Just when you thought it was safe to give half a billion dollars of other people's money to a fly-by-night green energy company, the dormant Solyndra scandal has erupted again. This time, a Department of Energy executive is trying to duck a subpoena from the House Committee on Oversight & Reform, and his efforts may point to a real-live cover-up.
Like much of the most interesting Solyndra news, the story of DoE Director of Strategic Initiatives Morgan Wright originates with the Washington Post's Carol D. Leonnig and Joe Stephens – whose work I have praised in the past and who continued digging away at the story of the failed solar panel company long after summer soldiers like me had moved on to fresh woods and pastures new. The oversight committee describes why they want to talk with him:
E-mails show that Morgan Wright was involved in an organized effort within the Department to use his non-official e-mail account to discuss loan decisions as part of an intentional effort to avoid scrutiny and disclosures under federal transparency laws. Wright was the recipient of one e-mail discussed in a Washington Post story from former DOE official Jonathan Silver. "Don't ever send an email on doe email with a personal email addresses," Silver wrote Aug. 21, 2011, from his personal account to Wright's Gmail account. "That makes them subpoenable." E-mails from non-official accounts have offered important insight into the decision making process at odds with narratives offered by Administration officials.
Wright's name is new to me, and his most prominent mention in DoE public documents is a disclosure statement [pdf]. But here's some background on Silver, who according to a Solyndra board member "championed the cause" of green energy loan guarantees and was especially active in pushing money out the door before he deserted the Obama administration to become a something at some think tank.
It seems to me it's Silver who should be testifying before the American people. The story he gave the Post does not in any way comport with the text of his email [pdf] (where, by the way, he seems unaware that there's a "b" in "subpoena"). "I intended to advise my DOE colleagues to use their official email for official purposes and personal email for personal purposes," Silver told Leonnig and Stephens. "It was never my intention to avoid the requirements of the Federal Records Act."
Well in that case it must be completely innocent!
Silver's message to Wright came as White House officials (but not the media or the public) were fully aware of the company's impending bankruptcy. (Solyndra, a Fremont, California, maker of tube-shaped solar panels, went down last September after burning through $527 million in taxpayer-guaranteed loans.) If there was a point when the original story of a shameful but manageable failure became a tale of an actionable cover-up, this was that point. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-California) is reissuing the Wright subpoena.