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Recent Oversight Hearing Reveals Shady Email Practices by Former DOE Loan Advisor Jonathan Silver

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What struck me from last week’s Oversight Committee hearing over “the Administration’s Bet on Abound Solar,” and its cost to the taxpayers, wasn’t the fact that Abound blamed China for its demise, a very misleading “jobs chart” used as Obama campaign propaganda, or the “from shovel ready to Shanghais” visual aide. It was Jonathan Silver, former DOE loan advisor, whom in 2010, became a “person of interest” –– along with at least a dozen other “DOE Insiders” –– in my “green corruption” research, of which I will be exposing in the very near future.

Jonathan Silver, Former Executive Director of the Loans Programs Office at the Department of Energy (DOE) width=

Silver, who resigned in early October 2011, amidst the “Solyndra $535 Million Saga” (FBI raid and all) –– even testifying in September 2011–– was also one of the “stars” of the May 16, 2012 House Oversight Committee hearing. This was part of the BrightSource Energy story that Marita K. Noon and I wrote about a few weeks ago. Yet, we were not the only ones that picked up on the details surrounding the email exchange between the CEO of BrightSource John Woolard and Silver, during the time they were seeking final approval of their $1.6 billion DOE loan.

Woolard, on behalf of John Bryson (then-BrightSource chairman, who later became Obama’s Commerce Secretary) reached out to Silver, asking for “help” with a drafted email, which was intended for White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley. The email included other requests: “the need for a commitment” as well as “guidance and support” from the White House, however, according to testimony from Woolard, it was never submitted.

Well, I had wondered, did Silver ever help edit that email? Oh yes he did –– “modest edits” from his private email account, which was made known during Silver’s testimony last Wednesday. We also discovered that Silver has known John Bryson for many years, and has visited the White House over 70 times. Those visits did include a couple (or a few?) meetings with Energy Secretary Chu and Mr. Daley. However, Silver informed the Committee that the discussions at the White House were “general” in nature, mainly about the “logistics” of the DOE loan program, and not specific to any deal.

But more compromising Silver emails surfaced during the July 18th Oversight hearing, introduced by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in his opening statement, and expanded upon during the course of the hearing. A remarkable hearing that revealed “shady” email practices by Mr. Silver and others “inside” the DOE.

Emails disclosed that just days prior to Silver’s September 30, 2009 interview with an array of DOE officials, for the DOE advisory role that he was about to embark on, including Steve Isakowitz, chief financial officer at the DOE, Matt Rogers, a senior adviser on the Recovery Act, and a few others, Silver invited Isakowitz and Rogers to a party he and his wife were hosting to promote Al Gore’s environmental advocacy group, the Alliance for Climate Protection.

“At the risk of seeming presumptuous, I want to mention that my wife and I are holding a small event for Al Gore at our home this coming Thursday evening, October 1,” Silver wrote to Isakowitz. Silver went on to explain that Gore would be speaking about his Alliance for Climate Protection and a projected called RePower America.

According to email transcripts provided by The Washington Free Beacon, Silver continued, “Repower America advocates and invests in energy efficiency, clean renewable energy sources, a unified smart energy national grid and clean air technology, and I thought you and/or Matt Rogers might find the conversation interesting. You are both welcome to join us.”

Isakowitz replied, “Thanks for the invite but I need more details.” Of which Silver later responded, “It’s a reception (not a fundraiser, although that is the obvious longer-term goal) at our home.” “I expect there will be about 40 people or so, generally folks we know who are interested in this issue and have the capacity to write significant checks and a couple of others with professional involvement in the topic.”

Ultimately, Isakowitz declined to attend the event.

More astonishing, Silver seemingly had a “habit” of using his personal email account to “handle” DOE business, where he would forward emails from his DOE account to his personal email, and then respond from his personal email account. Now, Mr. Silver reasoned that it was out of “convenience,” however; this practice clearly violates the Federal Records Act of 1950.

When questioned by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on how pervasive this practice was; Silver responded with, “Not terribly,” then followed, “I received tens of thousands of emails while I was in the program.” Congressman Gowdy then inquired about the percentage. Silver stated, “I don’t know the answer to that…”

During his testimony, Silver asserted that he had turned over all of his DOE correspondences (government documents), yet it was only after the House Oversight Committee requested them. Still, this leaves us with many critical questions. Why did Silver handle DOE business in this fashion –– convenience or concealment? Is g-mail better than DOE e-mail? Did he forget his DOE password? I don’t know.

But what I do know is that “ultimately” the decisions to issue loan guarantees –– the majority of which were “junk rated,” including Abound Solar –– “fell on the shoulders of the DOE.” Chairman Jordon goes on, “To a large degree this decision [the Abound risky loan] rested with the two individuals testifying here today, the former and current heads of the DOE’s loan program office: Mr. Silver and Mr. David Frantz,” both of which strenuously defended, and even praised the loan guarantee program throughout the hearing.

“These two political appointees at the front lines of the loan program were responsible for safeguarding taxpayers from undue risk, and they failed in that task,” Jordon went on. In the case of Silver, Jordon insisted, “Instead of protecting taxpayers, evidence has emerged that he actively aided companies in pushing through their loan guarantees, despite the risk to taxpayers.”

During House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) opening statement, he too expressed his grave concern over the email practices within the DOE, of which he declared, “Jonathan Silver and others were scheming to ensure that the right people got their loan guarantees, and in fact many of the emails are clearly outside the element of pure merit and public accountability.”

Also, “for nearly two months” the House Oversight Committee has been requesting that Secretary Chu come back to testify and explain developments uncovered by the House investigation, and thus far “Chu has been unwilling” to show.

After Issa acknowledged Mr. Silver and his attorney’s cooperation, he expressed his frustration over the Obama administration’s attempt at blocking their “legitimate discovery.” Issa expanded, “The DOE specifically tried to prevent us from getting these documents, asking Mr. Silver’s attorney (ordering him effectively) to deliver the documents to them so they could limit and redact them –– so they could decide what Congress was entitled to.”

Silver’s background is quite impressive, as Ranking Member Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) will attest to. As noted by Barron’s Magazine (in 2010), Silver had been a managing partner at Core Capital Partners in Washington. “Coincidentally, one of his colleagues there was Tom Wheeler, a 2008 Obama bundler.” Even Peter Schweizer, in Throw Them All Out, recorded Silver’s association to Wheeler, adding that Silver formerly served in the Clinton administration, and that he is a “strict partisan when it comes to his own campaign contributions, the recipients have all been Democrats.” Plus, I guess in between those Al Gore parties, –– Mrs. Silver “served as a financial director for the Democratic Leadership Council.”

Silver has held key positions in business, finance and government, including McKinsey & Company –– another 2008 Obama donor –– and its Global Institute, a firm that seems to have acquired quite a few White House positions under the Obama administration. Even Silver’s former “DOE cohort” Matt Rogers came from McKinsey & Co., and after Rogers left the DOE in September 2010, he returned to McKinsey & Co. at their San Francisco Office.

Which brings me to an interesting observation; where have all the DOE advisors and officials gone? You know, the “DOE Insiders” that I referred to at the beginning of this article, where plenty of “VC Guys” and “Gore Acolytes” held key positions –– a dozen on my radar, where at least ten are connected to billions of green-government subsidies.

Ironically, many have fled since their 2009 appointment, even Steve Isakowitz and Matt Rogers as well as Steve Spinner, Cathy Zoi, Kristina Johnson and others –– a vital piece to the Green Corruption scandal, which will be tackled once I get through the DOE “junk bond” Portfolio.

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About Christine Lakatos

  • Igor

    I think there’s a good expose’ in here someplace but the article sprawls around too much for me to figure it out. But I shouldn’t have to figure it out. I shouldn’t have to work to prove your point.

  • http://greencorruption.blogspot.com/ christine

    Hmm Igor, I didn’t mean to confuse you — sorry. Maybe you can try the second part. Just posted a bit ago here on BC. “Recent Oversight Hearing Continued: Abound Solar Blames China for its Demise”

  • Bob

    Frantz is not a political appointee – he testified he is a civil servant in the SES. And Isakowitz was appointed during the Bush administration.
    Please, please, please do basic fact checking before you write anything. Otherwise you call into question everything else you write.

  • http://greencorruption.blogspot.com/ christine

    Bob, that was a quote from Jordon, however, I didn’t make a big deal out of him anyway. If I had, I would of clarified Jordon’s statement. Like I did with the fact that Republican are connected to Abound Solar –– the other part of the testimony, (here on BC). And it really doesn’t matter which president appointed them –– corruption abounds on both sides. There is a much bigger point I was making, but if you can’t “trust” anything after that, it don’t matter to me!

  • Igor

    Christine: IMO the article is too much of a broadside. Too much shotgun blast, not enough rifleshot. Very distracting.

    I was at the marsh today and witnessed a frustrated Redtail hawk try to pick off a swallow from among the hundreds of Tree Swallows flying around, but he was so distracted by the flock that he couldn’t isolate and pick an individual to attack.

    Small fish do the same thing. It takes an intelligent animal like a whale or porpoise to herd the whole flock into a diminishing school that becomes disorganised and less distracting and more subject to attack.

    Split up the scandals into several one page expose’s so they’re easier to read and digest.

  • Christine

    Thanks for the tip, Igor. The problem is; besides it being a massive scandal, these green folks are all interconnected in so many ways. But will heed your advice!

  • Igor

    Unfortunately, BC has a format that doesn’t do massive scandals very well. We readers are much too superficial.

  • http://greencorruption.blogspot.com/ christine

    It’s all good Igor….love BC!

  • Igor

    BC affords a lot of latitude, but we readers tend to have short attention spans.

  • allan jackson

    Solyndra The Prez is focused like laser
    he only needs 500 Billion $$ Seems like the best action was bleepable Billions loan to Petrobas