Last Thursday Romney held a surprise press conference at Solyndra’s shuttered headquarters. During his prepared statement, Romney said:
“An independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the Administration had steered money to friends and family and campaign contributors.”
Romney then repeated the claim later in the press conference.
Small problem: No inspector general ever “concluded” such a thing, at least not based on any written reports or public statements.
Romney seemed to be referring to Congressional testimony offered up by Gregory Friedman, inspector general of the U.S. Department of Energy, from March 2011. In it, he said: “We currently have 64 open investigations associated with the Recovery Act… Schemes under investigation include the submission of false information in applications for funding, fraudulent claims for rebates, claims for unallowable or unauthorized expenses, the directing of contracts and grants to friends and family, weatherization fraud to 7 include mischarging, and other attempts to fraudulently obtain Recovery Act funds.”
Not only did Friedman never specifically cite Solyndra, but his office never brought charges related to any “directing of contracts and grants to friends and family.” A spokeswoman for the DoE Inspector General’s office declined to say whether any such investigation remained open, except to say that it never made the type of conclusion asserted by Romney.
Seven things you should know about Solyndra
Solyndra represents the ideological divide between the two parties on issues beyond energy. With the issue not showing signs of fading away in the election, here are seven things you should know about Solyndra and the Department of Energy loan program that supported it.
1) It was started by Bush: The DOE loan program that funded Solyndra was actually started by President Bush in 2005. It was intended to provide government support for “innovative technologies.”
But the Bush administration never approved Solyndra’s loan, saying the application needed more work.
2) Congress thought there would be more failures: Two companies have declared bankruptcy under the loan program so far, out of the 33 projects funded. Congress was expecting more.
3) Solyndra wanted more: The company applied for another $468 million in funding shortly after its first DOE loan closed. The government did not award the second request.
4) Taxpayers aren’t the only losers: Private investors lost almost twice what the government did — nearly $1 billion.
While much has been made that the largest private investor was an Obama supporter, the second largest was a fund controlled by the Walton family — of Wal-Mart fame. Walton family members are noted Republican donors.
5) The renewables program is closed: The renewables loan program that funded Solyndra and other wind and solar ventures is now over. There is still $170 million available for renewables under a separate program that also handles nuclear power.
6) No smoking gun with Solyndra wrongdoing: Last week, Mitt Romney said an inspector general “looked at this investment and concluded that the administration had steered money to friends and family.”
That appears to be incorrect, as no evidence of undue influence peddling by the White House has been uncovered in an official, independent report.
7) Solyndra isn’t a typical solar company: Solyndra did not make regular, flat solar panels.
It made a more advanced, cylinder-shaped device designed to capture the sun’s rays on its entire surface — hence the company’s name.
It was the rapidly declining price of traditional, flat solar panels and silicon — mostly from China — that did the company in.