John Bryson, the chairman, president and CEO of BrightSource Inc., is President Barack Obama’s pick to head the U.S. Department of Commerce. Despite White House efforts to portray Bryson as an innovative, creative business executive, he is actually, as The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney made clear in Thursday’s edition, another in the long list of crony capitalists who share the belief that government should pick winners and losers in the economy.
Success in their world doesn’t come from profitably providing needed goods and services to consumers at affordable prices. Instead, crony capitalists make it by cultivating the right political connections and influencing government regulations so they can be manipulated to guarantee profits and limit competition.
Bryson’s career has been built on government subsidies and political connections. He headed California’s Public Utilities Commission, then moved to Edison International, which owned Southern California Edison. These were classic moves by a regulator into cushy positions in the very industries he previously regulated. At every step along the way in the decades since, Bryson has, in the Wall Street Journal’s words, shown himself to be “someone with a talent for scoring government subsidies.”
Bryson’s latest subsidy is a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy for BrightSource’s Ivanpah solar energy project in the Mojave Desert. Only federal bureaucrats would invest billions of our tax dollars in an enterprise whose Securities and Exchange Commission filing concedes that it has “generated substantial net losses and negative operating cash flows since our inception and expect[s] to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.”
But there is another side to Bryson, one that fits squarely in the tradition of radical Obama appointees like “green jobs” czar Van Jones, a self-proclaimed Marxist; Medicare head Donald Berwick, who swoons over Britain’s socialized National Health Service; and National Labor Relations Board member Craig Becker, the former labor lawyer who never met a union power grab he couldn’t back.
Early in his career, Bryson co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council, the environmental advocacy group that has relentlessly pushed litigation and regulation to suffocate private enterprise in a thousand ways. More recently, Bryson described Waxman-Markey, the most extreme version of Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal, as “moderate.” There is, of course, nothing moderate about using politically correct fish, lizards and birds to deprive Americans of desperately needed jobs, infrastructure and energy.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., has vowed to block Bryson. His Senate colleagues would be wise to follow the Oklahoman’s lead.