The 10 Most Ridiculous Right-Wing Outrages of 2011
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“No greater example of it than this administration sending millions of dollars into the solar industry, and we lost that money,” Perry began. “I want to say it was over $500 million that went to the country Solynda.”
Nice try, Ricky. Actually, Solyndra was a solar energy company based in California which went bankrupt in August. But it had received a $500 million federal loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, so this provided all sorts of wingnut storylines about green energy advocates, perhaps even validating reports that Al Gore is fat.
The loan was originally pushed by the Bush administration; it represented 1.3 percent of DOE's portfolio.
As Time magazine noted, “This is sure to play out as a scandal, but based on what we know so far, it shouldn’t be.”
Private loans go south all the time. ... The Obama administration has made bets on hundreds of clean-energy companies in dozens of clean-energy sectors; some of those bets in its portfolio are bound to go bad, just as Richard Branson picks an occasional lemon. It’s legitimate to question whether the government should have made this particular bet, or whether it overplayed a weak hand, or whether it should be making bets in the first place. But if we’re going to have a clean energy industry in this country, this kind of thing is going to happen. It doesn’t mean anyone cheated.
But the foundation of the story was based on who had invested in Solyndra. As Dave Johnson explained, “The typical conservative-outlet story follows a template of Glenn-Beckian accusations that someone 'connected to' Obama has 'ties' to something. When you hear the phrasing 'has ties to' you should understand this as code-speak for 'has nothing to do with but can be made to appear to have some sinister involvement if you twist the wording a certain way.'"
In this case, the “connection,” according to the conservative media, was George Kaiser, a big-time Obama donor. The problem is that George Kaiser didn't invest a dime in Solyndra. The nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation did. As Dave Johnson points out, “One of the areas of focus of the foundation is the National Energy Policy Institute, so Solyndra was a natural investment for the Foundation.”
But there was a large donor involved: the conservative Walton family, of the Wal-Mart fortune, invested in the company through their firm, Madrone Capital. Johnson added that, unlike the Kaiser Foundation, “at the time that the Bush administration started pushing the Solyndra loan [the Waltons] were in a position to personally profit from this investment. If any accusation of an expectation of personal enrichment obtained from political connections should be investigated, it is this one.”
If you're waiting for a congressional investigation into that angle, I'd recommend breathing in the interim.
Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America . Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.