Political Animal


September 27, 2011 11:25 AM Solyndra’s ‘Republican paternity’

By Steve Benen

Republican efforts to turn Solyndra loans into some kind of political “controversy” aren’t going especially well. Last week, for example, GOP officials struggled to explain why they find the Department of Energy’s loan-guarantees program for clean tech so offensive, unless the money is going to companies in their states and districts.

But Dana Milbank notes an even more significant problem with the GOP’s argument: the “Republican paternity” for the program that extended the loans to Solyndra in the first place.

“Loan guarantees aim to stimulate investment and commercialization of clean energy technologies to reduce our nation’s reliance on foreign sources of energy,” Bush’s energy secretary, Sam Bodman, announced in a press release on Oct. 4, 2007. The release said the Energy Department had received 143 pre-applications for the guarantees and narrowed the list down to 16 finalists — including Solyndra. Bodman said the action put “Americans one step closer to being able to use new and novel sources of energy on a mass scale to reduce emissions and allow for vigorous economic growth and increased energy security.”

Bush’s Energy Department apparently adjusted its regulations to make sure that Solyndra would be eligible for the guarantees. It hadn’t originally contemplated including the photovoltaic-panel manufacturing that Solyndra did but changed the regulation before it was finalized. The only project that benefited was Solyndra’s.

The loan-guarantee program for these alternative energy companies, in turn, was created as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 — sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who has been a leader in the congressional probe of Solyndra’s ties to the Obama administration.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) was a major backer of the loan program, and is now railing against it. Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) supported the program’s creation, and is now trying to gut it. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) was a major supporter of the program, and now believes the very idea behind the program is offensive.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seems desperate to make this story a “scandal,” but he both helped create the loan program and tried to get funding through it for some of his constituents.

If I had to guess, the GOP’s interest in this weak story will continue to wane given the Republicans’ role at the heart of it.

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 27, 2011 11:32 AM:

    You know how you have that game, '6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon,' where you have 6 steps to tie any actor in recent history to him?

    Well, if it's a failure, you don't have anywhere near as many steps - there's usually only '2 Degrees of George W. Bush.'

  • Rich on September 27, 2011 11:35 AM:

    The timing alone of the original lobbying for this placed it in the Bush Administration. Apparently journalists not only can't do complex math or even count, they also don't know who was running the country in what year. This has been a non-story from the start.

  • majun on September 27, 2011 11:54 AM:

    "If I had to guess, the GOPís interest in this weak story will continue to wane given the Republicansí role at the heart of it."

    You would be wrong. The GOP has a gigantic quid in their collective jaw and will chew and chew on it while they leave no stone unturned looking for the quo with a direct line to the Obama WH.

  • T-Rex on September 27, 2011 12:00 PM:

    People who can look right at a valid birth certificate and say "Where's the birth certificate," or argue that there were no terrorist attacks on Bush's watch, will have no problem at all with this. Remember, they're an empire and they create their own reality.

  • Area Man on September 27, 2011 12:20 PM:

    "If I had to guess, the GOPís interest in this weak story will continue to wane given the Republicansí role at the heart of it."

    You misunderestimate their capacity for double-think.

  • jjm on September 27, 2011 12:24 PM:

    After Think Progress posted the timeline placing the origins of the Solyndra loan in the Bush administration, I waited for any mainstream newspaper or television news outfit (including Maddow) to discuss it in the detail it required.


    Just hyping the story to the hilt on the front pages.

    After Think Progress reported on Mary Landrieu's reading Darrell Issa's two letters begging Chu to fund loans to two of his donors, I expected the news to report this.


    Why not? Obviously the media's 'liberal bias.'

  • Peter C on September 27, 2011 12:26 PM:

    I suspect that the chief reason that Solyndra received any administration support was that its aim (increased solar power) was in line with what Obama wanted AND its primary backers were Republicans. It seems to me that the chief flaw was the political tactic of trying to trap Republican between hypocracy and offering support for your proposals. Republicans care not a whit for their own hypocracy and would rather chew off their own leg than offer Obama any support.

    Sadly, I also suspect that the only reason Solyndra existed in the first place was to sop up the token green-energy funds given out by the Bush Administration and provide a dud whose de-funding would smack of political cronyism by Democrats.

    I wish the fate of the nation were not regarded as a playground for political gamesmanship, especially when the Republican's only true objective is to funnel public money to the very rich.

  • Ron Byers on September 27, 2011 12:28 PM:

    It will be a big issue for Fox News Republicans. Nobody else will notice.

    On the face of it this is a non-story. Companies fail every day. That is just part of our economic system. The people behind Solyndra had a bright idea. They sold two administrations on their bright idea. The market changed and everybody lost. Welcome to America.

  • flyonthewall on September 27, 2011 12:47 PM:

  • Sparko on September 27, 2011 1:25 PM:

    When your base doesn't read, and is told what to believe day to day, this is all academic, eh?
    Solyndra is just shorthand for terror-loving-radical-democrat. It's original meaning of "good for Republican districts" is no longer used in polite conversation, dropping out of our MSM lexicon sometime in mid-2011.

  • TCinLA on September 27, 2011 2:03 PM:

    IOKIYAR. Remember that. Always.

    And then remember these guys are dedicated publicly to doing whatever it takes to make Obama a one-term president. They will throw anything and everything against the wall to see if it sticks. Since they have no intellectual ability or moral sensibility and are sociopaths who cannot thus feel sense of shame about anything, of course they're going to do this, and the facts be damned.

  • Neo on September 27, 2011 2:48 PM:

    Dana Milbank brings to the table that Bush had put Solyndra on a press release in March 2008. You'd think that given the glorious kickoff followed by the Solyndra loan guarantees kicking around the Bush Administration for 10 months before being voted down unanimously, that perhaps the new Obama management just might have had given pause to the idea of approving these ill-fated loan guarantees.