Published September 16, 2011
After Stimulus I was passed in 2009 the White House wanted to champion so-called "green jobs." So, they set out to find an energy company to become the "poster-child" for their efforts -- a company that they could offer loan guarantees to as proof of their investment and commitment to "clean" energy.
Enter George Kaiser, a well-known fundraiser for Obama's 2008 campaign. Kaiser's also happened to be the largest shareholder of Solyndra, (a California-based solar energy company). He launched a campaign to persuade the Obama administration through officials in the White House, the Departments of Energy and Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget to receive a $535 million dollar stimulus loan guarantee in 2009 for Solyndra.
I've worked in the White House myself (in the administration of George W. Bush) and I'm sure that the political folks at the Obama White House were thrilled that they had found a company to showcase that was based in a battleground state, was owned by a political contributor and ally and most importantly was a "green energy" firm employing over 1,000 people.
So, in 2009 the White House went to work to help Solydra. There is indisputable evidence that officials from Solydra visited the White House at least 20 times during their loan guarantee process, the CEO met personally with President Obama and officials from the U.S. Energy Department sat in on Solydra board meetings.
In March of 2009, Mr. Kaiser met with Austan Goolsbee, Obama's chief economic adviser, Pete Rouse, counselor to the President and Jason Furman, Deputy Director of the President's Counsel of Economic Advisers.
White House e-mails reveal that officials were so involved that one said this to a Solyndra official in a message: "we're cheering for you."
Can there be any doubt that folks at the White House thought they had hit a home run in their association with Solyndra?
It is also evident that the White House had an interest in Solyndra's government loan guarantee and rushed through their approval to please a contributor, policy allies and environmentalists.
When Solyndra was given its loan this is what Vice President Biden said:
"This announcement today is part of the unprecedented investment this administration is making in renewable energy and exactly what the Recovery Act is all about."
The White House was so smitten with their "great" work in helping Solyndra secure an over $500 million loan guarantee that it wanted President Obama to visit Solyndra's headquarters.
In 2010 President Obama did in fact visit Solyndra's California headquarters and in his remarks said this touting Solyndra:
"the engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra."
To the White House, helping Solyndra was a priority and a "no-brainer." Support for the company was also in lock step with their politics and policy.
What could go wrong, folks at the White House must have been thinking.
Then the roof fell in. In August 2011, Solydra declared bankruptcy and layed off over 1,000 workers.
I can tell you from first hand experience that great thought and deliberation is given to any place a president goes. The president doesn't just "appear" somewhere. There is always a reason for a president's participation in any event -- large or small.
Take my word for it, decisions about whether a president should appear somewhere or to speak on behalf of company are made at the highest levels of the White House senior staff.
How do I know? Because from 2001-2004, I served as Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush for Appointments and Scheduling, Vetting and Research and Correspondence.
My office of Vetting and Research was charged with doing just that -- vetting and researching every person the president came into contact with and every place the president went.
In my office our mission was to prevent the president from going to a place where he should not appear or to meet with someone he should not come into contact with.
Sometimes we turned down an event it was because there was a conflict or controversy that prevented presidential participation but many times it was because even the appearance of a possible conflict made us decide to prevent his participation. Our motto was, "the best events we do may very well be those we choose not to."
The goal in our office was to prevent inappropriate contact, illegal contact or embarrassment to the president or the White House.
Our information was gathered and then reported to senior White House staff and was based on a thorough search of public information and government databases. While the Secret Service was concerned with the president's security - we were concerned with guarding the image, integrity and reputation of the president and the White House.
Either the White House did not research and vet Solyndra prior to the company receiving over a half a billion dollar government loan guarantee and a presidential visit and endorsement as well as a vice presidential endorsement or they did and they were incompetent and/or willfully ignored the warning signs that they should have uncovered that revealed that Solyndra should not be entitled to receive government funds or presidential attention.
Of course there were red flags prior to the company's bankruptcy filing in August. For example, on March 10, 2009, nine days before the White House announced the loan to Solyndra, a White House Budget analyst wrote, "this deal is not ready for prime time."
Prior to that on March 7, 2009, Vice President Biden's chief of staff expressed reservations in a message to staff writing, "If you guys think this is a bad deal, I need to unwind the W [West] W [Wing] quickly."
Instead of sounding the alarm on Solyndra, the White House and agencies associated with the Executive Branch chose to exploit an opportunity they thought they could control. They wanted the message of the president's support of green jobs to be rooted in a company they knew or should have known was financially unstable.
The White House messaging and political operation and decision making trumpet the reality, good governance and stewardship of the U.S. Treasury.
Now that the house of cards has fallen on Solyndra -- like most White House scandals -- here comes the cover-up. The White House is stonewalling on Solyndra, hoping against hope that this at most is just a 3-day or one week story and will pass.
They will not be so lucky.
Because of Solydra's financial collapse and the facts and circumstances involving the White House's involvement in securing the loan guarantee -- not to mention the president and vice president's role in helping Solyndra -- multiple investigations in the White House's ties to the company have already launched. They include but are but not limited to: The FBI; The Inspector General of the Energy Department; The Inspector General of the Treasury; and The House Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee.
The president, White House staff and members of the president's administration need to come clean. The truth will always come out. What did they know and when did they know it? Who was responsible? Who is accountable for the decision, which led to a company defaulting on a half a billion dollar U.S. government backed loan? Instead of "green jobs" the American people got half a billion in red ink. It's time to give the American people some answers.
Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion.