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Solyndra - whatever it is - is a shortcoming

March 21, 2012 - Mike Maneval
The skirmishes between the Obama administration and congressional Republicans over Solyndra and other beneficiaries of federal renewable-energy lending continued this week, with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu testifying before a House committee, according to the website Politico.

An element that dominated the hearing was the ties and connections between prominent figures within the administration and the firms that benefitted from the energy program. Former administration adviser Larry Summers has managerial ties to the owners of a wind project, while, noted in September, Obama fundraiser George Kaiser's charitable group the George Kaiser Family Foundation owned more than a third of Solyndra.

Republican Jason Chaffetz, who represents Provo and western Utah in the U.S. House, said, "I just want to know personally what are you doing to follow through on our concerns that these people are personally financially benefiting from the decisions that they're in positions to influence people when they have major financial gain on the upside of these loans." He is making a reasonable request.

Chu said, according to Politico's Darren Samuelsohn, that the department's general counsel had reviewed a "firewall" preventing White House staff from pressuring decision-makers on the loan guarantees and found it to have worked. Also, Chu observes administration spending, within the stimulus package in particular, went to businesses and institutions with ties to Republican and conservative donors and activists.

But even if you're inclined to give Secretary of Energy Steven Chu the benefit of the doubt when he says White House staff kept clear of the process of reviewing the applications for the loan guarantees, the question remains: When an administration that campaigned on transformational reform fails to consider the perceptions of insider dealings these releationships create, is it merely inept, or were vows of ethics reform always hollow boilerplate?

And in light of that, even if Solyndra and the loan program are less of a modern Watergate and more of a common-for-decades political back-scratching, it still is a serious shortcoming of the administration.


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