President Barack Obama has learned nothing from the widening scandal surrounding the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program. Even as Energy Secretary Steven Chu admitted last week that he personally intervened to give the now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturing firm Solyndra even more money after it had defaulted on a federal loan, the Energy Department approved two new, similar loans worth more than $1 billion to solar firms that, like Solyndra, have strong ties to Democratic Party fundraisers.
In fall 2010, Solyndra executives told Chu their firm was dangerously low on cash and might not make a Dec. 1 payment to a $30 million cash reserve fund as required by the original terms of the loan. But when Dec. 1 came and Solyndra failed to make the payment, not only did Chu not pull the plug — he actually restructured the loan in a way to further protect Solyndra’s investors at the expense of taxpayers.
Many of these investors are big-time Democratic Party fundraisers, including Oklahoma billionaire and Obama bundler George Kaiser. But the Solyndra loan guarantee turns not out to be the only hand Kaiser has in the taxpayer’s pocket.
On Wednesday, the Energy Department announced two new loans, including a $737 million guarantee to Tonopah Solar Energy, which is owned by SolarReserve LLC. One of SolarReserve’s investment partners is Kaiser’s firm, Argonaut Private Equity.
Kaiser isn’t the only Democratic connection to SolarReserve. The company also lists the PCG Clean Energy and Technology Fund as an investment partner. The executive director of PCG is none other than Ronald Pelosi, who just happens to be the brother-in-law of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.
Perhaps, as Chu still insists, his decisions both to approve the original Solyndra loan and to restructure it after default were based totally on merits. Perhaps there was no political influence from major Democratic donors and friends and their family members. But even if this is true, the failures of government investments such as Solyndra are precisely why Americans tell Gallup they believe the federal government wastes more than half of every dollar it spends.
Obama’s and Chu’s obstinate determination to fritter away more money on investments such as Solyndra also helps explain why 81 percent of Americans tell Gallup they are dissatisfied with the way the country is being governed.