The Corner

George Kaiser, Solyndra, and Philanthropy

What role, if any, did Obama donor George Kaiser play in the Solyndra scandal? According to the White House, “the focus of [Kaiser’s] conversations, generally speaking,” in his many meetings with top administration officials,” was his charitable activities. Critics find that claim unconvincing. (Go here starting at about 2:50.)

Actually, it’s entirely possible that the “focus” of Kaiser’s White House conversations was on his charitable activities. Well before the Solyndra scandal broke out, Kaiser proudly claimed to have used his influence with the administration to bring stimulus money to charitable projects in his home city of Tulsa. On the other hand, the fact that charitable projects may indeed have been the “focus” of Kaiser’s White House discussions, “generally speaking,” in no way precludes the possibility that he may also have discussed Solyndra. Come to think of it, since Kaiser’s quasi-charitable foundation owned much of Solyndra, you might even call Solyndra itself a “charitable project.”

Over at “Philanthropy Daily,” Scott Walter has some thoughts on the peculiar nature of Kaiser’s foundation, and the larger question of whether a political donor using influence to direct massive government funding toward even his own favored charities is a good idea. Is Kaiser’s attempt to corral stimulus money for his own pet projects as praiseworthy as he seems to think? Perhaps more important, do the problems with Solyndra signal a larger flaw in the Obama administration’s public-private partnership/social innovation fund efforts that go beyond even the green jobs issue? Walter thinks the answer is yes.