Green Jobs

Obama's Solyndra Silence

The White House prepares to invoke executive privilege over its green energy boondoggle.


Editor's Note: This column is reprinted with permission of the Washington Examiner. Click here to read it at that site.

On Friday, citing "longstanding and important Executive Branch confidentiality interests," White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler refused a House panel's demand for "all communications among White House staff and officials" relating to Solyndra.

Solyndra is one of the administration's pet "green energy" firms. It received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy before its top executives took the Fifth before Congress.

What's been unearthed so far is embarrassing enough. The Obama administration seems to have rushed the deal through despite multiple warning flags and a lack of due diligence. The now-bankrupt firm, whose largest shareholder is a major Obama fundraiser, spent some $1.8 million on lobbying while waiting for the guarantee.

"If we want to compete with China," the president said recently, "we've got to make sure that our guys here in the United States of America at least have a shot." "Our guys," indeed.

Obama's legal team hasn't yet made an explicit claim of executive privilege, but that seems to be where this is heading.

Executive privilege is a judge-made doctrine, born of "penumbras and emanations" said to flow from the president's constitutional role. A privilege claim is stronger in national security matters and areas over which the Constitution gives the president sole discretion, like the pardon power.

A privilege claim is weaker where, as here, the president's alleged "confidentiality interests" involve shielding potential malfeasance from the taxpayers on the hook for Solyndra's bankruptcy.

But since the courts are reluctant to wade into inter-branch disputes, the struggle for executive-branch transparency is often resolved in a tug-of-war between the White House and Congress.

In 1996, for example, President Clinton claimed executive privilege over documents related to the Travelgate scandal, but a threat to cite the White House Counsel for contempt of Congress forced a climb-down.

A partial climb-down is possible here too, as pressure builds and the "most transparent administration in history" risks looking like it's engaged in a crony capitalist cover-up.

Meanwhile, as is so often the case in politics, the real scandal is what's gone on in broad daylight. Solyndra is a perfect illustration of the dangers of government/business "partnership."

"We're all in this together," has been Obama's continual refrain this fall while pushing his $449 billion jobs bill. Sure, it's a collectivist notion that's hard to reconcile with a country dedicated to the individual pursuit of happiness. But he doesn't really mean it.

In this half-socialized, corporatist sector of privatized profit and socialized loss, we're only "all in it together" if a federally favored company goes belly up—as Solyndra did, sticking the taxpayer with tab. "One has to take risks in order to promote innovative manufacturing," as Energy Secretary Steven Chu put it last week.

In the days after Obama's inauguration, Jeffrey Immelt—the General Electric CEO who'd go on to head up the president's Council on Jobs and (er,) Competitiveness—celebrated the emerging new order.

"The global economy and capitalism will be 'reset' in several important ways—the interaction between government and business will change forever," Immelt said.

With the federal government serving as "a regulator; an industry policy champion, a financier and a key partner," Immelt wrote, this environment would present "an opportunity of a lifetime."

That forecast was spot-on. As I noted in a recent column, the latest census figures show that in 2011, Washington, D.C. overtook Silicon Valley as the wealthiest metropolitan area in the United States. It may be hard times out there in flyover country, but it's boom times for federal power brokers here in D.C.

Today, with unprecedented levels of money and power flowing to Washington, more and more Americans fear that the game is rigged. Can you blame them?

Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute and author of The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power (Cato 2008). He is a columnist at the Washington Examiner, where a version of this article originally appeared. Click here to read it at that site.

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  1. cw|11.8.11 @ 10:54AM|#So, where is White Indian to tell us about the evils of the agricultural-city [STATE]?

    SugarFree|11.8.11 @ 10:56AM|#Shh… dude, she’s sleeping it off. She always crashes hard off of a big mania cycle like that.

    John|11.8.11 @ 11:01AM|#I think they may have banned her. It is clear she is behind it. No rather no white Indian. And no closeted gay guy either. They all just disapeared.

    All very interesting theories but I like mine:

    rather|11.8.11 @ 1:30PM|#
    If 90% or more of the posts are not me, I can presume it parallels WI postings. Ergo the commonality are the spoofs, now who would they be….

    1. No one gives a fuck, bitch*. We think you are garbage. Get some help.

      *Pointing this out in no way constitutes my giving a fuck beyond the hope that you get some help. It’s mearly a humanitarian act. Like burying a dead cat or something.

      1. Pip, you are one of the most vulgar people on this site; sadly, it is also your only asset.

        H&R use to be fun for years, till SF, Warty, etc turned it into their little playpen, and I believe the airing of their dirty laundry will give us H&R back. A place where people like Joe would be happy to return to.

        1. Go get food poisoning at the vegan restaurant or something.

          1. Colonel_Angus, I’ll add you to my ‘slower that John’list on account of your biological libertarian defect

            1. BTW, I eat my steak rare, and I like my meat the same way

              1. Think you can beat my meat?

                1. I specialize in dentile circumcisions

        2. Making utterly meaningless threats on the internet?


          You are pathetic beyond any reasonable meaning of the word.

          1. Honey, what threat?

            I’m a girl, I only make promises

        3. “H&R use to be fun for years, till SF, Warty”

          This is just bullshit. I doubt if together they constitute even 2% of the total posts.

          1. It’s massive projection from a lunatic who is determined to single-handedly destroy this place, dude. Just ignore and stop helping her.

            1. Really Pip?

              I doubt if together they constitute even 2%

              LOL! I think you actually believe what you just wrote

              1. The truth has that effect on me.

                1. Notice how that even though Epi torments her the most, she only mentions SF and Warty as villians? Epi, she wants your cock, dude.

                  1. epi, doesn’t have a cock , dude

                  2. epi, doesn’t have a cock , dude

                    1. Even the squirrels agree

  2. The press seems to be looking at only one part of the money equation. We have a good idea of Solyndra’s income, it’s sales revenues and private investments are public record as are the loan proceeds. What I am interested in is to see where these funds were spent. Where did nearly a billion dollars (or possibly more) actually end up? What were the executive salaries and who were they paid to? Did the principals have any interests in firms that contracted with Solyndra? Were these firms billings to Solyndra at market rate or could they have served as means to siphon off these dollars prior to bankruptcy? What this story needs is some forensic accounting.

  3. Like Clinton before him, Obama is hoping that a sympathetic press portrays the subpoena issue as a Team Red versus Team Blue “partisan” dispute, thereby causing the rest of to dismiss the entire issue as “political squabbling” and allowing the real underlying scandal to be forgotten.

    1. I wish the media would withhold its team cheerleading from government actions that are illegal, unethical, unconstitutional, or otherwise unseemly.

      1. Yeah this ‘principle’ of never charging past presidents with criminal offenses only protects the teams. I say toss Bush in jail, then Obama.

        What’s really sad is team red defending the assassination of bin laden. From a purely pragmatic sense, even if you believe in the war on terror not debriefing him was a huge mistake.

        Of course the truth is they killed him so he could not be debriefed.

  4. Move along, nothing to see here, keep moving please . . .

  5. “The global economy and capitalism will be ‘reset’ in several important ways?the interaction between government and business will change forever,”
    Thats pretty much how the rest of the world works so the question becomes should we join in or can we still compete without it? We’ve done better then the rest without it in the past so I hope we can continue in the line.

  6. It’s really kinda sad. We would have far more alternative energy if not for government cartelization and subsidization of the energy sector and the EPA usurping of property rights.

    1. Maybe nuclear would even be economical without subsidization.

  7. rather, seriously what do want here ? If you are looking for friends then this is probably not the place, if you want to debate and argue well then this is the place to be.

    If you want to provoke and insult, then sorry to say it, you are going to get it back. Be honest, are you white indian, and if so what is the purpose of all your posts ?

  8. The Judge had a congressman on the other day who said something very interesting about Solyndra. He said that the company was going to generate lots of carbon credits which were going to be sold by the government . That is way they got the loan. But the cap and trade legislation fell through so the whole deal went down the toilet.

  9. how does executive privilege apply to a loan program?

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  11. thank you a lotsssssssssssssss

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