Solyndra’s ‘Republican paternity’

Republican efforts to turn Solyndra loans into some kind of political “controversy” aren’t going especially well. Last week, for example, GOP officials struggled to explain why they find the Department of Energy’s loan-guarantees program for clean tech so offensive, unless the money is going to companies in their states and districts.

But Dana Milbank notes an even more significant problem with the GOP’s argument: the “Republican paternity” for the program that extended the loans to Solyndra in the first place.

“Loan guarantees aim to stimulate investment and commercialization of clean energy technologies to reduce our nation’s reliance on foreign sources of energy,” Bush’s energy secretary, Sam Bodman, announced in a press release on Oct. 4, 2007. The release said the Energy Department had received 143 pre-applications for the guarantees and narrowed the list down to 16 finalists — including Solyndra. Bodman said the action put “Americans one step closer to being able to use new and novel sources of energy on a mass scale to reduce emissions and allow for vigorous economic growth and increased energy security.”

Bush’s Energy Department apparently adjusted its regulations to make sure that Solyndra would be eligible for the guarantees. It hadn’t originally contemplated including the photovoltaic-panel manufacturing that Solyndra did but changed the regulation before it was finalized. The only project that benefited was Solyndra’s.

The loan-guarantee program for these alternative energy companies, in turn, was created as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 — sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who has been a leader in the congressional probe of Solyndra’s ties to the Obama administration.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) was a major backer of the loan program, and is now railing against it. Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) supported the program’s creation, and is now trying to gut it. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) was a major supporter of the program, and now believes the very idea behind the program is offensive.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seems desperate to make this story a “scandal,” but he both helped create the loan program and tried to get funding through it for some of his constituents.

If I had to guess, the GOP’s interest in this weak story will continue to wane given the Republicans’ role at the heart of it.