for us for 2012.

  • Terrekain

    Oh yah…

    And how does Solyndra get approval for this kind of a loan in NINE DAYS when a normal “fast track” is 1-2 months?

    NINE DAYS?!

  • Terrekain

    @DORIAN DE WIND

    Don’t get me started.

    At least Bush worked in the Energy industry and understands some basic engineering…

    …like why trying to replace baseload sources with a few Megawatts of intermittent “renewables” in a 4 TERRAWATT Economy is beyond stupid.

    He also knew how to delegate authority to the right people which is another reason why Solyndra never made it past his administration.

    Obama hands out half a billion dollars and prime access to the White House to Kaiser so he can initiate a “cram down” defrauding scheme.

    And all Obama can do after screwing the American taxpayer is draw attention to the fact that Bush got it right.

    Obama is BEYOND stupid.

  • DaGoat

    Terre read the whole thread, dude. CStanley is far from “blaming Bush”.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Terrekain says

    “Don’t get me started”

    Hey dude, it’s a non-starter with you.

    Have a great weekend, dude, while I have some great fun with my grandson

  • Terrekain

    @Dgoat

    CStanley is biased against Bush specifically because he wants to try the “it’s both administrations who are responsible for Solyndra”.

    Which is bogus.

    And the proof that he tries this is because he can’t handle the facts – and he does this by trotting out delusional fantasies:

    “but who knows whether they would have ultimately have approved this or not had the term not been coming to an end.”

    Who cares?

    You can pretend you don’t know that in Washington, polticians always keep channels open and very rarely say “No” – even if that’s exactly what they’re saying.

    You can pretend that:

    “Well a unanimous panel voted not to pass my bill/application and they “shelved” it….but it doesn’t mean they actually rejected it, did they? (They did, you dumbass)

    You can dream up all the sophistry you want if it will make you feel better, but at the end of the day, the facts are conclusive: The Bush Administration rejected Solyndra.

    If you don’t know this, it either means you’re extremely dishonest or you’re as dumb as Obama.

    Who can say which is worse?

  • CStanley

    My this is entertaining.

    First, Terrakain, I’m a she not a he (you had no way of knowing that of course, I just thought I’d set the record straight.)

    You also might want to know that I’m one of the most conservative commenters here and certainly not a Bush basher. Just not a syncophant either.

    If you’re unable to acknowledge that Bush was imperfect, or to accept that another conservative (registered GOP, in fact) can publicly acknowledge that without being a poseur, then I’m afraid your accusations of delusion are nothing more than projection.

    I’m certainly aware that stall tactics can and are used both in private loan industry and in govt’s response to applicants or lobbyists. The fact that this happens in no way provides the level of proof that you think it does, that this was the case with the Solyndra application. The timeline as it’s currently known is more suggestive that Solyndra had reason to believe that the loan might be forthcoming, and I highly doubt that their execs were rubes who would have turned in an app in ’07 and then nearly two years later, having not heard back, would start making inquiries about their status.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Talking about Solyndra Hypocrisy: David Vitter Sought Energy Loans He Now Seeks to Scrutinize

    Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2011/09/19/solyndra-hypocrisy-david-vitter-sought-energy-loans-he-now-seeks-to-scrutinize/#ixzz1YPzTpZKm

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist