Jonathan Silver, Former Executive Director of the Loans Programs Office at the Department of Energy (DOE)
Silver, who resigned in early October 2011, amidst the "Solyndra $535 Million Saga" (FBI raid and all) –– even testifying in September 2011–– was also one of the “stars” of the May 16, 2012 House Oversight Committee hearing. This was part of the BrightSource Energy story that Marita K. Noon and I wrote about a few weeks ago. Yet, we were not the only ones that picked up on the details surrounding the email exchange between the CEO of BrightSource John Woolard and Silver, during the time they were seeking final approval of their $1.6 billion DOE loan.
Woolard, on behalf of John Bryson (then-BrightSource chairman, who later became Obama’s Commerce Secretary) reached out to Silver, asking for “help” with a drafted email, which was intended for White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley. The email included other requests: “the need for a commitment” as well as “guidance and support” from the White House, however, according to testimony from Woolard, it was never submitted.
Well, I had wondered, did Silver ever help edit that email? Oh yes he did –– "modest edits" from his private email account, which was made known during Silver's testimony last Wednesday. We also discovered that Silver has known John Bryson for many years, and has visited the White House over 70 times. Those visits did include a couple (or a few?) meetings with Energy Secretary Chu and Mr. Daley. However, Silver informed the Committee that the discussions at the White House were "general" in nature, mainly about the "logistics" of the DOE loan program, and not specific to any deal.
But more compromising Silver emails surfaced during the July 18th Oversight hearing, introduced by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in his opening statement, and expanded upon during the course of the hearing. A remarkable hearing that revealed “shady” email practices by Mr. Silver and others "inside" the DOE.
Emails disclosed that just days prior to Silver’s September 30, 2009 interview with an array of DOE officials, for the DOE advisory role that he was about to embark on, including Steve Isakowitz, chief financial officer at the DOE, Matt Rogers, a senior adviser on the Recovery Act, and a few others, Silver invited Isakowitz and Rogers to a party he and his wife were hosting to promote Al Gore’s environmental advocacy group, the Alliance for Climate Protection.
“At the risk of seeming presumptuous, I want to mention that my wife and I are holding a small event for Al Gore at our home this coming Thursday evening, October 1,” Silver wrote to Isakowitz. Silver went on to explain that Gore would be speaking about his Alliance for Climate Protection and a projected called RePower America.
According to email transcripts provided by The Washington Free Beacon, Silver continued, “Repower America advocates and invests in energy efficiency, clean renewable energy sources, a unified smart energy national grid and clean air technology, and I thought you and/or Matt Rogers might find the conversation interesting. You are both welcome to join us.”
Isakowitz replied, “Thanks for the invite but I need more details.” Of which Silver later responded, “It’s a reception (not a fundraiser, although that is the obvious longer-term goal) at our home." “I expect there will be about 40 people or so, generally folks we know who are interested in this issue and have the capacity to write significant checks and a couple of others with professional involvement in the topic.”
Ultimately, Isakowitz declined to attend the event.
More astonishing, Silver seemingly had a “habit” of using his personal email account to “handle” DOE business, where he would forward emails from his DOE account to his personal email, and then respond from his personal email account. Now, Mr. Silver reasoned that it was out of “convenience,” however; this practice clearly violates the Federal Records Act of 1950.
During his testimony, Silver asserted that he had turned over all of his DOE correspondences (government documents), yet it was only after the House Oversight Committee requested them. Still, this leaves us with many critical questions. Why did Silver handle DOE business in this fashion –– convenience or concealment? Is g-mail better than DOE e-mail? Did he forget his DOE password? I don’t know.
But what I do know is that "ultimately" the decisions to issue loan guarantees –– the majority of which were “junk rated,” including Abound Solar –– “fell on the shoulders of the DOE.” Chairman Jordon goes on, “To a large degree this decision [the Abound risky loan] rested with the two individuals testifying here today, the former and current heads of the DOE’s loan program office: Mr. Silver and Mr. David Frantz,” both of which strenuously defended, and even praised the loan guarantee program throughout the hearing.
"These two political appointees at the front lines of the loan program were responsible for safeguarding taxpayers from undue risk, and they failed in that task," Jordon went on. In the case of Silver, Jordon insisted, “Instead of protecting taxpayers, evidence has emerged that he actively aided companies in pushing through their loan guarantees, despite the risk to taxpayers.”
During House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa's (R-CA) opening statement, he too expressed his grave concern over the email practices within the DOE, of which he declared, "Jonathan Silver and others were scheming to ensure that the right people got their loan guarantees, and in fact many of the emails are clearly outside the element of pure merit and public accountability.”
Also, "for nearly two months" the House Oversight Committee has been requesting that Secretary Chu come back to testify and explain developments uncovered by the House investigation, and thus far “Chu has been unwilling” to show.
After Issa acknowledged Mr. Silver and his attorney’s cooperation, he expressed his frustration over the Obama administration's attempt at blocking their "legitimate discovery.” Issa expanded, "The DOE specifically tried to prevent us from getting these documents, asking Mr. Silver’s attorney (ordering him effectively) to deliver the documents to them so they could limit and redact them –– so they could decide what Congress was entitled to."
Silver’s background is quite impressive, as Ranking Member Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) will attest to. As noted by Barron's Magazine (in 2010), Silver had been a managing partner at Core Capital Partners in Washington. "Coincidentally, one of his colleagues there was Tom Wheeler, a 2008 Obama bundler." Even Peter Schweizer, in Throw Them All Out, recorded Silver's association to Wheeler, adding that Silver formerly served in the Clinton administration, and that he is a “strict partisan when it comes to his own campaign contributions, the recipients have all been Democrats.” Plus, I guess in between those Al Gore parties, –– Mrs. Silver “served as a financial director for the Democratic Leadership Council.”
Silver has held key positions in business, finance and government, including McKinsey & Company –– another 2008 Obama donor –– and its Global Institute, a firm that seems to have acquired quite a few White House positions under the Obama administration. Even Silver’s former “DOE cohort” Matt Rogers came from McKinsey & Co., and after Rogers left the DOE in September 2010, he returned to McKinsey & Co. at their San Francisco Office.
Which brings me to an interesting observation; where have all the DOE advisors and officials gone? You know, the “DOE Insiders” that I referred to at the beginning of this article, where plenty of “VC Guys” and “Gore Acolytes” held key positions –– a dozen on my radar, where at least ten are connected to billions of green-government subsidies.
Ironically, many have fled since their 2009 appointment, even Steve Isakowitz and Matt Rogers as well as Steve Spinner, Cathy Zoi, Kristina Johnson and others –– a vital piece to the Green Corruption scandal, which will be tackled once I get through the DOE “junk bond” Portfolio.
Side Note: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was a big winner of government clean-energy funds, where Al Gore is a partner with his buddy John Doerr –– both campaigned for Obama in 2008. Billionaire Doerr, not only helped shape what went into the energy section of the 2009 economic stimulus package, but sits on members of President Obama’s Job Council, and served on the President Obama’s 2009 Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB).
Gore's Kleiner Perkins is a firm that I began to unravel in 2010, stressing that over 50 percent of their Greentech Portfolio secured all kinds of loans, grants, and special tax breaks –– placing them in an "elite green society;" yet it’s a firm to eventually revisit, because since 2010, they have tripled their "investments" and there is much more to expose.
Although Jonathan Silver stole my attention in the recent House Oversight hearing that ironically seemed to be lacking in committee members, Abound Solar deserves some notoriety. Abound is now the third major bankruptcy recorded from the $16 billion 1705 Loan Guarantee Program –– and they won't be the last. A DOE portfolio, where "23 of the loans were rated Junk grade due to their poor credit quality, while the other four were rated BBB, which is at the lowest end of the investment grade of categories.”
To get you up to speed on Abound, just over two years ago, during his weekly radio address, President Obama touted Abound Solar as a huge jobs creator project, stating that it would create "2,000 construction jobs and 1,500 permanent jobs" between Abound's two plants in Colorado and Indiana. Then in December of 2010, Abound Solar was awarded a $400 million loan guarantee from the 1705 DOE Loan Guarantee Program, despite the fact that in November 2010, it was rated “B” by Fitch: highly speculative, worse than Solyndra’s rating of BB-. And in July 2011, Abound was awarded $9.2 million loan from the Export-Import Bank, you know, the federally funded bank that makes riskier loans financed with taxpayer money.
Since the end of February of this year, troubling Abound reports circulated; massive layoffs and a compelling case for a pay to play scheme surfaced, causing more energy headaches for the DOE and the White House. When March came, the House Oversight investigation confirmed that cronyism most likely ruled the Abound loan. May rolled around with another green energy Oversight hearing, including the appearance of then CEO Craig Witsoe, explaining Abound troubles, but no mention of a bankruptcy on the horizon. Because two months later (Jun 28, 2012), Abound went down!
This was after Witsoe, in December 2011, made sure to inform American taxpayers that his company was the “anti-Solyndra." Well, the silver lining may be that the taxpayer loss will only be about $70 milllion, but what about that $9.2 million?
During the course of the hearing, Abound blamed China for their demise. As reported by The Washington Times, Witsoe told the committee, “With over $30 billion in reported government subsidies, Chinese panel makers were able to sell below cost and put Abound out of business before we were big enough to pose a real competitive threat to China’s rapidly growing market share.”
However, Witsoe forgot to mention, “While cheap imports from China have crippled much of the U.S. solar panel market, Abound’s problems appear to have been rooted in the quality of its own products, the competitiveness of its business model and its inability to retain top talent,” as documented this month in The Daily Caller by Todd Shepherd, an investigative reporter for Colorado Watchdog.
Congressman Jordon asserted (as he has done at previous green energy hearings), "The close political and financial ties many of these companies had to the Obama administration are remarkable," and Issa labeled it as a "scandal, that will go on..."
Yet, the House Oversight Democrats perceive a different scenario; Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), called the Republican questioning "an alleged conspiracy in search of the facts." Meanwhile Congressman Kucinich "sees no scandal at all," and was more concerned about China's "solar panel selling plot" than the DOE's shady email practices.
In full disclosure, according to Bloomberg (confirmed during this hearing), Abound Solar "is also backed by Invus Public Equities Advisors LLC, which was co-founded by Raymond Debbane, who has donated to Republican candidates including Representative Darrell Issa." Also, "Abound, formerly known as AVA Solar won part of a $60 million grant" under the Bush administration.
Well, I wasn't born yesterday. The Republican Party is not immune to crony capitalism. In the summer of 2010, I covered a high profile venture capitalist who got his foot in the green door under the Bush administration, a firm I will revisit due to their close relationship to the Obama administration. However, there is a much larger cronyism, corruption scandal going on here, as presented in my April 2012 release, Department of Energy junk loans and cronyism; and plenty more to expose in the coming weeks.
Through months of analysis of just one DOE program (the 1705 Loan Guarantee, created by the Obama administration via the 2009 stimulus package), I found that over 90 percent have meaningful ties to President Obama (at least 16), and other high ranking Democrats, or both. Senator Harry Reid alone is connected to four. This study included the March 2012 House Oversight investigation coupled with years of my personal research.
Still, the Abound loan didn’t come without its share of Democrat political ties, as illustrated within the pages of the House investigation, released March 20, 2012:
Abound Solar has ties to Democratic politicians at the federal level and the state level in Colorado. Bohemian Companies, LLC, founded by Pat Stryker, became an early investor in Abound Solar (at the time AVA Solar) in October 2008. In addition to the initial funding, the CEO of Bohemian Companies, Joseph Zimlich, has served as both a director and a board member of Abound Solar. Pat Stryker is a major Democratic donor who Forbes included on its 2011 list of top liberal spenders. In 2008, Stryker donated $50,000 and bundled $87,500 for President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, and has given $35,800 to the 2012 Obama Victory Fund. Abound Solar also developed ties to Congressional Democrats. The company hired then Democratic Congressman Paul Kanjorski’s nephew Russell as its vice president for marketing. Abound Solar supported the 2009 cap and trade bill in the House of Representatives and funded an advertisement thanking then-Colorado Democratic Congresswoman Betsy Markey for her vote in favor of the bill. At the state level, then Democratic Colorado Governor Bill Ritter strongly supported Abound Solar and its application for a DOE loan guarantee. When Energy Secretary Chu visited Colorado, Governor Ritter handed Secretary Chu a letter urging him to approve Abound Solar’s loan guarantee because it would allow the company to expand and hire new workers.
No jobs here; not even a CEO.No Smoking Gun Found at Abound; What About those "Burnt" Emails?
While this piece of the clean energy dirt received little media attention, a few reports have claimed, “no smoking gun found at the Abound hearing,” which leaves me pondering if maybe they skipped the hearing and went to a “Silver Gore Party.”
What about those "burnt" emails found at the Abound scene?
Issa went on, “I think the most important thing that we saw was the discovery of Jonathan Silver and his various other Department of Energy employees deliberately producing an outside web of private emails in which they exchanged documents, strategized on how to get these loans approved, and so on…”
What do you think they are doing?
Issa’s answer, “I say it was pretty transparent, they’re being opaque…by circumventing these systems, they’re taking things out of what is statutorily required to be there…”
As we wait for additional green energy House Oversight hearings, anticipating more Silver Emails to surface out of the abyss, stay tuned. Marita over at Townhall.com, and I will be completing the final installment of the Special Seven series, and I will be preparing to expose the Dozen DOE Insiders.
Next though, is the other DOE loan that went bankrupt, besides Solyndra –– The Beacon Bust, another DOE risky loan worth $43 million of taxpayer money. And you'll never guess which Obama bundler is connected to that one.
This is Part Three of DOE “Junk” Loans and Cronyism, exposing the over 90% that have “meaningful” ties to President Obama and other high-ranking Democrats –– or both! Plus, layoffs, pay to play, cronyism and a lack of disclosure make Abound Solar another good example of the green corruption problem.
First published at Blogcritics Magazine in two parts:
DOE Loan Advisor Jonathon Silver –– Published: Jul 25, 2012 at 9:38 am