Washington Republicans and some in the media have seized upon the unfortunate bankruptcy of Solyndra, a company once regarded as one of the most innovative in the world and which the Wall Street Journal last year said might be "the Next Big Thing," to try to invent a scandal.
This is not a new thing in Washington. The Republican recipe is familiar: cherry-pick the facts and evidence; release just enough to the media without showing the whole picture; create a bubble of media coverage from conservative news outlets; use congressional hearings like the set of a TV show. It sure looks real, so it must be real, right? But the facts keep getting in the way.
First, they said the deal was rushed. But documents showed that the Department of Energy spent more than two years reviewing Solyndra's application -- a review that started in the Bush administration, spanned into the Obama administration and involved extensive review by external experts.
Next, they said it was all political. One of the two largest investors has donated to President Obama, so it must be a scandal! But a media reports quickly revealed that the second largest investor was Madrone Partners, which is affiliated with the Walton family, and the CEO of the company is a registered Republican.
Then they said the investors got a sweetheart deal. But the company's public filings showed the investors are going to lose a billion dollars.
Next, they said it was wrong for Secretary Chu to work to accelerate a program that hadn't issued a loan in the three years prior to the Obama Administration taking office. But transcripts from Secretary Chu's confirmation hearings , among others, clearly show that members of Congress from both parties wanted to get the program moving.
Next, they said they said the Bush Administration rejected the deal, citing a January 9th, 2009 meeting of the Department of Energy's credit committee. Critics investigating the issue selectively quoted a memo from that meeting saying that the committee still had questions about the deal and didn't approve it. Check mate? Nope.
When you look at the WHOLE memo, the credit committee concluded that the project "appears to have merit" and remanded it back to the loan program staff "without prejudice" for some additional due diligence. Two months later, once that additional work was completed that same committee of the same five career civil servants unanimously approved the application. Unanimous approval!
Still, desperate to cling to a floundering storyline, Republicans released another email from the head of the credit committee (just one) saying he had canvassed the committee, and that its members had decided to instruct the program staff "not to engage in further discussions with Solyndra."
But context is a funny thing.
As even Ed Henry at Fox News reported, the ENTIRE email chain, not just the one sentence Republicans handed out, shows that the credit committee wasn't pulling the plug on the application at all. In fact, they were allowing the program staff to complete its due diligence without extra pressure from Solyndra. Read the emails for yourself. They clearly show that:
A) When the Credit Committee members said that they didn't want further communication, they were referring to a request by Solyndra's government affairs executive to meet with the members of the Credit Committee to lobby them. Instead, they made clear that they wanted an independent marketing analysis. Which they got. And again, after two months of added due diligence, the career civil servants on the credit committee voted to send the deal forward.
B) Solyndra was upset with the Bush Administration over the delay, in part because they feared the incoming Obama Administration might not approve the transaction.
Finally, with all the political smears falling short, Republicans selectively quoted emails to make it look like the Department of Energy's own internal cash models showed that the company would go bankrupt in September 2011, which eventually happened. As Jon Stewart said, "score one for the faceless bureaucrats."
Small problem though: turns out those cash models weren't for Solyndra, and they didn't show the company going bankrupt. They were for the factory Solyndra was building, and they actually showed the project had more than $15 million on its balance sheet the very next month and more than $50 million by the end of 2012. (Dear Mr. Stewart, we love you but please take a closer look. Thanks.)
Again, these pesky facts keep getting in the way.
When will the media wake up and see this for what it is: a shameless attempt at the start of an election cycle to invent a political scandal. Period.
The real scandal here is the scandal-mongering. The stakes are far too high. At a time when job creation is everyone's number one priority, clean energy loan programs have already created 44,000 jobs. The U.S. solar industry employes more than 100,000 Americans, is growing at double-digits and America is a net exporter of solar technology. Republican playing politics Solyndra are costing American jobs.
And guess who else is cheering on the Republican scandal machine: the Chinese. America is in a race with China for the clean energy jobs of tomorrow. While Republicans are trying to invent a fake scandal, China is busy giving its solar manufacturers $33 billion in loans.
These are all facts now in the public record. The media should have spent the time to understand that the bankruptcy of Solyndra was about market circumstances that changed faster than anybody has predicted. The solar industry trade association, which represents all the companies, should've moved faster to realize that this was a monumental threat to their entire industry and not just one company. Clean energy advocates should've moved faster to take apart the Republican scandal the way a prosecutor would. Now that these facts are all more apparent, the time is ripe to make things right.
It's time to wake up and be clear about one thing: the Solyndra scandal mongering is the REAL scandal.
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