Solyndra Exec (2009): "The Bank of Washington Continues to Help Us!"

August 2, 2012 at 3:58 pm (Bank of Washington, Bankrupt, CH2M Hill, Green Energy, Green Jobs, Matthew Chiller, President Obama, Solar, Solyndra, Stimulus, Waste)

The Republican National Committee today released an e-mail from Solyndra CEO Chris Gronet from 2009, labeling the Obama administration as “The Bank of Washington” and boasting of several ways in which the company could exploit federal programs and tax breaks in order to keep the soon-to-be-doomed company afloat.

The opening of the e-mail reads:

Hi Steve,

Attached FYI.

The Bank of Washington continues to help us!

The rest of the e-mail (seen below) suggests ways to gather money from federal and state governments, and sounds eerily similar to a presentation given by Washington lobbyist Matthew Chiller.  Chiller was employed by a company named CH2M Hill, and gave their employees a PowerPoint presentation on how to secure state and federal funding.  The presentation provided employees with advice on congressional earmarks, and gave pointers on how to “work the earmark politically.”

What is the significance of the Solyndra/CH2M Hill relationship?  My report last year outlined how CH2M Hill received nearly $10 million in stimulus funding to design Solyndra’s Fremont, California plant – a plant that exceeded $733 million just to build, and featured such amenities as Disney tune-whistling robots and elaborate spa showers for employees.  Here is an excerpt from that report:

Within the $535 million loan to Solyndra were a number of sub-awards to other vendors, 40 payments of which were greater than $25,000 each. The largest sub-award went to CH2M HILL, to the tune of $9.6 million for their construction engineering services. CH2M used the nearly $10 million sub-award to design Solyndra’s solar manufacturing plant in Fremont, California.

John Corsi, the company’s Vice President of Media and Public Relations explains, “CH2M HILL performed some design services and helped with a technical engineering report.”

When asked about the price tag, Corsi stated that, “Our rates were consistent with market rates for similar work.”

He added, “This work was secured through an open, competitive, and transparent procurement process,” a contradiction to the aforementioned Washington Post report which stated that consulting firms had essentially shaped and awarded themselves pieces of the stimulus.

With millions of dollars having been secured, CH2M clearly outdid themselves on the Solyndra project, building a facility the likes that had never been seen before in the heart of Silicon Valley.  The facility covers 300,000 square feet, ran a price tag of $733 million, and was equated by some to the Taj Mahal. Bloomberg News reported on some of the extravagant amenities—amenities which might surprise for a company using taxpayer funds to maintain operations.

“It wasn’t just any factory. When it was completed at an estimated cost of $733 million, including proceeds from a $535 million U.S. loan guarantee, it covered 300,000 square feet, the equivalent of five football fields. It had robots that whistled Disney tunes, spa-like showers with liquid-crystal displays of the water temperature, and glass-walled conference rooms.”

All on your dime.

While the company deflected any specific questions about building design, Corsi did state that, “The client (Solyndra) made all decisions regarding the final design specs.”

He added, “Any vetting of the relative merits of the project are the responsibility of the government.”

Another company that assisted CH2M Hill in the design of the Solyndra facility also declined comment. Erik Sueberkrop, of Studios Architecture, was on the design team for the manufacturing and office facility in Fremont, California. He stated only, “As I am not at liberty to discuss, there is no comment at this time.” The Studios website meanwhile, has scrubbed detailed links to the facility’s architecture, interior, and planning links.

While the building remained a feat of engineering, neither company saw fit to take credit now that the Solyndra scandal has broken. Each declined comment when asked to provide images or blueprints of the facility, and ignored a request to provide expense reports for the use of their stimulus money on the Solyndra project.

It would appear that both Solyndra and CH2M Hill executives did indeed work the earmark politically, and the “Bank of Washington” was more than willing to oblige.

In the wake of several Energy Department scandals it is important to analyze how taxpayer funded projects have developed, and what mistakes were made along the way. It is not a time to rush infrastructure funding in the hopes that temporary jobs will be created in an election year; it is a time to analyze where the funding is going, who is responsible for spending it, and how they will be held accountable for their actions. It is not a time to blindly grant multi-million dollar loans to companies that administration officials know will fail; it is a time to scrutinize the potential use of every dollar so they are not wasted. It is not a time for crony capitalism, but rather a time for competent capitalism.

Perhaps the case of Solyndra will serve to remind our government of a commitment to be responsible and restrained with the American people’s money.

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Media Trying to Convince Themselves That They’ve Found Romney’s Solyndra

June 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm (Economy, Konarka, Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, President Obama, Solar, Solyndra, State Loans, Stimulus)

The Boston Globe is reporting on a Massachusetts solar company that received state loans under Governor Romney, and is now filing for bankruptcy.  The Globe insists that this news means that Romney’s attacks on the President’s failed Solyndra investment have backfired, and are implying that it opens up the Republican presidential contender up to charges of hypocrisy.

An excerpt:

A Lowell-based solar technology company that received $1.5 million in state loans when Mitt Romney was governor has filed for bankruptcy, opening the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to charges of hypocrisy.

Konarka Technologies disclosed Friday that it had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and would fire its 80-member staff and liquidate its assets.

Romney has chided President Obama for investing $535 million in a different solar company that failed, and has insisted governments should not pick winners and losers in the private sector. He held a press conference at the Fremont, Calif., headquarters of that company, Solyndra, last Thursday, saying, “Free enterprise to the president means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends.’

The Washington Post has also chimed in, stating that this incident leaves him “vulnerable to criticism”.

What the media isn’t reporting on is some very obvious differences between the two solar ventures.

  • Despite using the above quote about giving taxpayer money to his friends, the Globe fails to demonstrate any parallel with Romney, citing no evidence of Romney’s associations with Konarka.  Whereas Solyndra has the George Kaiser/Obama direct relationship.
  • The difference between the loans offered the two companies is vast.  The $1.5 million in state loans offered Konarka represents less than 0.3% of the $535 million loan granted to Solyndra.
  • Konarka paid back their loan according to CEO Howard Berke, while taxpayers will not be seeing their Solyndra investment returned anytime soon. 
  • Solyndra’s demise happened just over two years after receiving their hefty helping of government loans, while still under Obama’s term as President of the United States.  Konarka’s bankruptcy is now being filed nearly a decade after they received their state money, and a full five years after Romney last occupied the Governor’s office in Massachusetts.
Then of course, there’s this kicker from the Globe article itself.  Painting the Konarka bankruptcy as a blemish on the record of Mitt Romney, who awarded them the $1.5 million in state loans back in 2003, is misleading, since such funding was not the most recent received by the company.  
Konarka it seems received a $1.6 million army contract in 2005, and a $3.6 million award from the Department of Energy in 2007 under then-President Bush.
Even more interesting is the fact that the company shared in an announced $2.3 billion in tax credits that they received under President Obama for clean-energy manufacturing projects.  The tax credits were part of the $787 billion stimulus bill, and were awarded to 183 total companies.  The average tax credit per company would have been roughly $12.5 million each, though a previous Globe article doesn’t specify the amount received by Konarka.
Only the mainstream media can take something that can be more closely associated with President Obama, and turn it into a blight against Mitt Romney’s record.

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Obama Announces New $240 Billion Alchemy Initiative to Boost Economy

April 1, 2012 at 11:25 am (Alchemy, April Fool's, Department of Energy, Economy, Green Energy, Green Jobs, President Obama, Solar, Steven Chu)

With a fragile U.S. economy hanging in the balance and soaring gas prices looming as a threat to any hopes of a recovery, President Obama has announced plans to implement a $240 billion alchemy initiative program to help stimulate the economy.
The plan will include tax breaks to companies who will abandon primitive plans for off-shore oil drilling, for the pursuit of more modern alchemy experiments and production.  The President hopes that the new plan will be as wildly successful as the Green Jobs initiative he implemented when he first came into office.
“It’s clear why such an effort is so important,” he said.  “Building a robust alchemy sector is how we will create jobs of the future, jobs that will, quite literally, pay for themselves.”
“We boast one critical, renewable resource the rest of the world cannot match,” he continued.  “American ingenuity.”
When asked whether or not that ‘American ingenuity’ would actually keep people from being coaxed into supporting such a plan, Obama responded, “I convinced them to vote for me.  Anything is possible.”
Pressed for further details about the program, the President said, “Let me be clear.  This isn’t rocket science.  We leave that to the professionals at our Muslim Outreach Program, er, NASA.  What we’re basically doing here is turning other metals into gold.  How can that possibly fail?”
He added, “With so much success in the solar energy field, this seems like a logical next step for our Energy Department.”
Steven Chu, when pressed for comment, gave the new alchemy initiative high marks. 
“I’d say, better than an A-.”

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