If there is any justice in this world, the name Solyndra will live on through the years as the exemplar of crony capitalism gone wrong in America, even after President Obama is safely away from the White House.
Ever since the solar manufacturing firm went bankrupt, sinking last year with Obama's $527 million investment aboard, it has been generally acknowledged as a policy and public relations disaster. But now that the House Energy and Commerce Committee has released thousands of emails between Obama administration officials and key Solyndra players, the enormity of this disaster is becoming clearer.
In its public pronouncements, the Obama administration insisted that the Solyndra investment had absolutely nothing to do with politics. The recently released emails definitively prove that is false.
One email, from a venture capitalist to Obama mega donor George Kaiser, describes "the politics and pressure" surrounding Solyndra's selection as a loan guarantee recipient to be "nothing short of ridiculous at some level."
Another email shows that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel pushed his boss to visit Solyndra's factory floor. And another shows that both the White House and the vice president's office pressured the Energy Department to speed up Solyndra's loan approval. This was not a decision driven by the merits.
Private-sector players did not view the company as worthy of taxpayer risk. Brad Jones, an adviser with Solyndra investor Redpoint Ventures, emailed White House National Economic Council Chairman Lawrence Summers to tell him that while a government loan would benefit him personally, "I can't imagine it's a good way for the government to use taxpayer money."
Not that Obama cared much about protecting taxpayers' money. When Solyndra's bankruptcy first became likely in March 2011, White House Office of Management analyst Kelly Coylar warned her superiors that if Obama pulled the plug on Solyndra now, taxpayers would only lose $141 million, but if they kept giving Solyndra money, they could lose the entire $527 million investment.
Despite Coylar's warning, Obama's Energy Department chose to throw good money after bad. They restructured the Solyndra loan so that private investors, many of whom were Obama donors, would get their money back first in a bankruptcy -- before taxpayers. Another Treasury Department email shows that Obama's Energy Department was later informed that such a restructuring would be illegal. Obama pressed ahead anyway.
And all this time, Solyndra's private owners were laughing their way to the bank. Solyndra investor Tom Baruch described "getting business from Uncle Sam" as "a principal element of Solyndra's strategy" and Solyndra CEO Chris Gronet referred to the Obama administration as the "Bank of Washington."
When Solyndra's loan was first approved, White House aide Aditya Kumar sent an email to deputy White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer predicting that Solyndra would show that, "When government plays a part, it can bring the private sector along." This is a major part of the Obama economic strategy, and Solyndra shows that government is more apt to build bridges and businesses to nowhere.