Column: James Carville is right: White House should be panicking

Last week, Republican Bob Turner won a special election in New York City to take the House of Representatives seat that used to belong to Anthony Weiner. It is the first time a Republican has occupied that seat since 1923, according to ABC News. Growing concerns about the economy and apprehension among Democrats about the 2012 election, in addition to this special election, caused former Bill Clinton political strategist James Carville to speak out.

Carville has a lot of clout among Democrats. Carville wants President Barack Obama to fire a bunch of people at the White House, indict “certain people in American finance” and act more like a Democrat. Unfortunately for Obama, the economy and a special election in New York aren’t the only things he should be panicking about. Several potential scandals have been cropping up in top levels of the executive branch. 

Solyndra was a solar panel manufacturer in California. It was founded in 2005 and raised millions of dollars from private investors while applying for a $535 million federal loan during the Bush administration. In January 2009, Bush administration officials held off on approving the loan because Solyndra’s financial standing, in their opinion, needed to be reviewed further as competition from China overtook the American solar industry. But Obama became president that month, and two months later his administration approved the loan to Solyndra. On Aug. 31, 2011, Solyndra filed for bankruptcy and closed down, and most of the $535 million loan will not be repaid by the company.

So, the Department of Energy loan program just made a half-billion dollar mistake, right? Solyndra was selling solar panels at a 50 percent loss due to competition from China bringing prices down. The company had a net loss of $238 million in 2008, according to the Associated Press. Yet the loan was still approved. According to The Los Angeles Times, the Department of Energy loan approval process was overseen by a top Obama fundraiser, Steve Spinner, whose wife worked for a law firm that represented Solyndra. In May 2010, President Obama personally visited Solyndra and its representatives made several visits to the White House. 

An email dated Jan. 31, 2011, shows members of the Obama administration were worried about Solyndra’s financial viability. Some officials wrote in the email they were worried about the political “optics” of a loan default, and that Solyndra may not make it past Sept. 2011. They were right about that.

Here’s where it really gets suspicious: According to the Houston Chronicle, the administration restructured Solyndra’s loan earlier this year so that “private investors - including a fundraiser for President Obama - moved ahead of taxpayers for repayment in case of a default.” 

If that’s not cronyism, I’m not sure what is. Although there is no evidence so far that President Obama knew about Solyndra’s financial troubles or the loan restructuring, he was aware of Solyndra, and his policies moved the loan forward when it was stalled during the Bush administration. This scandal has gained significant media attention and will certainly pose problems for Obama during the 2012 election. It will also likely disrupt further investments and loans to energy companies since the program is under investigation by the United States House of Representatives.

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