President’s appointees told to account for vanishing half-billion



President’s appointees told to account for vanishing  half-billion


‘I want to find out what happened to this money and who is responsible for  putting these dollars at risk’

Posted: September 13, 2011
8:27 pm Eastern

By Bob  Unruh
© 2011 WND


There are a few in the federal government yet for whom half a billion dollars  or more is not something to be ignored.

That’s why Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., is demanding answers from some of the officials in Barack Obama’s  administration about how some $535 million in loan guarantees were given to a company that now  has declared bankruptcy.

And specifically, why was the promise of those guarantees renegotiated  earlier this year to give private investors including some Obama supporters in the California-based Solyndra, a maker of  solar heat system components, a priority over taxpayers should the company  collapse, as it has.

See  the nation’s new state of affairs, in “Gangster Government: Barack Obama and the  New Washington Thugocracy.

“Although numerous red flags indicated that Solyndra was financially troubled  and unviable in the global market, the administration went ahead and  committed over half-a-billion dollars in taxpayer funds to this company that  went bankrupt,” Stearns, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s  subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said today.

“Furthermore, in restructuring the loan, the administration allowed the  private investors to have the ‘first out’ in case of  Solyndra’s collapse. Then there is the FBI raid raising the likelihood of  criminal activity,” he said. “I want to find out what happened to this money and  who is responsible for putting these dollars at risk.”

He has called a hearing tomorrow at the Rayburn House Office Building where  senior officials from the Department of Energy and the Office of Management and  Budget who were involved in the loan effort “will testify.”

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On the witness list are Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the OMB, as well  as Jonathan Silver, the executive director of the loans programs office in the  U.S. Department of Energy.

Other testimony is expected to come later from company officials, and perhaps  others as well.

A spokesman in Stearns’ office explained the congressman wants to start by  finding out just exactly how much taxpayer money went to the company – and into  whose bank accounts it was put when the company spent  it.

He called it a “pretty high burn rate” of churning through loans of $535  million in a period of just two years, if that is in fact what happened.

The company, which made “innovative cylindrical solar systems for commercial  rooftops,” announced at the end of August that it was suspending operations and  firing 1,100 fulltime and temporary employees.

It explained, “Despite strong growth in the first half of 2011 and traction  in North America with a number of orders for very large commercial rooftops,  Solyndra could not achieve full-scale operations rapidly enough to compete in  the near term with the resources of larger foreign manufacturers. This  competitive challenge was exacerbated by a global oversupply of solar panels and  a severe compression of prices that in part resulted from uncertainty in  governmental incentive programs in Europe and the decline in credit markets that  finance solar systems.”

CEO Brian Harrison was quoted in the company announcement at the time saying,  “We are incredibly proud of our employees, and we would like to thank our  investors, channel partners, customers and suppliers, for the years of support  that allowed us to bring our innovative technology to market. Distributed  rooftop solar power makes sense, and our customers clearly  recognize the advantages of Solyndra systems.”

However, the half a billion lost by taxpayers wasn’t mentioned. Stearns’  spokesman said that’s where the investigation has to begin, with just exactly  what was paid to or on behalf of the company, by whom, and for what purpose,  officials said.

According  to a report in The Hill, company officials also are expected to testify  before House Republicans next week.

The report also said Stearns has indicated while some documentation about the  loss has been provided by the Obama administration, Republicans might consider  using subpoena power to obtain needed documents from the White House.

A  commentary from Bruce Krasting at Business Insider said it was of special  interest that no witnesses so far have been scheduled for the main owner of the  company, Argonaut Ventures, a family investment vehicle for George Kaiser, a major  Obama supporter.

“George Kaiser could step up in a bankruptcy court and offer to put $300  [million] into S. The proceeds would be used to substantially pay down the  government IOU. The balance of the debt would be converted into common stock. If  S were around in 5-7 years, the government might get the rest of its money  back,” he suggested. “That’s my challenge to George Kaiser. Step up and fix this  problem.”

A commentary  that appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune noted that when Obama was promoting  renewable energy projects, and working to grant money for the work, he visited  the California company and stated, “The future is here.”

But the commentary noted that by now, FBI agents have visited the company’s  offices, and have taken what they want. They also have visited officials’ homes  for related reasons.

“Obviously, everyone should reserve judgment as to whether there has been any  wrongdoing, criminal or otherwise. But it’s not too early to draw some policy  lessons from Solyndra’s ignominious downfall,” the commentary said. “The first  is that government is no better than the private sector at picking industrial  winners – and usually worse. Solyndra’s novel solar-panel design was supposed to  produce electricity more efficiently than more traditional panels, offsetting  its higher production costs. Many private analysts questioned that business  model, especially given modest global demand for solar power and competition  from China’s heavily subsidized producers. But the Energy Department swiftly  approved Solyndra’s loan guarantee anyway. The department has also placed large financial bets on electric vehicles and related  battery technology, despite private forecasts that the market for that  technology is not ripe.”

In response to a request from from  the Wall Street Journal, FBI spokeswoman Julianne H. Sohn declined to  comment on much of what is going on.

But the report said two of the company’s founders were taken off the payroll  just last year because the company “was burning through cash and had to rein in  costs.”

A blog column at Think Progress blamed the project on President Bush,  explaining that the loan guarantee program was begun at the company in 2007.

“Because one of the Solyndra investors, Argonaut Venture Capital, is funded  by George Kaiser, a man who donated money to the Obama campaign – the loan  guarantee has been attacked as being political in nature,” the commentary said.

But it said some of the original investors also made major contributions to  GOP candidates.

However, the timeline did reveal that a conditional commitment setting terms  was approved under the Obama administration in March 2009. Then in February  2011, the company agreement was restructured. Another company request to  restructure last month was refused.

The result was the closure.

One commenter on the site said, “Really, Obama’s team just signed the papers  and took credit for the whole thing.”

Read more: President’s appointees told to account for vanishing half-billion

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