Bloomberg News

Former Obama Adviser Predicted Solyndra Furor, Sought Chu Ouster

November 25, 2011

Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) -- A former campaign adviser to President Barack Obama urged that Energy Secretary Steven Chu be replaced and warned of Republican attacks over "inside" deals including Solyndra LLC that went to Obama supporters.

In a February e-mail circulated among administration officials, Dan Carol, who was an issues adviser in Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, wrote that Obama’s clean-energy agenda was stalled because of ineffective management.

Carol’s proposal to oust Chu was among e-mails the administration gave yesterday to a House Energy and Commerce panel investigating Solyndra, the solar-panel maker that filed for bankruptcy in September, two years after receiving a $535 million U.S. loan guarantee. The Republican-led panel issued a subpoena Nov. 3 for White House documents on the company.

Carol warned in the Feb. 25, 2011, e-mail of “attacks that are surely coming over Solyndra and other inside DOE deals that have gone to Obama donors and have underperformed.” He didn’t name other examples.

Carol recommended that Chu, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1997, be made the department’s chief scientist.

“Secretary Chu is a wonderful and brilliant man, but he is not perfect for the other critical DOE mission: deploying existing technologies at scale and creating jobs,” Carol wrote. “Someone else should do that and lead a new team.”

Meeting With Bankers

The department needed “someone comfortable meeting with bankers (Chu is not) and who gets deployment from the bottom up,” Carol said.

Peter Rouse, an adviser to Obama, wrote to another White House official, Nancy-Ann Deparle, on March 14, 2011, in response to Carol’s proposal.

“I’m not that interested in Dan’s criticism of Secretary Chu, but what do you think of Dan’s general assessment of the need for greater focus on our energy policy agenda?” Rouse wrote.

Asked about Carol’s reference to deals to other Obama donors, Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, said in an e-mail yesterday that Carol was “predicting a partisan line of attack on the DOE loan guarantee program.”

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, and Representative Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican who leads the investigations panel, have said they needed internal White House documents to judge whether the White House pushed the Solyndra guarantee to benefit a political donor.

‘Holding the Bag’

The e-mails provided yesterday and thousands of pages of communications previously released “do not contain evidence of favoritism to political supporters or any wrongdoing by the White House in connection with the Solyndra loan guarantee,” White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said in a letter to the committee.

The new e-mails "included a limited number of self-selected documents," Upton and Stearns said in a statement yesterday. "We’re hoping this is the beginning of an effort to finally make public these missing pieces of a process that left us all holding the bag for over 500 million dollars."

Solyndra’s investors include a family foundation founded by Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser, a campaign fundraiser for Obama.

Kaiser told the energy committee’s staff in a two-hour interview on Nov. 8 that he didn’t lobby on behalf of the company, according to Democratic Representatives Henry Waxman of California and Diana DeGette of Colorado, both members of the House energy panel.

185,000 Documents

The committee has received more than 185,000 e-mails and other communications among officials at the White House and in federal agencies involved in the guarantee, according to an administration official who briefed reporters yesterday and declined to be identified discussing the e-mails released to Congress.

The e-mails added to evidence that White House officials were interested in promoting the guarantee to the Fremont, California, solar-panel maker, which was the first clean-energy company to receive a loan guarantee.

In an Aug. 19, 2009, e-mail, Aditya Kumar, an aide to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, said Emanuel wanted Obama to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for a plant Solyndra built with the federal aid.

Chu ended up going instead, and Vice President Joe Biden gave a speech via a video feed.

--With assistance from Brian Wingfield in Washington. Editors: Larry Liebert, Joe Winski

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Snyder in Washington at jsnyder24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net


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