Emails reveal White House kibbitzed Solyndra loan approval
Newly-released emails show that White House officials closely monitored the Soloyndra loan guarantee, implicitly pressuring officials to approve it. ABC News received some emails:
... internal emails uncovered by investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee that were shared exclusively with ABC News show the Obama administration was keenly monitoring the progress of the loan, even as analysts were voicing serious concerns about the risk involved. "This deal is NOT ready for prime time," one White House budget analyst wrote in a March 10, 2009 email, nine days before the administration formally announced the loan.
"If you guys think this is a bad idea, I need to unwind the W[est] W[ing] QUICKLY," wrote Ronald A. Klain, who was chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, in another email sent March 7, 2009. The "West Wing" is the portion of the White House complex that holds the offices of the president and his top staffers. Klain declined comment to ABC News.
The Washington Post received another set of emaisl:
The August 2009 e-mails, released exclusively to The Washington Post, show White House officials repeatedly asking OMB reviewers when they would be able to decide on the federal loan and noting a looming press event at which they planned to announce the deal. In response, OMB officials expressed concern that they were being rushed to approve the company's project without adequate time to assess the risk to taxpayers, according to information provided by Republican congressional investigators. (snip)
"We have ended up with a situation of having to do rushed approvals on a couple of occasions (and we are worried about Solyndra at the end of the week)," one official wrote. That Aug. 31, 2009, message, written by a senior OMB staffer and sent to Terrell P. McSweeny, Biden's domestic policy adviser, concluded, "We would prefer to have sufficient time to do our due diligence reviews."
The response of the White House is not very convincing:
White House officials said Tuesday that no one in the administration tried to influence the OMB decision on the loan. They stressed that the e-mails show only that the administration had a "quite active interest" in the timing of OMB's decision.
"There was interest in when a decision would be made because of its impact on whether an event involving the vice president could be scheduled for a particular date or not, but the loan guarantee decision was merit-based and made by career staffers at DOE," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.
Update: Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post comments:
The story is a dangerous one for the Obama administration for multiple reasons. First, it is in fact the quintessential crony capitalism story that personifies the unseemly conflict of interests that arise between pols and donors. Second, it highlights the absence of business acumen in the administration. This is its idea of how government "creates" jobs? Third, the initial White House response, that it was totally hands-off, was a lie. That's never a comfortable place for the White House. And finally, it provides fodder to the Tea Party Republicans who have been railing about this sort of behavior for some time and now have further grounds for criticizing the permanent political class.
This may not be Obama's biggest problem, but it's getting up there. At a time when he's cajoling Congress to spend more money for the benefit of political allies (e.g. teachers unions) it's legitimate to ask: Can we trust the administration to spend our money?