After 185,000 pages of documents, ten hearings, and two subpoenas, we still haven’t found any evidence improper behavior
by Richard W. Caperton
Today, the fruitless investigation into the Solyndra loan guarantee turns one year old. Sadly, fruit is the traditional gift on the fourth anniversary. So what do you give on a first-anniversary to someone who already demanded all the paper they could ever need for the rest of their lives?
On February 17, 2011, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu requesting all DOE communication about the decision to issue a loan guarantee to Solyndra. Thus began the most over-hyped, over-covered, and over-examined stories in recent memory — including Tim Tebow.
Since Upton and Stearns sent their letter, the House has received 185,000 pages of documents, held ten hearings, heard from 26 witnesses, and issued two subpoenas. Despite this, they have yet to find any evidence of improper behavior.
The key figure in the House investigation has been Stearns. Not since Ponce de Leon went searching for the Fountain of Youth has a Floridian led a less successful hunt for an illusive prize. To be fair to de Leon, at least he knew what he was looking for and had he found it, his youth would have been restored. Stearns didn’t even know what a loan guarantee was as recently as October, and this investigation is definitely getting old.
It’s not as if the House Republicans are the only people pursuing this story. The mainstream press has devoted countless column inches and hours of coverage to the Solyndra non-story, while virtually ignoring real scandals that are a full order of magnitude bigger in dollar terms.
While House Republicans have wasted day after day in hearings, independent analyses continue to find that the DOE loan guarantee program is actually exceeding expectations. Most recently, Herb Allison — John McCain’s former national finance chair — led a team of accountants and auditors who found that the Program will cost a full $2 billion less than DOE initially expected. This follows analyses by Bloomberg Government, who found “The focus on Solyndra is not proportional to its impact,” and the Congressional Research Service, who found that the great majority of guarantees were extremely low risk.
Instead of wasting more staff time and taxpayer dollars on a fishing expedition for political scandal, it’s time for the House to do things that can actually move clean energy forward and put Americans back to work, like extending the Production Tax Credit, passing a clean energy standard, and creating a Clean Energy Deployment Administration. That would be a gift all Americans would welcome.
Richard W. Caperton is director of clean energy finance at the Center for American Progress.