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
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:
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
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
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
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.
Follow Tom Matzzie on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tommatzzie