The Washington Post this morning reports that then-Office of Management & Budget (OMB) Director (and now White House Chief of Staff) Jack Lew had the opportunity to heed the warnings of his own career staff at OMB and shut down failing Solyndra to save taxpayers millions. He ignored those warnings. The Post reports (emphasis added):
“As the Obama administration moved last year to bail out Solyndra, the embattled flagship of the president’s initiative to promote alternative energy, a White House budget analyst calculated that millions of taxpayer dollars might be saved by cutting the government’s losses, shuttering the company immediately and selling its assets, according to a congressional investigation.”
“Even so, senior officials in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget did not discourage the Energy Department from proceeding with its plan to restructure a federal loan to Solyndra — a move that put private investors ahead of taxpayers for repayment if the company closed, the investigation by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee found.”
“The restructuring went forward, but within months Solyndra failed anyway, leaving federal taxpayers on the hook for much of the half-billion-dollar federal loan. Now, a year after the company’s collapse, debate continues over whether the refinancing plan was legal or a wise investment. Last week, Solyndra’s final liquidation plan estimated that the government will recover just $24 million of the $527 million that taxpayers lent to the company.” …
“The House energy committee is expected to release the results of its 18-month investigation into Solyndra this week. Its report, parts of which were obtained by The Washington Post, suggests that then-OMB Director Jack Lew let the refinancing move forward without intervening, even though some OMB analysts thought a refinancing plan that favored private investors might violate the law. Lew is now White House chief of staff.”
“Solyndra abruptly shut its doors in August 2011 and defaulted on its loan. A short time later, the FBI raided its offices in Silicon Valley as part of a criminal investigation into whether the company misled the government about its finances.”
The White House, and Jack Lew, received warning after warning about Solyndra, but went ahead and jeopardized taxpayer dollars on a risky scheme, ultimately losing hundreds of millions of dollars. This week the House Energy & Commerce Committee approved legislation – titled the No More Solyndras Act – to address the shortcomings that led to the Solyndra disaster, and prevent taxpayers from covering more of the administration’s risky bets. The measure increases transparency and accountability, puts taxpayers first, and ends the Energy Department’s failed loan guarantee program. Jack Lew had the chance to stand up for taxpayers but failed to do so, and now, he is running the entire White House. The No More Solyndras Act is part of Republicans’ ongoing efforts to hold the Obama Administration accountable for wasting millions in taxpayer dollars.