Political Animal


September 21, 2011 1:15 PM Darrell Issa’s clean-energy problem

By Steve Benen

Solyndra LLC, a now-bankrupt solar-panel manufacturer, has become the focus of considerable attention from congressional Republicans, who think it proves some kind of larger point. The GOP line keeps running into trouble, and in one new case, the evidence is especially embarrassing for one Republican warrior.

Solyndra developed a solar technology that offered real promise, and received U.S. loan guarantees through the Department of Energy, but the market shifted, prices dropped, and Solyndra was forced to fold. It’s the price of experimentation and innovation — sometimes these investments work out, sometimes they don’t.

The GOP is eager to use this as part of a larger indictment against clean-energy programs in general, but they’ve already stepped all over their own message — the same Republicans complaining about the Department of Energy’s loan-guarantees program for clean tech have also fought for funding from the same program for companies in their own states.

The newest example of this phenomenon may be the worst.

Republican Representative Darrell Issa, who said government subsidies to specific companies can encourage corruption, sought U.S. help in the past for clean- energy projects in his home state of California.

Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote Energy Secretary Steven Chu to support an Energy Department loan for Aptera Motors Inc., a Carlsbad, California, electric-car maker, according to a letter received by the department Jan. 14, 2010.

“Awarding this opportunity to Aptera Motors will greatly assist a leading developer of electric vehicles in my district,” Issa wrote in letters obtained yesterday…. Issa also signed a June 22, 2009, letter to Chu promoting battery maker Quallion LLC, based in Sylmar, California. An Energy Department clean-energy grant might create more than 2,300 jobs nationwide, according to the letter, which was signed by Issa and 16 members of California’s delegation.

Literally just yesterday on C-SPAN, Issa, arguably Congress’ most aggressive attack dog targeting the White House, proclaimed, “There’s been this attitude that somehow the government can weigh-in with loan guarantees and money and pick specific company winners and losers. We see that as a backdoor, easy way to end up with corruption in government.”

So, Issa is against DOE loan guarantees, except when he’s for them, and he believes Obama administration investments can’t create jobs, except when he believes they can create jobs.

As if this weren’t quite enough, Issa’s oversight committee will hold a hearing tomorrow titled, “How Obama’s Green-Energy Agenda is Killing Jobs.”

But wait, there’s more. Greg Sargent gets a hold of the original Issa letter and notices that the conservative Republican Californian “also generally endorses the concept of using Federal money to facilitate the shift away from fossil fuels and gas-powered vehicles, towards renewal energy sources. Issa even endorses the idea that this is a good way to create jobs — a position that puts him at odds with many Republicans.”


Whichever genius thought it’d be wise to make this clown the chairman of the House Oversight Committee clearly didn’t think things through.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • c u n d gulag on September 21, 2011 1:21 PM:

    I'm hoping Issa loses his next election so we can call him Was-sa.

    Of course, he represents the crackeriest district North of the Mason-Dixon line and West of the Rockies.

  • ManOutOfTime on September 21, 2011 1:34 PM:

    Whichever genius thought itíd be wise to make this clown the chairman of the House Oversight Committee clearly didnít think things through.

    Broken record time: sure they did. They want government to suck. It's the Hudsukcerproxyization of Congress.

  • paul on September 21, 2011 1:35 PM:

    "Whichever genius thought itíd be wise to make this clown the chairman of the House Oversight Committee clearly didnít think things through."

    Why not? His accusations make the front pages, the refutations hit the back pages, and his personal corruption is covered hardly at all. Steve is still back in the reality-based world where hypocrisy matters even if it goes unreported by Fox.

  • martin on September 21, 2011 1:41 PM:

    As I recall some House hearings during previous Republican majorities, Issa will just rule anything about his past out of order and then shut off the mics and lights.

    still naives reminds Mr Captcha

  • thebewilderness on September 21, 2011 3:34 PM:

    Certainly he is in a position to speak on the matter of corruption. He is a poster boy for it.

  • Styve on September 21, 2011 3:40 PM:

    From "Issa" to "Wassa"...brilliant!!

    Don't know how that will translate, since he will still be corrupt, sociopathic and avaricious, but his status will be that he "wassa" member of Congress.

  • karen marie on September 21, 2011 4:26 PM:

    Oh, come on, Steve Benen -- like any other Republican hypocrisy, this too will be ignored. Was Issa asked on C-Span about his letter requesting loan guarantees for green energy projects? No. And you're never going to hear that question asked of Issa, any more than you've heard any interviewer anywhere ask a Republican to justify engaging in behavior while clubbing Democrats and/or the White House for the same behavior.

    The "24-hour news cycle" just keeps moving on to the next Republican talking point or a repetition of earlier ones. Journalists and TV pundits eliminate the past and anything that gets in the way of the narrative. Anything that falls outside that narrative is "shrill."

  • kevo on September 21, 2011 4:38 PM:

    Darrell Issa is as dirty as they come, so naturally, even the concept of clean energy lies completely outside his ability to think and walk, let alone at the same time! -Kevo

  • SteveT on September 21, 2011 4:41 PM:

    "There's been this attitude that somehow the government can weigh-in with loan guarantees and money and pick specific company winners and losers."

    Is there any chance that Republicans are going to apply this philosophy to the Pentagon's purchase of weapons systems and buy only systems that are ready-to-use?

    I thought not.

  • John Howley on October 06, 2011 4:07 PM:

    Issa may be a fool, but that should not stop us from taking a hard look at how we fund clean energy in this country. I personally favor government funding of basic research at universities. This type of funding is needed because the private sector is unwilling to invest in basic research, and it provides the additional benefit of training the next generation of research scientists whether or not a commercial product results. As for the commercialization of technologies, if government establishes the right regulatory environment (e.g., putting a price on GHG emissions), private capital will seek out the most promising technologies and fund them.

    John Howley