Why on Earth Would the Obama Campaign Call Solyndra ‘Successful and Innovative’? Because It Was.

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Paul Sakuma / AP

An exterior view of Solyndra Inc. in Fremont, Calif. on May 24, 2010.

In this cauldron of stupidity we call a presidential campaign, the scandal of the minute is Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith’s description of Solyndra as “successful and innovative.” She actually said Solyndra was “widely praised as successful and innovative.” She said this not because she wanted to trend on Twitter, but because Solyndra was, in fact, widely praised as successful and innovative. And if you understand this, you can understand the entire Solyndra pseudo-scandal.

As I write in my upcoming book, The New New Deal, Solyndra was once the toast of Silicon Valley, a hot start-up whose product was not only innovative but revolutionary. It was one of the most successful fund-raisers in the history of clean-tech finance, attracting an astonishing $1 billion from elite investors like British mogul Richard Branson, whose Virgin Green Fund selected Solyndra from a pool of 117 solar companies. When the Bush Administration wanted to complete its first clean-energy loan guarantee before leaving office, it chose Solyndra from 143 applicants. The Energy Department’s civil servants objected to the rush job in January 2009, but suggested the loan had merit; when Obama took over, Solyndra’s application was already at the top of the pile.

Solyndra’s slogan, “The New Shape of Solar,” was more than marketing fluff. Most silicon panels look like tinted windows. Solyndra’s looked like horizontal ladders for lizards. Most panels harvest sunlight with silicon wafers. Solyndra’s relied on a metal mixture called CIGS etched onto elongated glass cylinders. They were more expensive than traditional panels, but they were easy to install, which drove down installation costs; they clicked together like Legos, so they didn’t require elaborate mounting devices, or even tools. The company was burning through cash, and its financials evoked the old joke about losing money on every sale but making it up on volume. But its executives believed a more efficient factory and new economies of scale would slice their production costs, at a time when sky-high silicon prices were brutalizing their competitors.

That’s why the Obama Administration (like the Bush Administration before it) was so eager to finance Solyndra’s state-of-the-art factory in Fremont, California. The company felt like a classic American story of innovation, founded by a Silicon Valley scientist with a background in semiconductors, improving technology originally developed by a national lab, aiming to reinvigorate a U.S.-born manufacturing industry that had fled overseas. Its new factory would create 6,000 construction jobs and 1,800 permanent jobs, while producing enough solar panels to replace a medium-sized coal plant every year. Sure enough, Solyndra’s revenues soared from $6 million in 2008 to $140 million in 2010, and were on track to double again in 2011. Some of us thought the company had a good chance to survive.

Of course, it didn’t, which made some of us look stupid.  Silicon prices plummeted, so Solyndra’s business plan imploded, and the company defaulted on its $585 million loan. It spent too much silly money and made too many arrogant mistakes, but it probably would have been doomed no matter what it did in an era of cheap solar. And remember, cheap solar is a good thing.

There has never been the slightest bit of evidence that political influence had anything to do with Solyndra getting its money. Even Darrell Issa, the top Republican investigator in the House, has admitted that. Every lender makes bad loans, and overall, the federal clean-energy loan portfolio is doing fine. But the idea of the feds giving half a billion dollars to a company that goes bankrupt sounds so shocking that people naturally assume there must be a corrupt explanation. So Republicans have seized on the fact that one major Solyndra investor, George Kaiser, was an Obama fundraiser, ignoring the fact that the Republican donors in the Walton family were also major investors, and that the Bush team was just as gung-ho about the loan. Solyndra has become the centerpiece of Mitt Romney’s “crony capitalism” attacks on the Obama White House.

Skepticism is understandable, in the absence of an alternative explanation. But there is an alternative explanation: Solyndra was a potentially transformative company, “widely praised as successful and innovative.” It was a calculated risk that went sour. That’s a shame, but it’s not a scandal.

117 comments
Lee Weisenberg
Lee Weisenberg

Michael,

I believe your point misses the larger mark in my opinion.  And I speak with some knowledge regarding Solyndra having been involved in the closure of the facility.  Solyndra never had a chance to make it...and this simply the truth.  Their technology, while pretty neat, was cost prohibitive compared to other CIGS or ITO solar technologies that exist.  What gave everyone, and I would include you in this, the false hope that they could succeed was that almost 100% of their revenue was subsidy driven in Europe.  Once the subsidies dried up, the revenues did the same.  I think the larger lesson we can learn from Soylndra, and the other clean energy companies that are falling by the wayside on a weekly basis, is that the government is horrible at picking winners and losers.  The market will ultimately decide whom the fittest are...no matter how much cheerleading and money the government provides.  That is of course until they mandate that we have it.

Joe Murtaugh
Joe Murtaugh

I think the money lost was like 2 and half percent of the DOE's investment money. The Fossil Fuel Industry trumped up a war and cost us thousands of lives. Not to mention the Big Gomits financial subsidies to the likes of Exon, the first or second most profitable company in the world...unless you really count.

3xfire3
3xfire3

Michael,

You are like the little boy who is in a barn frantically digging through the Horse Sht.

When asked what he was doing the little boy said "With all this Horse Sht there must be a pony in here somewhere.

Michael there is no pony.

It is amazing the lengths you are willing to go through to try and help your Hero.

Firozali A.Mulla
Firozali A.Mulla

Hillary Clinton travels places to tell all “Please do help Syria,

our troops need cheering. Now will she pay this or not is the huge question.

And we talk of corruption in many small states. I thank you Firozali A.Mulla

DBA

Firozali A.Mulla
Firozali A.Mulla

Hillary Clinton, who has steadily chipped away at

the more than $25 million in debt her campaign amassed

during her run for president, owes only $100,000, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures for the second quarter of 2012.

Running for president is

expensive, and although the subject of campaign

debt has usually

been synonymous with Newt Gingrich in the past several months,

Clinton is among the many former presidential candidates who've departed the trail in debt. She suspended

her campaign in June 2008 owing the $25 million but had paid off enough by the

end of that year to owe $5.9 million. Almost four years later, the campaign

owes $100,000 to one entity, the firm of Penn,

Schoen amp; Berland for

consulting and polling fees. Penn, Schoen amp; Berland is a market

 

research firm headed up by a

trio of long-time advisers to both Bill and Hillary Clinton: Mark Penn, Doug

Schoen and Michael Berland. She travels places to tell all “Please do

help Syria, our troops need cheering. Now will she pay this or not is the huge

question. And we talk of corruption in many small states. I thank you Firozali

A.Mulla DBA

 

 

 

 

 

 

ahandout
ahandout

More business pearls for the uneducated left:

 “When you don’t have the demand, you can’t go into

something with the attitude, ‘Build it and they will come,’”

Misra said. “You have to make sure the customers are already

there when you build it.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/...

I wonder were the whistling robots ended up? 

3xfire3
3xfire3

Michael,

 

What a bunch of JournOlist Bull Sht.

 

This is one of the worse cases of Crony Capitalism of all times. Man are you dishonest.

 

Is that Pro Bono work for the Obama Campaign really satisfying?

 

Cronyism You Can’t Script

 

The National Review

Even for the Obama administration, today’s news dump (1.3 trillion deficit, the demise of the CLASS Act, and war in Uganda) is something to behold. On top of everything, the White House has released its list of major campaign bundlers for the third quarter of the year.

One name in particular warrants a mention.

Steve Spinner, who served as a Obama fundraiser in 2008, was also an adviser for the Department of Energy loans program responsible for the Solyndra debacle. As it turns out, he was also married to a partner at the law firm representing Solyndra during its loan application.

But despite signing an ethics agreement in which he pledged not to involve himself in any negotiations regarding the Solyndra loan, a series of e-mails reveal that Spinner was rather intimately involved in the negotiations and was advocating on behalf of the company.

“Any word from OMB?” Spinner wrote to a DOE staffer in reference to the Solyndra loan, which was awaiting approval from the Office of Management and Budget. “I have the OVP [Office of the Vice President] and WH [White House] breathing down my neck on this.”

Spinner was one of several department officials pushing to get a final decision on Solyndra in August 2009, ahead of a scheduled press event at which Vice President Joe Biden praised the company as “exactly what the Recovery Act [stimulus package] is all about.”

“How hard is this?” he wrote to another department official on Aug. 28, 2009. “What is he waiting for? Will we have it by the end of the day?”

On the Obama administration latest list of campaign fundraisers, Spinner moved up a category, ranking among those who have raised more than 500,000 dollars this quarter. In the second quarter of this year, Spinner raised “only” somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 dollars.

Good to hear that Spinner has not let an FBI investigation, Congressional probe and widespread (though not that widespread) media scrutiny surrounding the company he once lobbied for (and which employed his wife) distract him from his fundraising duties.

3xfire3
3xfire3

Michael,

What a bunch of JournOlist Bull Sht.

This is one of the worse cases of Crony Capitalism of all times. Man are you dishonest.

Is that Pro Bono work for the Obama Campaign really satisfying?

Cronyism You Can’t Script

Even for the Obama administration, today’s news dump ($1.3 trillion deficit, the demise of the CLASS Act, and war in Uganda) is something to behold. On top of everything, the White House has released its list of major campaign bundlers for the third quarter of the year.

One name in particular warrants a mention.

Steve Spinner, who served as a Obama fundraiser in 2008, was also an adviser for the Department of Energy loans program responsible for the Solyndra debacle. As it turns out, he was also married to a partner at the law firm representing Solyndra during its loan application.

But despite signing an ethics agreement in which he pledged not to involve himself in any negotiations regarding the Solyndra loan, a series of e-mails reveal that Spinner was rather intimately involved in the negotiations and was advocating on behalf of the company.

“Any word from OMB?” Spinner wrote to a DOE staffer in reference to the Solyndra loan, which was awaiting approval from the Office of Management and Budget. “I have the OVP [Office of the Vice President] and WH [White House] breathing down my neck on this.”

Spinner was one of several department officials pushing to get a final decision on Solyndra in August 2009, ahead of a scheduled press event at which Vice President Joe Biden praised the company as “exactly what the Recovery Act [stimulus package] is all about.”

“How f***ing hard is this?” he wrote to another department official on Aug. 28, 2009. “What is he waiting for? Will we have it by the end of the day?”

On the Obama administration latest list of campaign fundraisers, Spinner moved up a category, ranking among those who have raised more than $500,000 this quarter. In the second quarter of this year, Spinner raised “only” somewhere between $250,000 and $500,000.

Good to hear that Spinner has not let an FBI investigation, Congressional probe and widespread (though not that widespread) media scrutiny surrounding the company he once lobbied for (and which employed his wife) distract him from his fundraising duties.

http://www.nationalreview.com/...

Eric Binford
Eric Binford

Majority of Democrats here pressing 'Like' buttons before they even get through reading a positive Obama reply. Oh well, someone has to work in this country so I guess the Republicans don't get much time to read these propaganda articles although I see a few of them on their lunch break in here. I don't know why they're interested in a soon to be unemployed President when they know the cat's in the bag.

Brian
Brian

If it is so transformative and promising private investors would be lined up to get a piece of this such that taxpayer money would not be required, no?

If the government had the private sector's skepticism then fine, but I remember when it was announced here on Swampland that the skeptics were likely to be embarrassed when Solyndra rides high again.  I could only roll my eyes because it was obvious that Solyndra's apologists had bamboozled not only the government but the media.  Do you know how often a company rebounds like that?  I'm a financial analyst and I know it happens but it is exceptional and when Solyndra gets so much funding from the government you know that they have styled their spin team to a high level and everything they say should have been treated especially skeptically.

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

I do not know this matter is so much of an issue. Both sides are guilty of making up issues. I think the real issue here is why we know so little about Romney and why he is successfully running on the "I am not the other guy" platform.

We are at the cusp of electing a man into the highest political office in the land because he says he is not Barack Obama. I would hope that the focus of the media would be on everything Romney. Obama is familiar to us but Romney remains the ghost of Bain. The ads he is bombarding us with do not help his narrative. Attacking Obama with no real effort to share a vision of the future might work for the angry anti-Obama base but are less likely to change a Conservative leaning Independent like me. At this point, I am for the other guy. He stopped the bleeding from the Bush years (and I was a feverish Bush supporter :)) and has started us on the slow path to recovery.

The ploy to spread the "we hate Obama" narrative is exhausting. Even though Romney comes across as cocky and entitled, there mist be a better way to market his candidacy.  Hopefully, there will be better stories in the media explaining why Romney refuses to release more tax returns and why many conservatives seem intent on electing a ghost just because he says he is not Barack Obama. *sigh*

http://blackrepublicanandmywor...

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

My goodness.  This sure throws cold water on political posturing.  Not that Republicans will notice.

f_galton
f_galton

Grunwald has also convinced himself that what the Obama administration has been feeding him is chocolate.

georgiamd
georgiamd

Only the liberal mindset would call this a success:

Solyndra to file for bankruptcy, lay off 1,100 workers;

Of course, it didn’t survive, which made some of us (liberals) look stupid.

 Silicon prices plummeted, so Solyndra’s business plan imploded, and

the company defaulted on its 585 million loan. It spent too much silly

money and made too many arrogant mistakes.

This is success?  No wonder our economy is in a tail spin.

 

anonymousdog
anonymousdog

@Lee Weisenberg  The vast majority of government-picked winners were just that, winners.

Crissa
Crissa

Where's your facts?  I don't see 'em.

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

STUPID doesn't begin to cover this story or President FAILURE.

Crissa
Crissa

Look who's uneducated... You're saying they shouldn't have competed for the best engineering talent at the top of the second tech bubble?  You're saying that investing in workers doesn't guarantee a return?

'Cause you're providing cover for politicians who are saying small businesses will hire more people if only they're getting a tiny bit more of a tax break, don't worry about demand, it'll come.

Do you ever worry about contradicting yourself?

ChowT
ChowT

Trillions of deficit, a big gift from Bush, the dumber one.

ahandout
ahandout

 Michael should stick with the narrative "we looked stupid." 

3xfire3
3xfire3

Solyndra Was on Fast Track to Receive Second Federal Loan of 469 Million dollars, E-mails Show

The Obama administration, in a peculiar attempt at damage control, is maintaining that the Solyndra debacle, is no debacle at all. As Mollie reported yesterday, the President told ABC News that he had no regrets over the 535 million dollar loan guarantee to the failed solar panel company. "Hindsight is always 20/20...It went through the regular review process and people felt that it was a good bet," President Obama said.

A Dept. of Energy spokesman followed suit with a variation on the theme.

"This program was established by Congress to support innovative, cutting-edge projects that by their nature carry a degree of risk," said Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman. "These emails show that the Administration was aware of those risks, and that decisions were based on more than two years of rigorous analysis and due diligence by career officials spanning two administrations. As we have consistently said, there was a thoughtful and appropriate debate within the Administration and decisions were made solely on the merits of the project."

But the White House narrative doesn't quite seem to mesh with the latest round of incriminating Solyndra e-mails that show that the Energy Department was poised to approve a second loan of 469 million for the company, even as Solyndra's auditors repeatedly warned that the company was already caught in a death spiral of debt and ever increasing expenses. Emails exchanged between the Energy Dept. and the White House at the very least suggest some very reckless behavior.

Even in May 2010, Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s top advisers — his senior adviser on stimulus , Matt Rogers, and his chief of staff, Rod O’Connor — were telling the White House not to worry about the auditors’ warnings on Solyndra’s finances. They also referenced the need for more federal money for Solyndra.

O’Connor told a top White House adviser to Vice President Biden that the warnings were exaggerated, when a venture capitalist and Obama donor had flagged the company’s finances as a reason the president shouldn’t visit Solyndra as scheduled on May 25. O’Connor also raised the issue of more government support for Solyndra.

“Bottom line is that we believe the company is okay in the medium term, but will need some help of one kind or another down the road,” O’Connor wrote on May 24.

Rogers, who had been a senior consultant at McKinsey before joining the administration and returned to that company last fall, told the White House the same day that such auditors’ warnings were typical for startups. Rogers acknowledged shifts in the market that were not favoring Solyndra, but stressed the short term and raised no concerns about the president visiting the company in a high-profile press conference touting Solyndra’s work.

Whether continued investigations reveal the whole fiasco to be merely the result of reckless and sloppy attitudes, or more consequentially, the result of fraud and corruption, one thing's for certain. As Larry Summers himself said, "[Government] is a crappy venture capitalist."

3xfire3
3xfire3

Continued from prior post

Even for the Obama administration, today’s news dump ($1.3 trillion deficit, the demise of the CLASS Act, and war in Uganda) is something to behold. On top of everything, the White House has released its list of major campaign bundlers for the third quarter of the year.

 

One name in particular warrants a mention.

 

Steve Spinner, who served as a Obama fundraiser in 2008, was also an adviser for the Department of Energy loans program responsible for the Solyndra debacle. As it turns out, he was also married to a partner at the law firm representing Solyndra during its loan application.

 

But despite signing an ethics agreement in which he pledged not to involve himself in any negotiations regarding the Solyndra loan, a series of e-mails reveal that Spinner was rather intimately involved in the negotiations and was advocating on behalf of the company.

 

“Any word from OMB?” Spinner wrote to a DOE staffer in reference to the Solyndra loan, which was awaiting approval from the Office of Management and Budget. “I have the OVP [Office of the Vice President] and WH [White House] breathing down my neck on this.”

 

Spinner was one of several department officials pushing to get a final decision on Solyndra in August 2009, ahead of a scheduled press event at which Vice President Joe Biden praised the company as “exactly what the Recovery Act [stimulus package] is all about.”

 

“How hard is this?” he wrote to another department official on Aug. 28, 2009. “What is he waiting for? Will we have it by the end of the day?”

 

On the Obama administration latest list of campaign fundraisers, Spinner moved up a category, ranking among those who have raised more than $500,000 this quarter. In the second quarter of this year, Spinner raised “only” somewhere between $250,000 and $500,000.

 

Good to hear that Spinner has not let an FBI investigation, Congressional probe and widespread (though not that widespread) media scrutiny surrounding the company he once lobbied for (and which employed his wife) distract him from his fundraising duties.

 

bobell
bobell

Have you somehow failed to notice paulejb and Rusty Liberal Lies, who ought to be paying Time rent for the amount of time they spend here?

ChowT
ChowT

Since you are a financial analyst, I suppose you would noticed that George Busg, dumber wasted all the Clinton years largest ever surpluses.

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

RED is a good way to describe OWE-bama (D) the Chicago MOB FAILURE

Crissa
Crissa

How many of these investments tanked?  What percentage?

Don't know, doya?

3xfire3
3xfire3

Only the Business ignorant Left could dream up this as a success.

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

You need to brush up on capitalism.  Your understanding of it is sorely lacking.

ChowT
ChowT

neither did I.

ChowT
ChowT

He doesnt know.

ChowT
ChowT

Trillions of dollars and counting on wars started by George Bush, dumber was a great economic success.

ChowT
ChowT

Refuse to read up. They just want to shove their views just like Bush, the dumber sent poor spineless Colin powell to the UN promoting WMD's.

ahandout
ahandout

 Yes 3x, this is a "sucessful" business model to the left.  Clueless is what they are.

ChowT
ChowT

Indeed we are sorely lacking on how to sell subprime bonds to muppets.

georgiamd
georgiamd

What I DO understand, formerly jamesm, is that a good deal of taxpayer money was squandered by political blundering.

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

RED is a good way to describe OWE-bama (D) the Chicago MOB FAILURE

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

RED is a good way to describe OWE-bama (D) the Chicago MOB FAILURE

ChowT
ChowT

You have been watching too much porn buddy.

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

Voting for HUSSEIN'S rape rooms. Just like the CHICAGO MOB FAILURE. Way to go.

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

RED is a good way to describe OWE-bama (D) the Chicago MOB FAILURE

3xfire3
3xfire3

ChowT,

"That's clever."

And true.

ChowT
ChowT

Thats clever.

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

RED is a good way to describe OWE-bama (D) the Chicago MOB FAILURE

ChowT
ChowT

We are indeed cluless  on how Mitt Romney made so much money but cant show a decent tax return.

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

27,000,000 UNEMPLOYED / UNDER-EMPLOYED

OWE-BAMA (D) KILLS JOBS

Stephen Daugherty
Stephen Daugherty

Oh, just throw more obviously propagandistic defacements of Obama's name this way.  We just need another before we're convinced.  Oh, the guy worked at a law firm, and as a professor at a major law school.  Real jobs.

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

RED is a good way to describe OWE-bama (D) the Chicago MOB FAILURE

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

RED is a good way to describe OWE-bama (D) the Chicago MOB FAILURE

Crissa
Crissa

So... No citation or reasoning, just yelling. Got it.

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

OWE-BAMA = FAILURE

LEAST-QUALIFIED PRESIDENT IN U.S. HISTORY

Crissa
Crissa

Do you have a citation for that?

Or more yelling?

They have a pretty loose comment policy here, you should praise them.

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

T H A T ' S

OweBama's teacher-union pals (D) prove their worth, again.

OWE-BAMA (D) KILLS JOBS

ChowT
ChowT

Really? Thats your fantasy.

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

Beats being a CHICAGO MOB LIAR CHEAT COMMIE-DUPE

OWE-BAMA = FAILURE

LEAST-QUALIFIED PRESIDENT IN U.S. HISTORY

Crissa
Crissa

So, you get paid wingnut welfare.

That's sure a ... Well, it's some sort of business.  Not an honest one.

ChowT
ChowT

What job do you hold? 

bobell
bobell

Have you ever read "It's a good day" by Jerome Bixby?

bobell
bobell

Is it Tourette's that has you repeating yourself like that?

Crissa
Crissa

Then you understand wrong.  Alas.