Expect to hear more charges of "crony capitalism" within the Obama administration's energy department -- as Republicans look to win back the White House this year.
With signs of a recovering economy, improved employment, and a profitable GM, the anti-Obama camp can't make too much political hay on the economy. National security might not be the optimal wedge issue, considering a dead Osama Bin Laden, a drone-happy Obama military, and a relatively firm stance with China.
That leaves guns, gays, and God. As well as the real or imagined Obama "clean energy cesspool," as Newsmax put it.
Republicans and Fox News have attempted to bludgeon the White House with the bankruptcies of Solyndra and Beacon Power. Here's Rep Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) talking to Greta Van Susteren on Fox News about Solyndra. Fox News has also gone after SunPower, with little basis and less traction.
But as Bloomberg Businessweek's Joshua Green put it, "There's been no evidence found of wrongdoing in the Solyndra case despite the 187,000 pages of administration documents, 72,000 pages of documents from Solyndra investors, nine committee staff briefings, five committee hearings, and a sworn committee interview with the Obama bundler who raised money from people involved in the company."
As we've reported, an independent review has provided a mixed verdict on the DOE loan program.
The latest attack, this time from The Washington Post (see below), shows venture investors and former venture investors, now with paid or volunteer roles in the Obama DOE, with what could look like a suspicious number of DOE grants and loans going to the VC firms' portfolio companies. The VCs include David Prend, a partner at Rockport and investor in Solyndra and Ener1, as well as Steve Westly of the Westly Group. Westly is a member of the secretary's advisory board and an investor in Tesla. Westly's press contact noted that all of the loans were awarded before Westly joined the Secretary's Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) and that "the SEAB has no oversight or authority over the loan program."
The Post claims that "The U.S. Department of Energy provided $2.4 billion to clean-energy companies with ties to the former firm of Sanjay Wagle, a venture capitalist who was a Barack Obama fundraiser during the president’s 2008 campaign. DOE provided the money over a three-year period to clean-energy companies in which Wagle’s former firm, VantagePoint Venture Partners, had invested, according to The Washington Post, which reported that Wagle left his California firm to join DOE shortly after Obama’s election. Most of the money the Post seems to talking about would be in loan guarantees to Tesla and BrightSource Energy.
Wagle was Associate Director of Commercialization of the ARPA-E program at the DOE. He is no longer with the DOE.
The Washington Post should note that ARPA-E is a very different animal than the DOE loan guarantee office from which VantagePoint portfolio firms like BrightSource Energy and Tesla received loans -- loans that they will have to pay back.
Also note that VantagePoint tends to invest in energy startups that might actually warrant ARPA-E grants based on the merits of the companies.
According to VantagePoint, "Sanjay Wagle left VantagePoint as an Associate [he actually held the title of Principal, according to Wagle] in April of 2009 to pursue other opportunities. Since that time, he has had no financial relationship with our funds or our company." Wagle gave up any interests in VantagePoint and the companies it invested in before joining DOE.
Wagle left the venture firm three years ago. And from my observations of VC firms, the influence of an Associate or Principal at VantagePoint is somewhere north of the guy who caters lunch and somewhere south of Alan Salzman's executive assistants.
The effort against Wagle stinks of desperation and shows the lack of real issues and ideas on the Republican side in this year's presidential election. Without Wagle, it's back to guns, gays, and God.