If the House Oversight Committee wants to be consistent with its stated reason for investigating Solyndra, the committee should probe Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) clean energy loans as well.
On Tuesday, Issa explained on CSPAN that the purpose of his investigation would be to take a broader look into the very idea of clean energy loan programs. Although Solyndra’s investors include an influential Republican donor, Issa and other Republicans on his committee have singled out one Obama fundraiser who also invested in the company as evidence of crony capitalism. He called the Republican-created clean energy loan system, the one that benefitted Solyndra, an example of the government picking “winners and losers” and an “easy way to end up with corruption in government”:
ISSA: In the case of the president’s people, in the case of Henry Waxman, clearly he had people who saw a link between their campaign contributions, their ideological bent, and these companies.
As Bloomberg’s Jim Snyder reported yesterday, Issa sent letters to the Department of Energy requesting money for companies using a clean energy loan program similar to the one denounced this week as inherently corrupt. On Jan. 14, 2010, Issa sent a letter to Secretary Chu requesting an expedited loan to Aptera Motors, a start-up electric car company. Issa said the company would create jobs and “aid U.S long-term energy goals by shifting away from fossil fuels and using viable renewable energy sources like plug-in electric energy.” He also sent a letter along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to the Obama administration requesting a government loan to a green tech battery company.
Issa’s spokesman says that Aptera deserved the taxpayer-subsidized loan, and that certainly may be the case. However, Issa said his investigation will probe campaign contributions and their relation to the decision to award such loans.
It turns out that a financial backer of Aptera, the company Issa assisted with a loan request, is a major Republican donor and a contributor to Issa.
According to GreenVC, one of the investors backing Aptera is the Beall Family Trust. The Beall Family Trust is controlled by Don Beall, the former CEO of Rockwell. Beall, now a board member of Aptera, happens to be a Republican donor in California. A political action committee he helped found and fund, the New Majority PAC, has contributed at least $15,000 to Issa over the years.
Beall has given to the McCain campaign, the Bush campaigns, and various party and congressional campaign accounts. As Lucas O’Connor notes, Beall’s profile as a major donor makes him a “good friend to have for any California Republican looking to improve their profile, their influence, or their office.” Beall gave one direct donation to Issa, a $250 check. The donation came just two months before Issa sent a letter recommending the government loan to Beall’s company, Aptera.
Aptera isn’t the only company with campaign ties to Issa that the congressman attempted to help. In 2006, executives from the defense contractor Vertigo Inc. contributed at least $6,500 to Issa’s campaign. The next year, Issa made an earmark request specifically for the company. In 2008, the defense appropriations bill awarded the company with a $1,440,000 earmark. Issa was the only member of Congress to add his name to the request.
Crony capitalism should be investigated by Congress, from the revolving door to the undue influence of selfish special interests. For Issa to avoid the appearance of a partisan witch-hunt, the Oversight Committee investigation should consider Issa’s own involvement in clean energy loans.