The Magazine

The Solyndra Stonewall

Oct 31, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 07 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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An email between OMB officials dated January 31, 2011, notes that an upcoming meeting about the loan program “might present an opportunity to flag to DOE [Department of Energy] at the highest level the stakes involved, for the Secretary to do as he sees fit (and be fully informed and accountable for the decision).”

The email further suggests that the OMB director “privately” point out the risks of restructuring and the potential political implications to Chu:

While the company may avoid default with a restructuring, there is also a good chance it will not. If Solyndra defaults down the road, the optics will arguably be worse than they would be today. .  .  . [Q]uestions will be asked as to why the administration made a bad investment not just once (which could hopefully be explained as part of the challenge of supporting innovative technologies), but twice (which could easily be portrayed as bad judgment, or worse). In addition, the timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up, whereas a default today could be put in the context of (and perhaps even get some credit for) fiscal discipline/good government because the administration would be limiting further taxpayer exposure .  .  . ).

Prescient words. The important question, however, is this: Did Richardson leave Chu off the February 15 memo to protect him? And if so, did someone tell her to do so?

We don’t know. Testifying under oath, however, would allow Richardson to answer those questions and others that might help shed light on the whole sorry mess. That the Obama administration is blocking her​—​and refusing to cooperate fully with congressional investigators​—​makes clear the president and his lieutenants are less interested in sharing the facts of the case than in hiding them. As President Obama put it in January 2009: “The way to make government responsible is to hold it accountable. And the way to make government accountable is make it transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made, how they’re being made, and whether their interests are being well served.” He was right.

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