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Transparency update: Dept. of Energy pressed on use of personal email accounts for Solyndra discussion

By Doug Powers  •  August 15, 2012 02:01 PM

**Written by Doug Powers


Shortly before Solyndra and their whistling robots went microchips-up and took millions of taxpayer dollars with them, Jonathan Silver, who oversaw the Department of Energy’s $38 billion “green loans” program, warned DoE employees against using their “official” email accounts to contact private email accounts regarding department business. The warning wasn’t made in an attempt to uphold any high legal or ethical standards, but rather to safeguard against those private email accounts being subject to subpoena. How very transparent:

“Don’t ever send an email on doe email with a personal email addresses,” Silver wrote Aug. 21, 2011, from his personal account to a program official’s private Gmail account. “That makes them subpoenable.”

This hasn’t escaped the House Oversight Committee:

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, along with Subcommittee Chairmen Jim Jordan and Trey Gowdy, asked Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to clarify apparently false testimony to Congress about efforts to conceal documents from investigators and White House involvement in the Department of Energy Loan Program that used taxpayer funds to support companies including Solyndra. The request comes after the Committee obtained documents from individual non-official e-mail accounts contradicting the testimony.

“Recently-obtained documents show DOE officials frequently used Yahoo! and Gmail to communicate about the loan guarantee program,” Issa, Jordan, and Gowdy wrote to Chu. “This use of non-government e-mail accounts for official business may have violated the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and the Federal Records Act (FRA). The documents also show that testimony given to the Committee by current and former DOE officials, including you, was inaccurate, and may have been intentionally false.”
The letter asks Chu to clarify inaccurate statements, produce relevant documents the Department continues to withhold relating to the loan program and to commit to testify before the Oversight Committee in September.

The following shows that yes, politics were taken into consideration. It also demonstrates the “chump change” mentality that takes over when one is gambling with money that doesn’t belong to them:

In the new e-mails, Silver cited political considerations in pressing for the administration to approve at least one loan applicant.

Silver wrote on June 12, 2011, to David Lane, counsel to White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, arguing that approving a loan to a solar-generation facility called Project Amp would help Obama politically.

Project Amp then planned to buy from Solyndra, which investors hoped would help the struggling solar-panel maker.

“Why are the most senior people in the Administration worrying about a $200 million deal? Don’t we have bigger problems?” Silver wrote. “Obama will look like a hero if we do this to a constituency that is now worried about him.”

In related news, Solyndra is the gift that keeps on costing:

Solyndra LLC, the bankrupt solar- panel maker that received a $535 million U.S. Energy Department loan guarantee, reached a $3.5 million settlement with former workers who claimed they received inadequate layoff notices.

The settlement will resolve allegations that the company failed to give employees 60 days’ notice under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act when it fired most of its 1,100 workforce on Aug. 31, just before seeking bankruptcy court protection last year.

Meanwhile, the DoE is continuing to sink millions more into projects deemed “too risky for private sector investment.” I’m not sure the private sector considers investing in experimental batteries for cars not many people are buying as “too risky” — too stupid, maybe.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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