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President Obama’s Green Cronies Made DNC Cameo: Beneficiaries of Billions of Taxpayer Money

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My reflection of both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, from Tampa to Charlotte, with even the fact-checkers having to be fact checked, has been focused on green: renewable energy and taxpayer money.

Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan “slammed President Barack Obama over Solyndra during his acceptance speech.” Not surprising considering the ads coming from the Romney camp, hammering away at the Obama administration’s failed energy policies along with the crony capitalism charges leveled, a compelling case which the mainstream media is hell bent on either ignoring or shielding the president from. 

Ryan declared, “It cost $831 billion –– the largest one-time expenditure ever by our federal government,” referring to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was sold to the American people, guaranteed by the Obama administration; as a means to stimulate a dying economy and create jobs. “It went to companies like Solyndra, with their gold-plated connections, subsidized jobs and make-believe markets. The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare and cronyism at their worst,” Ryan reinforced.

Conversely, President Obama made a series of energy claims, including renewable, during his acceptance speech, framing his energy policies as a success, and doubling down on his commitment to invest in clean energy.

Additionally, Obama denounced corporate welfare for oil companies at a convention that according to The Center for Public Integrity, was funded by “deep-pocketed corporate donors,” and one year to the day after Solyndra declared bankruptcy.

Steve Spinner: Obama Bundler and Former DOE Loan Programs Advisor 

More amusing perhaps is the fact that the DNC rolled out the red carpet for the president’s buddy, Steve Spinner, Obama bundler and former top advisor at the Department of Energy (DOE). Spinner, well known for his involvement and influence (ongoing investigation and internal emails prove) to the ill-fated, politically connected Solyndra, was spotted on the DNC stage, yet bolted for the exit as ABC news made several attempts to interview him.

Over the past two years, it has become perfectly clear that the Solyndra saga, once the poster child for the president’s clean energy initiative, has morphed into the template for Obama’s green corruption scandal: political payback. Yet, as most concluded a while ago, Solyndra is only the tip of the iceberg.

While this saga warrants an entire chapter, Spinner’s part has been widely reported, including the fact that his wife’s law firm was representing the California solar company, In October 2011, ABC News reported, “Allison Spinner’s law firm, Wilson Sonsini, received $2.4 million in federal funds for legal fees related to the $535 million Energy Department loan guarantee to Solyndra,”

Further, it is generally known that George Kaiser, an Oklahoma billionaire and another Obama bundler, was a 35 percent owner of Solyndra. In 2009 (at a Rotary Club event), Kaiser admitted  he, “…was trying to get as much of Obama’s giant stimulus payout as possible.” It turns out that Mr. Kaiser made multiple visits to the White House in the months before the company was granted that huge September 2009 DOE loan. Also, top Solyndra officials made their fair share of visits to the White House (20 visits between March 12, 2009, and April 14, 2011), as reported by The Daily Caller in August 2011.

An insulting aspect came when we found out that then-CEO Chris Gronet bragged, “The Bank of Washington continues to help us!” –– reports The Heritage Foundation this year. However, Solyndra executives didn’t have much to say two years later, as they invoked their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and did not answer any questions asked by the House Energy Committee. 

What most don’t know is that Fitch rated the Solyndra loan non-investment grade back in 2009, as revealed by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in March 2012. Even so, Solyndra was not the only excessively risky loan doled out by the DOE. Through the DOE’s 1705 Loan Guarantee Program, over $16 billion of taxpayer money was used to fund 26 alternative energy projects; of which 23 were junk rated.

In a twist of fate, the DOE’s junk bond portfolio is where you’ll discover that 90 percent of these firms representing these projects have meaningful ties (bundlers and donors) to President Obama (at least 16) and other high-ranking Democrats; or both, with four to Senator Harry Reid alone.  

But the Solyndra saga continues

As Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, pushes for more Solyndra emails, the high-powered list of players caught up in this drama, from inside the DOE all the way to the White House, is already long and the details are so convoluted that I can only anticipate a reality show to air soon. 

What started as an unworthy investment, snagged a 2010 White House endorsement, only to become a PR nightmare that included a loan restructuring (an apparent violation of the law) and even a plot to hide their troubles from the 2010 midterm glare. Solyndra became a cautionary tale of sorts: a failed Obama green investment, one of the first to go kaput, unethical executive bonuses included, leaving in its wake FBI raids, and a trail of resignations and damning emails, all evidence that Obama’s “clean” energy is dirty.

Solyndra was a client of Goldman Sachs, and is credited as the “exclusive financial adviser,” Bloomberg notes. Goldman Sachs, as I discovered long ago, has their DNA all over this green-energy crony-corruption scandal. Goldman Sachs was the number two top Obama Donor that gave more than $1 million dollars to his 2008 campaign. Furthermore, two Goldman executives sat on Obama’s 2008 finance committee and two were bundlers for his 2008 campaign.

In addition to Spinner, Kaiser, Solyndra executives, and Goldman Sachs, we can add David Mann, a lobbyist and Obama Super Pac donor, who lobbied for Solyndra, to this saga. Recently The Washington Free Beacon (a great source for this scandal) uncovered that Mann was granted significant access to the White House, “He met with White House officials four times in under two years between 2010 and 2012.” The Beacon goes on, “Solyndra is the most prominent of Mann’s failed clients, but it is far from the only one.”

Moreover, GOP substantiated research informs us that, “every Obama Chief Of Staff, staffers across numerous agencies, government watchdogs, even Solyndra investors knew that the risks were too high for taxpayers.”

Solyndra, which came from humble junk beginnings, now has its place in history: an art exhibit at the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, at the price tag of half a billion taxpayer dollars.

Steve Westly, Founder and Managing Partner of The Westly Group: Obama Bundler Serving on Energy Secretary Chu’s Advisory Board

Now, it’s unclear why former Vice President Al Gore’s presence was missed at the DNC (climate change drama possibly), especially since he was a strong Obama supporter in 2008. Also, Gore’s firm, Kleiner Perkins, along with his friend and partner, billionaire John Doerr, considered “a very big-ticket Obama donor” by New York Magazine, who in February 2011 hosted a star-studded billionaire Silicon Valley dinner for the president, raked in billions of stimulus money for their clean-energy investments. The conflict runs deeper, as Doerr sits on the president’s job council, and early on ultimately shaped what went into the energy section of the 2009 Obama stimulus package.

Kleiner Perkins is a firm that I began to unravel in 2010, stressing that over fifty percent of their Greentech Portfolio secured all kinds of loans, grants, and special tax breaks; yet it’s a firm to eventually revisit, because since 2010, they have tripled their green investments and there is much more to expose.

But don’t despair, the “Green bundler with the golden touch” (label coined by The Center for Public Integrity last year) made his DNC speaking debut. As Steven Westly, founder of The Westly Group, walked on stage, waving as if he had just won a Grammy, I was expecting an acceptance speech of sorts. After all, his firm was awarded billions of taxpayer dollars for his alternative energy investments. Instead we got a lame eBay joke about the Republican party platform, as well as hype over the president’s jobs plan, yet no mention of the five million green jobs promised that never arrived.

If you don’t know Mr. Westly, let me share:

Since 2009 I’ve been following Westly, and what I discovered that is relevant to this story is that he is another two-time Obama bundler, and is currently a co-chair of the 2012 Technology for Obama group. He was briefly considered for a cabinet level position in the Obama administration, and in August 2010, Westly secured a top advisory role inside the DOE, close to Energy Secretary Chu. 

According to Center For Responsive Politics, “Westly has raised over $1 million for Obama during the 2008 and 2012 election cycles.” And his own bio confirms, “In the 2008 election cycle Mr. Westly served as a California co-chair and a National Finance Committee member of the Obama for America campaign” –– a Committee, that according to Peter Schweizer’s bombshell bestseller, Throw Them All Out, divulges that at least ten members were winners of Obama’s “green” stimulus money. Westly has been known to frequent the White House, pal around with Secretary Chu and other White House officials, and has hosted and attended various lavish fundraisers and dinners for the president; even the January 2011 State Dinner at the White House.

As told by the Heritage Foundation, Westly, “Enjoys access to top White House officials, including Valerie Jarrett, whom he warned of political fallout for the Obama administration in the event of a Solyndra bankruptcy.” Westly’s firm even bragged how they were “uniquely positioned” to take advantage of the hundreds of billions of dollars that the Obama administration had committed to clean tech.

And take advantage they have…

A few of Westly’s clean tech portfolio companies have made recent headlines. Telsa Motors (as of late, had some design problems) received a $465 million ATVM loan as well as the solar company Amonix, another Obama endorsement, that received over $20 million in combined stimulus grants, tax credits, and DOE funding; yet it closed its doors in July of this year. 

Amyris Biotechnologies, not on the media’s radar, is a very relevant story, of which author Schweizer reveals that on “November 18, 2009, “Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein and her husband invested $1 million into Amyris, and just weeks after her seven-figure investment in Amyris, the company scored a $24 million grant from the Department of Energy (DOE).”  

As of 2011, the Obama administration had already approved loans, grants, tax breaks for over forty percent (eight out of seventeen) of The Westly Group’s green investments. Besides the three listed above, are CalStar Products, EdenIQ, Solexel, Soladigm, and RecycleBank. However, what is not widely reported is that The Westly Group’s clean-tech portfolio and Kleiner Perkins greentech have some of the same investments that received government subsidies like RecycleBank (see my 2010 investigation on RecycleBank) as well as Amonix and EdenIQ.

Westly is also tied to Kleiner Perkins in other ways, and shares some of the same investments as Kholsa Ventures. Goldman Sachs and others are all part of that elite “green society” that I’ve alluded to quite a few times, those who snagged multiple green-energy government contracts.

Tom Steyer, Senior Managing Partner of Farallon Capital Management: Obama Bundler

Billionaire Tom Steyer, another Obama bundler, who, like most prominent Obama fundraisers, has enjoyed relatively easy access to the White House, and has met with senior White House officials in the West Wing on at least four occasions.

Mr. Steyer opened his DNC speech with a Romney tax joke; then quickly moved to his green energy pitch and President Obama’s vision, “This is about investing for the long haul, not for a quick-and-dirty buck,” Steyer proclaimed.

As noted in The Washington Free Beacon, Steyer, “Is reportedly one of the backers of Greener Capital, which invests in alternative fuel companies that benefit from the anti-oil policies of the Obama administration. Steyer is also the founder and senior managing partner of Farallon Capital Management, which stands to profit from government policies that increase consumption of natural gas.” 

The Beacon goes on to give more interesting tidbits about Steyer being a Goldman Sachs protegé of Robert Rubin, but what caught my attention is that while Mr. Styers’ alternative energy investments are quite impressive, he also “owns millions of dollars worth of shares in Big Oil companies such as BP.”

Speaking of quick-and-dirty bucks.

According to Politico in 2010, Obama is the biggest recipient of BP donations over the past twenty years, and BP has invested big in clean energy. BP Alternative Energy includes BrightSource Energy, the recipient of $1.6 billion in DOE loans, a shady transaction that involves other high-profile political connections to the White House as well as a DOE insider. 

Still, BP were winners of more Obama stimulus money; like a $308 million federal DOE grant in 2009 to Hydrogen Energy California, a joint partnership of BP and the multinational mining firm, Rio Tinto, a project considered by the right as a waste of taxpayer money, with mixed reviews by environmentalists.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times in early October 2011, BP subsidiary BP Wind Energy also took advantage of a provision, the production tax credit set to expire at the end of 2012, that had “previously been extended by President Obama’s politically unpopular 2009 stimulus,” and was the recipient of a tax credit for their wind farm in Kansas.

The Times goes on, “The wind industry has been heavily reliant on federal tax credits as it expands,” noting the investment tax credit for new wind projects popularity: “It has awarded more than $8.4 billion in renewable-energy tax credits since 2009, with roughly $6.7 billion going toward wind projects alone, according to U.S. Treasury award data.”

BP Solar unit of BP PLC (based in London) received $11.7 million in 48C credits, despite the fact that this project is creating jobs overseas, aligning them to others on my radar that are outsourcing so called green jobs: First Solar and Sun Power.

This too, was another brainchild of the Recovery Act: the Advanced Energy Manufacturing (48C) Tax Credit, “a $2.3 billion program that provides a 30 percent tax credit for investment in advanced energy manufacturing facilities.” However, the records by the Appollo Alliance (Winning the Race, March 2010) –– the left-wing organization which help craft the 2009-stimulus package –reflect that  “41 percent of the funds awarded through the Stimulus’ 48c Advanced Manufacturing Program went to foreign based companies which were awarded on average $20 million versus $11 million for U.S. companies.”

Jim Rogers, Chairman of Duke Energy: DNC Host and Obama Donor

A party wouldn’t be complete without a wealthy host: Jim Rogers, the chairman of Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric power company, whose participation at the Democratic convention was vast:  a contributor, creditor, host, and even a speaker. Rogers appeared on the DNC stage as a “grandfather, to lay the groundwork for a cleaner, more sustainable future.”

Two intriguing articles (with different perspectives, of course) highlight Mr. Rogers’ politics and energy, The Huffington Post and The Washington Free Beacon, both expanding on the fact that Rogers had once told The Wall Street Journal this spring, “If you’re not at the table, you’re going to be on the menu.”

Rogers is a registered Democrat, and while prior to 2008, he and his wife had contributed to Republican candidates; they now give more generously to Democratic politicians, including President Obama. Meanwhile the Duke Energy Political Action Committee was also a Republican supporter in the past, yet the tide turned in 2010.

What is indisputable is that Rogers, “labeled a hypocrite amongst environmentalists” (so says The Huffington Post piece), is not on the menu like the taxpayers; he’s at Obama’s green table indeed, and happens to be one of the major players in this green energy scheme. In fact, Rogers was even on the short list to become President Obama’s Energy Secretary.

An illuminating analysis by the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) came out in August 2011, noting Duke Energy, along with General Electric and General Motors‘ “appetites for government giveaways,“ and how Duke got a healthy dose from Obama’s 2009 stimulus package.

Evidently, all three support cap-and-trade policies (although the NLPC says, “it appears GM has left the US Climate Action Partnership,” you’ll find many more green-energy corruption players on that list), a disastrous piece of legislation that if passed will cripple our economy; yet guarantee them huge profits.

In 2009, the DOE awarded Duke Energy a $200 million stimulus smart-grid grant to support projects in the Midwest, and $4 million for smaller projects in North and South Carolina. Further, Duke was the recipient of a $22 million DOE grant (although I read somewhere that it was more like $90 million) for it’s Notrees Windpower project in Texas, for which General Electric is supplying the wind turbines.

GE, another top 2008 Obama donor, and recipient of over $3 billion of Obama green cash, even as its CEO Jeffrey Immelt is the chairman of President Obama’s Job Council, landed over 26 percent of the turbine manufacturer contracts from the billions of wind energy grants that blew out of the stimulus package in February 2010.

According to The Washington Free Beacon, Duke Energy also received, “A $350,000 grant to assist General Motors in the development of the Chevrolet Volt.”  Well, it seems that Vice President Joe Biden will have to change his current campaign slogan, “bin Laden is still dead, and GM is on life support.” Oh and that Chevy Volt, another Obama green investment failure, has a new deep-pocketed customer: the Pentagon, which means taxpayers; again.

Center for American Progress: The CAP Connection

While Steve Spinner left his post at Center for American Progress (CAP) around the same time he resigned from the DOE, both Tom Steyer and Duke Energy have strong and expensive connections to this left wing think tank.

CAP, on my green corruption radar since 2010, is closely aligned with the White House, and John Podesta (CAP founder and former president) was the co-chairman of the Obama-Biden transition team. Tony Podesta, on the other hand, is a principal at the Podesta Group, which he started with his brother John, another large green entity, as Marita Noon (Townhall.com columnist) and I pointed out when covering their connection to the $737 million SolarReserve DOE loan, via our Special Seven Series, which we concluded last month.

Obviously, CAP and the Podesta bothers are heavily implicated here, as they have much to gain from renewable energy investments and anti-oil policies. Both Tony Podesta and his wife Heather, a Washington power couple, are frequent White House visitors who enjoy high rank in lobbying power, and Democrat bundling as well.

In Closing

So the next time President Obama pledges to end corporate welfare for oil companies or any other industry for that matter, he may consider checking his party’s suppliers and program lineup first; in other words, his back pocket.

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About Christine Lakatos

  • http://www.lunch.com/JSMaresca-Reviews-1-1.html Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

    I’m sure that voters will hear a debate on Green Energy. More importantly, how does all of the above contrast with Mitt Romney’s ideas on Green Energy. The Green Party itself will be in the mix on the November Ballot. Also, The voters will have to weigh whatever negations there are in the current Green Energy policies as against spending more money on national defense under a Romney Administration.

    For sure, huge amounts of money will be spent and perhaps even wasted. The question is this. Which candidate will provide the voters with a better outcome. Ultimately, the goal is to stimulate demand so that more consumers make purchases, industry rebuilds, people are hired in greater numbers and unemployment subsides. Which candidate will accomplish this better?

  • Igor

    Green energy is inevitable. We can either plan for it now and start building systems, or we can wait for more crises to develop. Either way will result in some waste and fraud, it’s just a matter of how huge and when. We’re probably better off planning early and as well as we can.