More On Obama's "Forthcoming" Solyndra Response

Yesterday we had fun with the Times of New York's preposterous claim that the Obama Administration has been "forthcoming" in the House Solyndra investigation.  In addition to my list of both subtle and overt efforts to cover up the White House's glaring failures of due diligence and disinterested governance, it turns out other executive-branch agencies have been doing their glacial best to avoid providing information to the American people and their elected representatives. Here's a handy timeline from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce: 

Timeline of Energy and Commerce Committee Investigation 

February 17, 2011 - Committee Leaders submit a letter to Energy Secretary Chu seeking documents and information about the $535 million loan guarantee that the DOE Loan Guarantee Program awarded Solyndra, Inc. DOE complies with the request. 

March 14, 2011 - Committee Leaders submit a letter to OMB requesting key documents and information concerning the review of the Solyndra loan guarantee. A two week deadline is set. 

March 17, 2011 – Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations holds a hearing on DOE Recovery Act Spending. 

March 28, 2011 – OMB fails to meet the Committee deadline. 

June 7, 2011 – After weeks of back and forth, an in camera review takes place with Committee staff and OMB staff. OMB selected eight emails between OMB and DOE to make available to Committee staff, and refused to produce the rest of the emails or the agreed-upon internal OMB emails and documents. 

June 23, 2011 - Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns responded in a letter to OMB after it refused to share requested documents by the Committee regarding the Solyndra loan guarantee investigation. Solyndra submits document to Committee, "Exceeding Expectations: Solyndra Today." 

June 24, 2011 - The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing regarding OMB’s Role in the DOE Loan Guarantee Process. Sole witness Jeffrey Zients, Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget was a no show. A full timeline of committee investigators back and forth with OMB can be found HERE

July 11, 2011 - Committee staff conduct a second in camera review. Committee staff asked OMB about the production of the other categories of documents sought by this Committee, specifically, OMB’s internal communications and documents relating to Solyndra, and its communications with the White House. As the OMB had done for months, OMB staff refused to provide and answer about whether they would produce these materials, and instead maintained that the OMB-DOE communications sufficiently show whether or not OMB had has done its job with regard to Solyndra. 

July 12, 2011 - Energy and Commerce Committee leaders announced the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations were to hold a business meeting on Thursday, July 14, 2011 to consider a motion authorizing the issuance of a subpoena for certain records of the Office and Management andBudget relating to the Department of Energy’s issuance of a loan guarantee to Solyndra, Inc. on September 2, 2009. 

July 13, 2011 - Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns wrote a letter to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to provide a final opportunity to avoid the issuance of a subpoena.  OMB refused.

July 14, 2011 - The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a business meeting to consider the issuance of the subpoena. The Subcommittee voted to issue the subpoena 14 to 8.  A letter from Solyndra's CEO Harrison regarding the company's finances is entered into the hearing record.

July 15, 2011 – The subpoena is issued to OMB, setting a July 22, 2011, deadline.

July 22, 2011 – OMB fails to meet the subpoena’s dealing. Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns informs OMB that they have failed to comply with thesubpoena issued on July 15, 2011 regarding the Solyndra loan guarantee. Chairman Stearns requested that OMB produce the documents no later than 9:00 a.m. Monday, July 25, 2011.

July 25, 2011 – OMB fails to produce the documents by 9:00am deadline.

August 2011 – OMB agrees to produce all documents necessary to the Committee's investigation, with appropriate safeguards relating to proprietary information. Production continues.

August 31, 2011 – Solyndra announces it will file for bankruptcy, Committee leaders comment.

September 1, 2011  - Committee leaders ramp up investigation, press White House for documents.

September 8, 2011 – Committee leaders comment on FBI raid of Solyndra.  

September 10, 2011 – In an e-mail, Solyndra company lawyers assure Committee investigators that Solyndra execs would voluntarily answer Committee questions.

September 14, 2011 – Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee holds a hearing on "Solyndra and the DOE Loan Guarantee Program."  Executive Director of DOE's Loans Programs Office Jonathan Silver and OMB Deputy Director Zients testify.  Subcommittee investigators release emails indicating corners were cut and OMB was rushed in approving Solyndra loan. White House Press Secretary attempts to dismiss concerns that White House pressure OMB on loan guarantee as "scheduling matter."

September 20, 2011 – Committee leaders express concern to Energy Secretary Steven Chu as his agency prepared to dole out nearly $9 billion in loan guarantees by September 30, 2011. TheLeaders request financial details for 14 loan guarantees DOE is poised to award loans to.

September 21, 2011 – Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee members seek answers from Solyndra investors.  In the letters to Argonaut Private Equity and Madrone Capital Partners, members are seeking all materials related to now-bankrupt Solyndra’s $535 million loan guarantee, the company’s cancelled initial public offering, the $75 million credit facility, the February 2011 loan restructuring, the company’s bankruptcy, as well as materials related to communications with the Obama administration.

September 21, 2011 – Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee members seek all materials related to communications between the DOE and White House, as well as all communications between DOE and the Treasury Department. 

September 23, 2011 – Solyndra CEO and CFO invoke the Fifth Amendment during Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on “From DOE Loan Guarantee to Bankruptcy to FBI Raid: What Solyndra's Executives Knew.”  

Interesting that Solyndra's attorneys made the promise that their clients would voluntarily testify after the FBI raid. At that point you would expect any intelligent lawyer to recognize that the only viable option is to remain silent (as Solyndra execs Brian Harrison and W.G. "Bill" Stover ended up doing). This suggests that Solyndra's incompetence extends to its legal representation. 

President Obama's obstructive and delaying actions are an insult to taxpayers who want to know why they were made to spend half a billion dollars on a pie-in-the-sky green-jobs company that subsequently went bankrupt. As a once and future flack I find this behavior personally offensive just for the way it ignores best practices for crisis management — with the expected result that the scandal continues to get worse while the subject fails to take control of the narrative. 

For example, California (proud home of Fremont-based Solyndra) has frozen its own program of green-energy corporate welfare, with state Treasurer Bill Lockyer saying, "In light of recent events, we owe it to taxpayers to see if there is more we can do to make sure we don't give their money to companies headed for a fall, or companies that take California's money and run to other states to create jobs." You will recall that Golden State taxpayers also gave $34 bmillion to Solyndra during the Schwarzenegger administration. In Obama's U.S.A., all Americans get the government Californians deserve. 

And in D.C., it turns out the Internal Revenue Service also gave Solyndra a boost in 2009. CaliforniaWatch.org has a great story that illustrates both the logrolling that is still going on under ARRA Stimulus and the absurd, pseudo-scientific micromanagement that results when the government is shoving money out the door: 

The U.S. tax code has long allowed buyers of solar panels to deduct a portion of the installation cost from their taxes. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that credit was boosted from 10 percent to 30 percent through 2016.

But in August 2009, the IRS also determined that companies buying Solyndra products would qualify for another 30 percent tax credit – as long as they were installed on roofs painted white to reflect the sun. At the time, only Solyndra was selling products that would work on so-called "cool roofs."

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, had been pushing the cool-roofs model as a low-cost way to adapt to global warming and reduce the so-called “urban heat island effect.”

But green-job subsidies make up a beast so vast it can only die in sections. While reasonable people all over the country are moving on from this regrettable error, Chu's Energy Department today approved another $1 billion in corporate welfare for a Sempra Energy solar project in Arizona and Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • shorter wingnutz||

    all renewables & obama are teh [BAD] cause mgmt trashed the company

  • American Taxpayers||

    Bitch! Where's our money?!

  • Teh Wealthy||

    we got it

  • Koan||

    Shorter Version: Obama and Co. suck ass and are corrupt, stupid liars. The End.

  • ||

    I have an observation to share with the Obama administration: It's not the scandal that'll do you in; it's the cover-up. Between this, killing people in Mexico, and God knows what else, you're doing the things that ensure trouble for you later.

  • ||

    But they are all from Chicago. They have never been held to account for anything. Why should they think it is any different now?

  • ||

    America ain't Chicago.

  • ||

    That is not the way they see it.

  • o2||

    who's "they"? the entire population of chicago? talk about wingnutzism

  • ||

    No the Obama people you fucking moron. Stop shitting on the posts and pay some attention.

  • o2||

    PL didnt get ur meaning either sherlock

  • ||

    Yes he did, you fuckwad. There was just nothing else to say. Now go away, the adults are talking.

  • ||

    Why would you ever respond to this retard? It's like responding to rectal. Just say no.

  • ||

    Sure I did.

  • sevo||

    "talk about wingnutzism"

    You got a lock on shitheadism.

  • Warty||

    Even Watergate wasn't really all that bad by corrupt Presidential standards. Shouldn't these idiots have learned by now that ham-handed coverups don't really solve problems?

  • ||

    Nixon did less shit than Kennedy and Johnson did. That was going to be Nixon's defense had their been an impeachment. He was going to tell where all of the bodies were and explain all of the things that were done under Kennedy and Johnson. He could then say "hey they were not impeached for worse, how can you impeach me?" It scared the living hell out of the Democrats. It bothered them so much that they argued, led by none other than then Congressional counsel Hillary Clinton, that Nixon had no right to put on a defense during the impeachment trial.

  • ||

    That's why he was forced to resign, as he was about to reveal that JFK's death was faked and that he was now representing Earth on the Intergalactic Council.

  • ||

    Well there is that too.

  • ||

    Uh, Kennedy's death was faked, and they dyed him black and put him in a nursing home in East Texas with the real Elvis, where they subsequently fought a mummy wearing cowboy boots. Duh.

  • ||

    But that was a badass mummy.

    Allow me to give Obama's speech:

    Some would have you believe that we must remain completely dependent on fossil fuels for our energy needs. I am not one of those, and I believe most Americans agree with me that we should assist the solar and wind energy, and other clean energy industries as much as we can. Mistakes will be made. But we cannot give in to the oil companies, and their Republican supporters, and begin a witch hunt that will not be productive or bring us any closer to our goal of a clean, self-sustaining, American energy industry. The justice department will perform a thorough investigation of this issue, and provide a report that will prevent future mistakes like this from happening. But our children and senior citizens deserve clean air and a cleaner environment. Thank you, and god bless America.

    How's that?

  • ||

    Pretty good. Are you sure you're not a speechwriter for the administration?

  • ||

    I could do it in my sleep. Given a little more time, I could have gotten some racial reference in there. This guy is a mannequin.

  • Warty||

    Shit, I'd vote for you.

  • ||

    Bubba Ho Tep is the shit. They were supposed to be making a sequel where they go up against a vampire.

  • Warty||

    Did he say all that shit in his autobiography? If not, too bad.

  • ||

    No. But it all came out later during the Church Commission in the late 1970s. But by that time it was too late. The Nixon evil, Kennedy a saint and Johnson good myth had been too entrenched for it to make any difference.

  • Warty||

    Thought experiment: Obama is caught red-handed in this scandal or another one, and is certain to be impeached and removed from office. Q: Does he resign like Nixon, or does he scratch and claw to spend every last second possible in office?

  • ||

    You know the answer. Spin, spin, spin, scream racism, spin, spin, spin, issue Bigger Lies, spin, spin, spin, suspend elections.

  • ||

    The latter. The reason Nixon resigned was because his own people turned against him. A hard core group of Democrats will never turn on Obama no matter what he is caught doing.

  • ||

    The hard core Democrats are already starting to turn on Obama. When the AP has the gall to fact check Obama's tax rate myth, the writing is on the wall. Expect Obama to come up with some sort if illness or family issue he needs to deal with.

  • Colin||

    To be fair, Nixon did both. He resigned, but only after he scratched and clawed to spend every last second in office.

  • ||

    There are too many partisan scum for him to get impeached. TEAM BLUE media will do anything necessary to ignore any scandal or excuse it, or counter TEAM RED media coverage. Which is why Obama feels so free to engage in scandal.

    Expect more, with minimal fallout. I mean, shit, he's only got a year left to abuse power; he better get on it while he can.

  • romulus augustus||

    I doubt there is any president, except maybe WH Harrison, who didn't justly deserve impeachment for something.

  • Tman||

    Forthcoming? It is to laugh.

    http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wi.....ar-project

    Energy Department approves $1B in solar energy loan guarantees

    DOE announced a $737 million loan guarantee to help finance construction of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, a 110-megawatt solar-power-generating facility in Nye County, Nev. The project is sponsored by Tonopah Solar, a subsidiary of California-based SolarReserve.

    The Energy Department said the project will result in 600 construction jobs and 45 permanent jobs.

    “If we want to be a player in the global clean energy race, we must continue to invest in innovative technologies that enable commercial-scale deployment of clean, renewable power like solar,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a news release. “Solar generation facilities, like the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, help supply energy to local utilities and create hundreds of good, American clean energy jobs.”

    But THIS time, THIS time they'll get it right.

  • Tman||

    apologies, I see this was noted in the post.

  • Warty||

    That's a "fuck you" if I've ever seen one.

  • mofo||

    " Golden State taxpayers also gave $34 billion to Solyndra during the Schwarzenegger administration."

    Billion, with a 'B'? That seems really high to me. You sure its not millions?

  • mofo||

    Yea, the linked article says:

    "Last November, an obscure state board agreed to give the Fremont-based company a $34.5 million tax break, the largest one handed out under an alternative-energy subsidy law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger."

  • ||

    But the country owes it to California to bail them out.

  • ||

    It's too big to defraud foreign creditors by burning it down.

  • ||

    California. America's Greece.

  • ||

    Europe can't burn Greece down, either. Too many museum artifacts. Once those are extracted and relocated to the UK, where they belong, then arson will be an option.

  • ||

    Speaking of Greece. Some are saying it is going to default within days. And thus usher in the apocalypse.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/.....obal-finan

  • ||

    Scary times, indeed.

  • Raston bot||

    Yep. Once the Fins and Estonians (Elbonia!) asked for Greek gold as collateral against the next bailout, all bets were off. I don't know if that's a watershed moment or tipping point or other cliche but the S definitely HTF.

  • ||

    It is Europe's fault. If Greece still had its own currency, it could just devalue it and get out of debt. Yeah, that would cause massive inflation and suck. But it would be better than default. Thanks the Euro, Greece has to default.

  • ||

    Phooey! Merkel will not let that happen, though it will piss off the krauts, and quite possibly cost her her Chancellorship.

    Besides, look at history of the last 20 years or so: nations that have actually defaulted, such as Argentina, and the world certainly has not come to an end. As much as we make fun of the lovely Greeks, the notion that "Greece is going to default! Oh Noes, not again!" is pretty much a worn out punchline.

    What sucks for us is there is no one to bail out this nation of entitled peoples. The Fed can only buy so much debt and print so much toilet paper.

  • Raston bot||

    Don't count the kraut people out just yet. There's growing sentiment to take a beating and protect the currency, rather than print/inflate per some strongwoman's will.

  • romulus augustus||

    Shit, I can't get through the British Museum in a day. How bad will it be with a couple more wings added on?

  • ||

    It'll be like Disney World--you'll need multi-day passes to see it all.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Fixt. 10q.

  • Redland Jack||

    I think that should be 34 million...

  • Jay||

    The Gubernator would have given them $34 billion if he could have.

  • ||

    Odd, but I keep reading the headline as "frothcoming."

  • ||

    That's the Rick Santorum site.

  • ||

    Damn. The commentariat is en fuego this afternoon.

  • Jerry||

    Lol. Tesla Motors just tweeted some while ago they don't have any loan applications with the DOE. They didn't want to become Solyndra Motors :)

  • Tman||

    Fuck Tesla. They've already received more than anough from Uncle Scam for their useless rich people go -carts.

    http://techcrunch.com/2009/06/.....ric-sedan/

  • Tim||

    "I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me subsidy or give me death!"

  • Colin||

    The New York Times has become the new Pravda, nothing more than the mouthpiece of the politburo.

  • ||

    President Obama's obstructive and delaying actions are an insult to taxpayers who want to know why they were made to spend half a billion dollars on a pie-in-the-sky green-jobs company that subsequently went bankrupt.

    Estimates of the number of taxpayers sufficiently aware of this to actually feel insulted range well into the dozens.

  • ||

    Yes, but those dozens are disproportionately in the influencer class.

  • INFORG||

    As far as the CEO's and lawyers for Solyndra saying they would voluntarily speak and then later decide not to, I wouldn't chalk that up to incompetence.

    It is a pretty sound strategy to waive your rights before invoking them to maintain an illusion of cooperation and try to get as much info on their case out of the feds before clamming up.

  • Raston bot||

    So what's the benefit to having a white roof if you cover it with inefficient panels? goddamnit this shit makes me want to spearfish some cybermenz!

  • ||

    those dozens are disproportionately in the influencer class.

    Libertarians rule the world. Ask anybody.

  • ||

    You'd think so, with all of the blame thrown at us. I understand that we managed to destroy the entire CFR during the Bush years.

  • GILMORE||

    You will recall that Golden State taxpayers also gave $34 billion

    Think you meant "m"illion

    "In light of recent events, we owe it to taxpayers to see if there is more we can do to make sure we don't give their money to companies headed for a fall...

    Here's a novel idea: stop taking money from taxpayers and giving it away *at all*

    If these companies were really such great-ideas in the first place, you wouldn't need to grease the wheels for them by giving them tax breaks, incentivising consumers by giving out the same, then watching as they fucking implode anyway because despite all the help they've been given because they're shitty managers and there's no demand for their shitty product.

    Many progressive liberals fail to grasp the irony of the following=

    They defend the lavish handouts & incentives for Solyndra as being 'perfectly normal' and part of any country's modus operandi in developing 'sound Energy policy' and that government always plays a role in 'helping foster innovation', etc.

    Then they blame solyndra's fall not on shitty management and craptastic products that cost too much, but rather on China's "*excessive* subsidies to solar producers" and their "manipulation" of both currency and of the price of silicon...

    Basically, they're either saying, "our crony capitalism isn't *crony enough* to win in the marketplace"... or that market manipulation is only bad when *somone else* does it.

    The main reason they fail to grasp the contradiction is that they basically don't understand ideas like supply, demand, price curves, etc.

  • KL||

    The scandal seems to revolve around what Henry Chu thought was his play money.

    The Wikipedia entry on Chu is very impressive on his scientific creds, but not a mention of money or business.

  • PR||

    something tells me he and Obama have been more careful with that sweet Nobel cash.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    We should get behind this "paint your roof white" deal. If we have to put up with kooky religious blue laws to please Mother Earth, this one causes much less actual harm than most other proposals.

  • KL||

    Unless it's winter and a heat absorbing black roof lowers your heating cost.

  • Zeb||

    No. Everyone lives in southern CA, so that never happens.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    Ya my bad. I'm in Texas so most of winter is just the time I don't have to run the AC. It's still better than banning the internal combustion engine, and cheaper than buying indulgences from one of Al Gore's companies.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    As a once and future flack I find this behavior personally offensive just for the way it ignores best practices for crisis management — with the expected result that the scandal continues to get worse while the subject fails to take control of the narrative.

    I agree. The most offensive part of this is that they still haven't figured out they're no long in Chicago. They have to put a little effort into spinning this. The American people will tolerate millions of lost tax dollars, but we will brook no such laziness in crafting a fake alibi.

  • juris imprudent||

    In Obama's U.S.A., all Americans get the government Californians deserve.

    No, this is more Chicago-style than West Coast. And we ain't talkin' pizza.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Dude, did you have to start this?

  • ||

    Start what? There is no West Coast pizza.

  • ||

    Yeah, what the fuck is West Coast pizza? Whatever it is, I bet it has avocados.

  • ||

    And pineapple. Maybe some sushi.

  • juris imprudent||

    No such thing as West Coast pizza? It even started in Portland, and crept its way down the coast.

  • juris imprudent||

    It is a Pavlovian experiment - shut up and go with it.

    Besides, there is a world of difference between competent corruption (Chicago) and incompetent corpulence (Sacramento).

  • ||

    Sempra! Nice to see the old employer getting in on the B.S.

    Out of curiosity, is "B.S." always capitalized like that? Should I have used lowercase "b.s." there?

  • JOhnny MAckson||

    Anybody know how I can get a DOE loan for a solar-powered, murder suit? LOL

    Jess
    www.anymouse.com

  • ||

    The greatest post ever by a bot.

  • ||

    Perhaps their "business model" was a little more sophisticated than we're giving them credit for. Interesting that the Florida Museum of Natural History was able to adorn their roof with a $630,000 array of Solendra panels through a "stimulus" grant. Sounds rather incestuous to me, but one can see how lucrative this angle might have been, given time to orchestrate.

  • ||

    I'll have to check that out next time I'm in Hogtown.

  • ||

    Oh, great. Now UF is tainted.

  • Paul||

    OMB agrees to produce all documents necessary to the Committee's investigation, with appropriate safeguards relating to proprietary information.

    Would that "proprietary information" be plans to make... electricity out of sunlight by papering with solar panels 50,000 square miles of land in a sunny place, almost enough to run a toaster oven? Go green energy!

  • ||

    It's like redacting for national security. If you understand that "national security" means CYA of the people in office, that is.

  • ||

    Maybe it's just me being sleepy at this hour, but in the photo above, Nixon looks like his own bobblehead.

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