And 2011's Porker of the Year is . . . .
Last week, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) announced the polling results for their 2011 Porker of the Year. There was strong competition, but the winner was Steven Chu, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. In justifying awarding its 2011 Porker of the Year to Secretary Chu, CAGW said:
Sec. Chu’s weak oversight of DOE’s loan guarantee program (LGP) resulted in huge losses to taxpayers when solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, the recipient of a $535 million loan guarantee, filed for bankruptcy in September, 2011. Solyndra was granted the $535 million loan through a green energy technology section of the LGP, which received a massive increase in funding on the 2009 stimulus package. The LGP program itself has been the subject of three Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports since its inception, all detailing its management weaknesses, arbitrary selection process, and vulnerabilities to manipulation and politicization.
To make matters worse, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that Solyndra’s former employees qualify for federal aid packages worth $13,000 each under DOL’s Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, which compensates and retrains American workers who can prove that their jobs were lost as a result of foreign competition. The TAA benefits far exceed normal unemployment benefits. The DOL granted TAA to Solyndra’s employees by accepting the company’s claim that it went belly up as a result of unfair competition by Chinese solar panel manufacturers, rather than from mismanagement by company executives.
Unfortunately, Solyndra was not Sec. Chu’s and DOE’s only ill-fated LGP recipient. Beacon Power and Evergreen, Inc., both of Massachusetts, along with Ener1 of Delaware and SpectraWatt of Oregon, have filed for bankruptcy after receiving DOE loan guarantees. In addition, Fisker Automotive, which was awarded a $529 million loan guarantee, announced layoffs at its Delaware plant after the government halted payments due to “delays” in its production schedule. A July, 2010 GAO report concluded that the LGP lacked clear goals and failed to hold all applicants to the same standards. GAO said that the LGP “has treated applicants inconsistently, favoring some and disadvantaging others,” and that “some applicants … receive conditional commitments before incurring expenses that other applicants had to pay. It is unclear how DOE could have sufficient information to negotiate conditional commitments without such reviews.”
“Sec. Chu dismissed numerous warning signs that the LGP was a ticking time bomb,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “The dramatic program expansion in 2009 and the continued funneling of taxpayer dollars toward poor investments reeks of poor management and crony capitalism, since Solyndra’s major investors were among the President’s largest campaign donors. If this is the Obama administration’s idea of how America can ‘invest’ in its economic recovery, taxpayers would much rather keep the money and do it themselves.”
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