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WH Can’t Say Why OMB Felt Pressured on Solyndra

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was unable today to say why OMB staffers, in several emails released to the public, reported that they felt rushed and pressured by West Wing officials to reach a decision on the half billion in loan guarantees to Solyndra.

The solar panel maker went belly up and taxpayers on the hook for the money. The Department of Energy had already approved the loan guarantees, and it was OMB’s job to decide whether this was a safe investment for taxpayers.

Here are a couple of emails, as related in a Washington Post story Thursday.

One e-mail from an OMB official referred to “the time pressure we are under to sign-off on Solyndra.” Another complained, “There isn’t time to negotiate.”

“We have ended up with a situation of having to do rushed approvals on a couple of occasions (and we are worried about Solyndra at the end of the week),” one official wrote. That Aug. 31, 2009, message, written by a senior OMB staffer and sent to Terrell P. McSweeny, Biden’s domestic policy adviser, concluded, “We would prefer to have sufficient time to do our due diligence reviews . . . ”

In one e-mail, an OMB staff member questioned whether the review team was using the best model for determining the financial risk to taxpayers in evaluating the Solyndra deal.

“Given the time pressure we are under to sign-off on Solyndra, we don’t have time to change the model,” the staffer wrote.

Here’s an exchange I had with Carney today during an off camera “gaggle” held at the White House

KOFFLER:  Jay, you’ve said that the White House was merely interested in OMB and the timing of when they would get this thing done.  Can you explain why, in several of the emails, OMB staffers are indicating that they feel that they are being rushed?

CARNEY:  Again, I think that there was an interest in, we need a decision, one way or the other, so that we can decide whether or not — so we can know whether or not we’re going to schedule an event.  That is — there is just no evidence, as — and again, this is all based on stuff that this administration has provided to a committee in Congress that then leaks it to you guys — but this is part of a process where we’re following the rules.

There is no evidence in anything you’ve seen that suggests otherwise.

KOFFLER:    But there is — the OMB staffers themselves —

CARNEY:  We were saying that we need a decision.  If the decision is no, okay.  If the decision is yes, okay.  But we need a decision.

KOFFLER:   So did you indeed rush them then if you’re saying you need a decision?

MR. CARNEY:  No.  No.

KOFFLER:    Can we get — why did they — they said —

CARNEY:  The focus was on, can we schedule this event?

KOFFLER:   Several different ones said they were rushed.

CARNEY:  You can write it the way you want it.  Write it based on the evidence.

KOFFLER:    I’m just quoting —

CARNEY:  And I’m saying that the focus was on — as is clear in the emails — we need to know if we’re going to have this event or not.

At this point he walked out of the briefing room, having said before calling on me that mine would be the last question of the morning.

I’m not being any kind of genius here – I can’t believe no one else pursued this line of questioning with Jay before.

The most benign explanation is that West Wing staffers asked OMB officials so many times for a determination that the pressure became clear. If your boss asks you five times, “How’s that memo you’re supposed to write coming along,” than it’s pretty clear you are being pressured to finish fast.

The most likely scenario, given how clear the OMB officials are about their perceived deadline, is that someone got on the phone and said, “I don’t care about you’re wonky crap, we need this by Friday.”

It’s got to be either of these two possibilities. But I’m not ruling out completely, though, that it wasn’t Apollo, God of the Sun, who emailed OMB.

When $535 million in taxpayer money is at stake, rushing due – diligence directly or indirectly – is a scandal. If top White House officials don’t know, they should be trying to find out who within the West Wing pressured these people.

30 thoughts on “WH Can’t Say Why OMB Felt Pressured on Solyndra”

  1. Assuming the “event” that MrCarney referred to was the photo-op of VPBiden at the Solyndra plant announcing the grand news of a tax-payer funded boost to the company, the rush was to complete the deal.

    Someone, somewhere in the WhiteHouse assumed that the deal was done and scheduled the VP for this event. Assurances were given, the event was scheduled, the company was promoting the loan to suck in other investors, and it was important (with a capital “I”) that this deal be done, now.

    Good for you, MrKoffler, good for us. If only there were more like you in the news media.

  2. Wow Keith, that was in interesting exchange with carney.
    The way he was babbling, I’m surprised you weren’t standing in a puddle of droll and pee by the time he was done. I would have LOVED to see that on video.

    He really is NOT a very good liar. I think this thing has real “legs” and
    this cover-up isn’t going to work! Stocking up on Pop Corn ;-)

  3. “On the subject of Solyndra, it’s best not to let this discussion devolve into such trivialities such as factual evidence from the OMB.”

    – Jay Carney

    A note from my attorney: This is not a real quote

  4. Thank you for asking the tough questions, Keith. Had to read his first response to you three times to get a hint of what he was saying. He really must have worn himself out with the fandango dance he was doing around your questions.

    What really ticks me off even more than rushing the first loan given to Solyndra is the loan restructuring the DOE did with the company in March of this year. They restructured $75 Million, subordinating the taxpayer to Obama cronies on repayment of the loan. So these shysters get all their investment back while we get stuck holding the bag. Reminds me of the Government Motors restructuring that put the union ahead of private investors. Once again, Obama picks the winners and losers. In my opinion, that is criminal. Unfortunately, the truth will never see the light of day with this gangster government.

  5. Solyndra, GE, LightSquared. All this is starting to look like actual laws may have been broken.

    It’s nice to see there’s at least one journalist pressing the tough questions rather than genuflecting to the power of the administration.

  6. Way to go Keith, Get ’em where it hurts, To Tell The Truth is a sore spot for some people and they will usually open mouth then insert foot. Again way to go for the throat. Oops that wasn’t civil. Sorry bout that.

  7. Great reporting. I’m glad there is someone out there with enough intelligence to seek the truth and keep us informed. So much for our main stream media!

    1. Thanks Rick. There are a couple of decent ones but most of the reporters in the room are stiffs. Dan Rather, Sam Donaldson – they had their faults, including liberal bias, but they could be brutal questioners and I respect them and their ilk more than ever.

  8. Your allusion to Apollo is apt, since Apollo had a half-African son named Phaeton who insisted on replacing him for a day as the solo charioteer of the sun. Utterly unprepared for the job, Phaeton’s disastrous careering through the heavens bears an eerie resemblance to Obama’s management of the U.S. economy during his tenure as president.

  9. Carney seems to be saying that the scheduling of a PR event was, to the administration’s mind, a perfectly acceptable reason for them to demand a premature decision.

    That in itself should be a scandal. How about just waiting until the decision is made, and then scheduling the event?

    Having said that, the decision-makers also bear some responsibility. If they were forced to make a decision they weren’t ready to make, they should have just said NO.

  10. Do you ever just want to look him in the face and tell him that the folks at
    the WH himself included should stop taking American’s for fools? You could
    easily point to this blog where several of us make a point backed up with facts of course you would have to explain what facts and the truth are but
    does it not drive you crazy to be subjected to that level of stupidity? Daily!

  11. Kaiser is one of the 100 richest people in the world, yet he uses taxpayer dollars for his hedge fund’s business venture. Obama also partnered with Soros to invest U.S. Dollars in offshore oil drilling in Brazil. This is a pattern with this administration, using taxpayer dollars to ingratiate themselves with billionaires. One can only wonder what else they’ve done.

  12. KOFFLER: So did you indeed rush them then if you’re saying you need a decision?

    MR. CARNEY: No. No.

    Translation: No hurry, but if I don’t hear by close so we can order the cupcakes, you will be inventorying floppy disks in Nebraska.

  13. By the way, when I worked in the aerospace industry there used to be the concept of basic research–how the energy from the sun could be translated into electric power to be used and stored or even sent to the electric company to make money–not “development” as in here is a raft of Benjamins to build a plant, build the machinery to make the whatevers, testing, marketing, distribution, etc. Has that blurred now? I guess–with the finished Volt, etc.

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