Solyndra faces Congressional probe

DOE logo. Did the DOE improperly lend money to Solyndra under White House pressure?
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Congress will now investigate Solyndra and Lightsquared, two firms that got special treatment from the Obama administration. At issue: whether either or both firms (or any others) got this treatment because their investors had a special connection.

Chairman Issa’s announcement

Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) told C-SPAN this morning that he would investigate both firms. Issa is Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That committee is already investigating the Justice Department over Operation Fast and Furious. The current probe concerns two firms that the Obama administration has treated specially. One, Solyndra, Inc., got a very favorable loan, and then went bankrupt—exactly when worried officials said it might. (Solyndra made large rooftop solar batteries for large low-rise factories and office buildings.) The other, Lightsquared, developed a wireless system that interferes with the Global Positioning System (GPS) that the military uses. Lightsquared became famous (or infamous) after General William Shelton, commander of the Air Force Space Command, said that White House officials ordered him to alter his testimony to another committee. Shelton hinted that the White House wanted to hide the GPS interference problem.

The Space Command - center of another Solyndra-like scandal?

Logo of the Air Force Space Command: Graphic credit: United States Air Force

Justin Sink of The Hill filed this report of Issa’s remarks. Issa specifically said:

This is another reason that crony capitalism … is dangerous, because they’re going to pick winners that they ideologically, or in some cases because they support their candidacy, want to see win.

In short, Issa wants to know:

  1. Did Solyndra and/or Lightsquared get special treatment?
  2. If so, did they get it because they had major Obama campaign donors as investors?
  3. Or did they get it because they were in industries that were part of Obama’s dreams for a new society?

Solyndra not the only one

Solyndra was the first firm that anyone suspected of getting special treatment from the government. It is not the only one. Rusty Weiss at BigGovernment.com reports that the same award to Solyndra also included several “sub-awards” to Solyndra’s vendors.

Lying within that massive federal loan was a number of sub-awards to other vendors, 40 payments of which were greater than $25,000 each. The largest sub-award went to another administration favorite, CH2M Hill, to the tune of $9.6 million for their construction engineering services. The company is a $6.3 billion consulting, engineering, and construction firm, and shares some similarities to the failed Solyndra. In fact, CH2M used the nearly $10 million sub-award to design Solyndra’s solar manufacturing plant in Fremont, California. Besides that amount, CH2M is also a major beneficiary of the stimulus, having been awarded four of the top ten contracts from stimulus funding last summer – to the tune of $1.2 billion. As of this April, the company boasts of $1.6 billion in contracts from the Recovery Act.

CH2M Hill also started laying people off at about the same time that Solyndra did.

The Lightsquared affair might be worse. White House defenders insist that General Shelton’s “pressure” was nothing more than “proper coordination” with administration policy. But such “coordination” cannot excuse letting a company invent something, and bring it on-line, that interferes with how the military can track its ships, planes, and other assets. That was General Shelton’s worry—and what the White House told him to keep quiet about.

Featured image: logo of the US Department of Energy

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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