The Corner

The Solyndra Mess Gets Messier

Yesterday, the Department of Energy announced that it had approved new loan guarantees worth more than $1 billion for two solar energy companies:

DOE announced a $737 million loan guarantee to help finance construction of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, a 110-megawatt solar-power-generating facility in Nye County, Nev. The project is sponsored by Tonopah Solar, a subsidiary of California-based SolarReserve.

The Energy Department said the project will result in 600 construction jobs and 45 permanent jobs…

The Energy Department also announced that it had finalized a separate $337 million loan guarantee to Sempra Energy for a 150-megawatt photovoltaic solar-generation project in Arizona.

The project will result in 300 construction jobs, DOE said.

Let’s see. Simple math, as the president would say, gives us a grand total of $1.074 billion spent to create, according to the DOE, just 45 permanent jobs. That’s about $24 million spent for every permanent job created. As far as the DOE’s “green” loans program is concerned, that’s par for the course. By any reasonable standard, it’s a horribly inefficient way to spend the taxpayers’ money.

With respect to Solyndra, the DOE shelled out $535 million to a company that happened to list a major Democratic fundraiser (George Kaiser) as a primary investor. Could there be a similar connection to any of these other companies? Of course there could.

As American Glob reports, Solar Reserve, the California-based enterprise at the heart of the $737 million loan guarantee mentioned above, is an “investment partner” with the Pacific Corporate Group. The executive director of PCG is Ron Pelosi, brother-in-law of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.). 

But that’s not all. Solar Reserve is also investment partners with Argonaut Private Equity, an arm of the (George) Kaiser Family Foundation that was a major investor in Solyndra and was involved in negotiations with the DOE to restructure the failed company’s loan agreement. That agreement would ultimately give Argonaut and other private investors priority status over the American taxpayer with respect to the first $75 million recovered in the event of Solyndra’s collapse. As Republicans argued at a recent House committee hearing, this arrangement was almost certainly a violation of federal statute.

Argonaut’s managing director, Steven Mitchell, served on Solyndra’s board when the restructuring took place, and reportedly still serves on the company’s board. He is also listed as a “board participant” at Solar Reserve:

Mitchell owes his position at Solyndra and Solar Reserve, apparently, to the fact that his primary employer, Argonaut Private Equity, invested in both companies. Mitchell holds the title of Managing Director for Argonaut Private Equity. After Solyndra declared bankruptcy, two Democratic members of the U.S. House asked that House Subcommittee call Mitchell to testify about Solyndra. Though he has not appeared before Congress, he has “been asked to provide documents to Congress” pertaining to Solyndra.

These connections certainly suggest that the Obama administration was not merely “felony dumb,” in the words of Rep. Brian Bilbray (R., Calif.), in its handling of the DOE loan program, but consciously corrupt. And at the moment, there are far too many questions that remain unanswered

Andrew Stiles — Andrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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