Solar Energy: Popular but Corrupt

No one has ever been against solar energy.  Far from it.  In fact, according to a recent survey by Kelton Research, 92% of Americans say it's important for the U.S. to develop and use solar energy.  This support for solar power is consistent across political party affiliation, with 89% of Republicans, 94% of Democrats, and 93% of independents agreeing that it is important for the U.S. to develop and use solar power.

"Americans overwhelmingly want clean, reliable solar energy for their homes and businesses," said Rhone Resch, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The same Kelton Research survey found that 77% of Americans feel the federal government should make solar power development a national priority, including the financial support needed.  But (and there is always a "but") here is where politics enters the solar energy picture.  The phrase "including the financial support needed" is where President Barack Hussein Obama and the Department of Energy (DOE) are abusing their powers by funneling subsidies, grants, loan guarantees, and loans to campaign contributors.

A former Obama campaign staffer suggested in February, 2011, that DOE Secretary Dr. Steven Chu be fired to counter GOP attacks that surely are coming over Solyndra and other DOE deals that have gone to Obama donors and have, ah, "underperformed," or have gone bankrupt.

We are familiar with Solyndra, but how about its political paybacks?  George Kaiser, one of Solyndra's primary investors, a big Obama backer, raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama's initial election campaign.  Kaiser personally donated $53,500 to Obama's 2008 election campaign.  Campaign finance records show that Kaiser and Solyndra executives and board members donated $87,050 to Obama's 2008 election campaign.

And let's not forget the DOE's request that Solyndra delay its layoffs until after the November 2010 elections.  Was the delay request yet another political payback?

Further, the DOE, when restructuring Solyndra's $535-million loan, put investors ahead of us taxpayers.  The loan was restructured so that private investors, like Kaiser, moved ahead of taxpayers for repayment on part of the loan in case of a default, something two senior Treasury officials said they had never seen before.

Let's turn our attention to SolarReserve.  The DOE gave a $737-million loan for SolarReserve to build its Crescent Dunes project near Tonopah, NV.  SolarReserve's list of "investment partners" includes Pacific Corporate Group (PCG) Clean Energy & Technology Fund (East) LLC, whose number-two man is Ronald Pelosi, a San Francisco politico who just happens to be Nancy Pelosi's brother-in-law.

Another of SolarReserve's investors is Argonaut Private Equity, also an investor in Solyndra.  Argonaut invested $271 million in Solyndra, making it the largest private investor.  Steve Mitchell served on Solyndra's board of directors and is currently on Argonaut Private Equity's board.  Steve Mitchell and Argonaut may be able to recoup some of their losses from the SolarReserve loan that were caused by the Solyndra bankruptcy.  Further, Steve Mitchell donated $2,300 to Obama in 2007.

Now let's look at Abound Solar, which got a $400-million loan guarantee from the DOE, of which it has spent $70 million.  The ratings company Fitch determined that Abound would be a "highly speculative" investment, so DOE head Dr. Steven Chu was asked how Abound got a DOE loan.  "Fitch describes Abound as lagging in technology relative to its competitors, failing to achieve stated efficiency targets, and expecting that Abound will suffer from increasing commoditization and pricing pressures," wrote Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. 

Enter Pat Stryker, founder of Bohemian Companies and a very large Abound Solar investor.  Stryker has given $500,000 to Democrats in the past five years, as well as large contributions to Obama's 2008 campaign, his inaugural fund, and his 2012 re-election campaign.

A123 Systems, a Michigan lithium ion battery maker, received a $390-million subsidy from the DOE.  Its 2011 fourth-quarter operating loss is approximately $85 million, yet it is still handing out big pay raises to company executives.  Can the DOE pick 'em, or what?  Anyway, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm (D) said that the Livonia-based company, which laid off 125 workers since receiving government subsidies, was a stimulus "success story."  Does anyone believe that A123 would have gotten the DOE subsidy had Granholm not been governor of Michigan?  Solyndra was a model of the new, green Granholm-Obama economy that is based on favors to the politically connected.

A123's largest customer, Fisker Automotive, a Finland-based company, is also struggling financially.  Fisker announced that the DOE had cut off what was left of the $528.7-million loan it had previously received.  It, too, has a politically connected past.  California venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is one of Fisker's larger investors.  Al Gore is a Kleiner Perkins senior partner.  Top Kleiner Perkins executives have given more than a million dollars to federal candidates and parties since 1991, most of it going to Democrats.  Obama himself has received $19,000 from Kleiner Perkins employees.  John Doerr, a Kleiner Perkins partner, currently sits on Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, and he hosted Obama at his home for a dinner with top Silicon Valley executives.

And the political payoffs also go to companies only related to green energy companies.  An international law firm, Debevoise & Plimpton LLC, gave substantial political donations to Obama and other Democrats.  Debevoise & Plimpton received $1,842,180 in stimulus money to provide legal advice, conduct due diligence, and review documents for two DOE loans, including the loan Fisker received.

Are we connecting the dots yet?  Crony capitalism and political payback in the form of green energy company subsidies (spelled "bailouts at taxpayer expense") continue.  And Obama wants four more years to route taxpayer-funded subsidies to people who donate to his re-election campaign.

Dr. Beatty earned a Ph.D. in quantitative management and statistics from Florida State University.  He was a (very conservative) professor of quantitative management specializing in using statistics to assist/support decision-making.  He has been a consultant to many small businesses and is now retired.  Dr. Beatty is a veteran who served in the U.S. Army for 22 years.  He blogs at

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