Thursday, February 16, 2012

Great moments in the history of crony capitalism



Sanjay Wagle was a venture capitalist and Barack Obama fundraiser in 2008, rallying support through a group he headed known as Clean Tech for Obama.

Shortly after Obama’s election, he left his California firm to join the Energy Department, just as the administration embarked on a massive program to stimulate the economy with federal investments in clean-technology firms.

Following an enduring Washington tradition, Wagle shifted from the private sector, where his firm hoped to profit from federal investments, to an insider’s seat in the administration’s $80 billion clean-energy investment program.

He was one of several players in venture capital, which was providing financial backing to start-up clean-tech companies, who moved into the Energy Department at a time when the agency was seeking outside expertise in the field. At the same time, their industry had a huge stake in decisions about which companies would receive government loans, grants and support.

During the next three years, the department provided $2.4 billion in public funding to clean-energy companies in which Wagle’s former firm, Vantage Point Venture Partners, had invested, a Washington Post analysis found. Overall, the Post found that $3.9 billion in federal grants and financing flowed to 21 companies backed by firms with connections to five Obama administration staffers and advisers.

Picking winners and losers in any particular industry is not the business that a presidential administration should be in. But it's particularly galling when that administration keeps picking the losers... after they were told by third-party auditors and investigators that they were losers as in the case of Solyndra, the DOE's $535 million black hole.

Not coincidentally, Fred Upton (R-MI), who has been wishing to speak with White House officials knee-deep in the DOE's clean energy loan program, is running out of patience with the White House's recalcitrance.

Staffers who once worked for White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel may have to answer questions about their involvement in a botched solar energy deal.

Congressional Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are putting together subpoenas for five White House aides who allegedly worked to pour more than $500 million in federal loans guarantees into Solyndra, a California solar power company that has since gone defunct. It filed for bankruptcy last year despite the loan support.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to meet on Friday to issue subpoenas for five executive branch employees that they say were involved in the Department of Energy loan given to Solyndra. This will be the third subpoena the committee has considered to obtain information or testimony regarding the Solyndra case.

The staffers being targeted include Kevin Carroll, Kelly Colyar and Fouad Saad of the Office of Management and Budget, Heather Zichal, a White House aide who worked on energy and Aditya Kumar, who worked for Rahm Emanuel in the West Wing and whose name appears in emails on the subject of Solyndra.

It has been one year since the committee started investigating the Solyndra meltdown and to date, the White House has yet to comply with the committee's desire for a sit down.

This must be more of that transparency we've been hearing so much about.



Mutnodjmet said...

Thanks for covering this. This is exactly the sort of thing we should be focused on -- not Whitney Houston's funeral.

Dean said...


I really like the guy but Governor Christie is taking deserved heat for directing the lowering of the Jersey state flag to half mast.