By Martin Gould
September 30, 2011
GOP claims that the Obama administration’s green energy loan guarantee program is mired in cronyism grew on Friday after a company tied to Nancy Pelosi’s brother-in-law got the lion’s share of the final government hand-outs made before Friday’s end of the fiscal year.
The decision to guarantee $737 million comes hard on the heels of the loss of more than $500 million of government money due to the bankruptcy of solar panel company Solyndra.
The new grant went to Tonopah Solar Energy, a subsidiary of SolarReserve, which started building Crescent Dunes, a massive solar-thermal plant in the Nevada desert in early September.
One of SolarReserve’s major financial backers is the PCG Clean Energy & Technology Fund (East), whose second-in-command is Ronald Pelosi, the brother of the House Minority leader’s husband, Paul. Another investor is Argonaut Private Equity, a company that lost heavily in the Solyndra debacle.
Already one Republican member of the House Energy and Commerce promised Newsmax that he will be keeping a close eye on the loan to SolarReserve. “You had better believe it is going to be looked at,” said Texas Rep. Michael Burgess.
“With Solyndra, they got into trouble because they were rushing because they wanted a photo-op,” said Burgess referring to accusations that that agreement was rushed through so Vice President Joe Biden could announce it when he visited the company’s headquarters.
“Now they have pushed around one-third of the loan guarantee program out of the door in the last four or five days of the fiscal year and that sounds to me like they were going to be rushing.”
Burgess said there has so far been no suggestion that the guarantee was given due to cronyism, but he told Newsmax, “How can they be so tone deaf to do this right now when there is scrutiny on this program? They are putting other solar and wind projects at risk if they continue to behave in this dismissive way.”
Others too questioned the grants. Texas GOP Rep. Joe Barton, former chairman of the Energy Committee called for closer investigation before more money is paid out. “Are these good investments or political favors?” he asked. “The American people just lost a half billion dollars and they deserve answers to these questions before more money is wasted.”
And the conservative Weekly Standard wrote, “It’s increasingly hard to tell the government’s green jobs subsidies apart from the Democrats’ friends and family rewards program.”
Ronald Pelosi, 76, is a member of one of California’s most powerful Democratic families. He is a former president of both the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the San Francisco Planning Commission as well as sitting on many other boards in the Bay City. His nephew Gavin Newsom is currently the Lieutenant Governor of California.
Pelosi joined PCG this past spring and his biography on the company website describes him as having “an extensive background in the securities industry, mutual funds, and private equity.”
Argonaut’s links to both SolarReserve and Solyndra are being closely examined by Republicans. The fund is headed by George Kaiser, a major Democratic donor. Argonaut’s managing director Steve Mitchell sat on the Solyndra board and is a “board participant” at SolarReserve.