The Dregs of the Solyndra Scandal

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 9 2012 10:35 AM

The Dregs of the Solyndra Scandal

Carol Leonning and Joe Stephens have a brand new Solyndra story based on "documents provided to The Washington Post by Republican investigators for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee." Those are the people who have been digging and sending subpoenas for a year. They've got to have the goods. Right?

President Obama’s staff arranged for him to be personally briefed last summer on a loan program to help clean-energy companies, two months before the program was thrust into headlines by the collapse of its flagship, the solar company Solyndra, records show.

Hang on: He wasn't briefed on Solyndra, just on clean energy loans? Actually, no.

The documents do not indicate whether the presidential briefing took place as scheduled and, if so, whether Obama offered guidance on the program’s future.

I'm struggling to see the new problem for the administration. If there is an ethical scandal related to Solyndra, it's the possibility that the White House gave the company a loan guarantee, and then turned a back to its problems, because (Leonning again) "its largest investors were funds linked to Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser, an Obama donor." There's a second, more existential scandal at play, because conservatives don't like the idea of the government investing in unproven "green" companies that won't produce results quickly.

I think that second part of the Solyndra scandal is pretty well established, thanks to more than $10 million of Americans for Prosperity ads and untold trillions of pixels in media coverage. And it's been a very long time since any Solyndra document dumps revealed anything pertaining to the first scandal theory. The big Solyndra development of last week was an e-mail from Stephanie Cutter (now deputy campaign manager for Obama-Biden) reacting to the imminent news of Solyndra collapse by saying "ugh." Not "ugh, how do we cover this up." Just "ugh." As in, "boy, I dread having to explain why the company we gave half a billion in loan guarantees to is going under." I kind of sympathize with that. But if it doesn't link the administration to a new ethical problem, we care... because... why? These stories are like the studio chatter included as "bonus tracks" on 20th anniversary editions of albums.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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