Judicial Watch Sues Obama Administration for Records Detailing Bailout Loan to California Solar Manufacturer Heavily in Debt
Another day another taxpayer funded bailout to a politically connected energy company up to its eyeballs in debt. This time, it’s a California solar company called SunPower. And Judicial Watch is once again battling the Obama administration for details as to how the deal went down.
On February 1, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of the Treasury for records regarding the controversial $1.2 billion government loan guarantee from the Obama Department of Energy to SunPower, a California solar company reportedly $820 million in debt. (A similar lawsuit was filed on the same date by Judicial Watch against the U.S. Department of Navy for related documents.)
Here’s what Judicial Watch is after pursuant to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed with the Departments of Interior and Treasury on October 21, 2011:
Any and all records regarding, concerning or related to the issuance of a Department of Energy loan guarantee to SunPower, Inc. and/or NRG Energy, Inc. on or about September 30, 2011.
Any and all records of communication between any official, officer, or employee of the Departments of the Interior and/or Treasury and any official, officer or employee of any other government agency, department of office regarding, concerning or related to any loan guarantees applied for, by, and/or awarded to SunPower, Inc. and/or NRG Energy.
Any and all records of communication between any official, officer, or employee of the Department of the Interior and/or Treasury and any officer, employee or representative of Lang, Hansen, O’Malley & Miller, a government relations firm headquartered in Sacramento, California.
Judicial Watch also asked for records regarding a visit to SunPower’s Richmond, California, production facility on October 14, 2010, by Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar, U.S. Congressman George Miller III (D-CA), and others. (Miller’s involvement in SunPower has been the subject of several investigative pieces in Human Events.) The FOIA request submitted to the Department of the Navy sought access as well to “any and all records regarding, concerning or related to the $100,268,000 firm-fixed-price task order awarded to SunPower, Inc. on September 30, 2011.”
All three agencies have acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch’s FOIA requests but have failed to respond within the statutorily allotted time frame. So, as per usual, we have no records and no explanation as to when they are to be released from the Obama administration.
In light of the lawless Obama administration loan to the now bankrupt energy company Solyndra, the SunPower loan has come under intense scrutiny. Remember, this loan is double the size of Solyndra! And SunPower is not only drowning in $820 million of debt and besieged by shareholder lawsuits, but the company also plans to manufacture its solar panels at a new facility of some 320,000 square feet located in Mexicali, Mexico. (Nothing like using more than $1 billion in American tax dollars to subsidize jobs in Mexico, right?)
There’s a congressional corruption angle, too.
George Miller IV, a “founding partner and principal” of the lobbying firm that helped secure the loan (Lang, Hansen, O’Malley & Miller), is the son of California Democratic Congressman George Miller III. The lobbying firm reportedly charged SunPower $176,000 in fees since 2009.
As reported by Human Events, Congressman Miller has been a champion for SunPower, which has operated a solar panel manufacturing facility in his district, and pushed for the loan guarantees: “In support of the loan request, Rep. George Miller III, the co-chairman of the policy and steering committee for House Democrats, wrote a letter to the Department of Energy and led Secretary of the Interior Kenneth L. Salazar on an Oct. 14, 2010, tour of the company’s facility in Richmond, Calif.”
So we can potentially add influence peddling to the long list of reasons why this loan guarantee was a terrible idea.
In the end, SunPower may make the Solyndra scandal seem like small potatoes. And just like Solyndra, the SunPower loan is tainted by corruption and terrible judgment. In the wake of the public outrage over Solyndra, the Obama administration clearly intends to cover up the details of yet another risky and corrupt government bailout. Judicial Watch expects its lawsuits will break through the Obama administration stone wall.