Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Rahm ‘Super Hot for This’—the Mayor’s Role in Solyndra

A House report released Thursday reveals Rahm Emanuel’s role in the Obama administration’s support of Solyndra, the solar panel maker that received a $535 million loan guarantee before going bankrupt last September…

House Republicans are hot on the trail of Solyndra, the solar panel maker that went bust in September 2011, putting 1,100 people out of work after ingesting $535 million in the form of an Energy Department federal loan guarantee—ultimately leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. A report released Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee charges that “the Solyndra … event [at which President Obama appeared in person on May 26, 2010, to tout the company as the future of green energy] was the idea of… Rahm Emanuel,” then the White House chief of staff. The report also depicts Rahm as a key player in the effort to get Obama to the new Solyndra factory in Fremont, California, which was made possible by the loan.

Approved in May 2010 despite warnings of potential pitfalls from government officials and analysts, the loan enabled Solyndra to build the now-shuttered factory. “The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra,” Obama had declared. Vice President Joe Biden had said via satellite at the factory groundbreaking that the Solyndra loan guarantee was “…exactly what the Recovery Act is all about.”

Since its bankruptcy, Solyndra has morphed from a green achievement to a Republican/Romney/American Crossroads attack line encapsulating the failures of the president on the economy generally, and on his Recovery Act specifically. Solyndra has also become Exhibit A in the crony capitalism case against Obama. (One of Solyndra’s biggest investors was a major contributor to the president.)

Since leaving D.C. to come home to Chicago and become its mayor, Emanuel has wanted to distance himself from Solyndra. When asked about his involvement last September, he responded that he didn’t “remember that or know about it.” That line will bite the dust in the heavily documented House report full of emails from people on the White House staff who seem especially eager to please (read: to not cross) the famously hard-charging Rahm.

Here are a few examples of Rahm’s role from the report, which is available in its entirety here.

+ From a White House staffer to an Obama scheduler: “Ron [Klain, VP Joe Biden’s former chief of staff] said this morning that the POTUS definitely wants to do this (or Rahm definitely wants the POTUS to do this?).”

+ From the Director for Special Projects in the office of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: “POTUS involvement was Rahm’s idea.”

+ From Ron Klain: “Rahm was super hot for this” because “[j]obs and high tech and Recovery Act is a winning combination.”

+ From Heather Zichal, a top deputy to White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy Director Carol Browner (Zichal reportedly had concerns about the Solyndra event): “‘folks in the financing community’ had also raised concerns about the Solyndra loan guarantee, ‘[but] if Rahm wants it, we’ll make it happen.’”

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