A new book by Hoover Institution fellow Peter Schweizer details the startling extent of the cronyism that has pervaded President Obama’s “green jobs” push. According to Schweizer, 4 out of every 5 renewable energy companies backed by the Energy Department was “run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers.”
Those companies’ “political largesse is probably the best investment they ever made in alternative energy,” Schweizer explains. “It brought them returns many times over.”
Such is the inevitable consequence of large government interventions in private markets. Leaving aside the losses associated with transfers of funds from self-sustaining industries to ones that rely on government support, such interventions also encourage unproductive business activities by making “subsidy suckling” far more profitable than run-of-the-mill business expansions or product improvements.
When President-elect Obama came to Washington in late 2008, he was outspoken about the need for an economic stimulus to revive a struggling economy… After he was sworn in as president, he proclaimed that taxpayer money would assuredly not be doled out to political friends…
…But an examination of grants and guaranteed loans offered by just one stimulus program run by the Department of Energy, for alternative-energy projects, is stunning. The so-called 1705 Loan Guarantee Program and the 1603 Grant Program channeled billions of dollars to all sorts of energy companies…
…In the 1705 government-backed-loan program [alone], for example, $16.4 billion of the $20.5 billion in loans granted as of Sept. 15 went to companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers—individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama’s National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party. The grant and guaranteed-loan recipients were early backers of Obama before he ran for president, people who continued to give to his campaigns and exclusively to the Democratic Party in the years leading up to 2008. Their political largesse is probably the best investment they ever made in alternative energy. It brought them returns many times over.
…The Government Accountability Office has been highly critical of the way guaranteed loans and grants were doled out by the Department of Energy, complaining that the process appears “arbitrary” and lacks transparency. In March 2011, for example, the GAO examined the first 18 loans that were approved and found that none were properly documented. It also noted that officials “did not always record the results of analysis” of these applications. A loan program for electric cars, for example, “lacks performance measures.” No notes were kept during the review process, so it is difficult to determine how loan decisions were made. The GAO further declared that the Department of Energy “had treated applicants inconsistently in the application review process, favoring some applicants and disadvantaging others.” The Department of Energy’s inspector general, Gregory Friedman, … has testified that contracts have been steered to “friends and family.”
…These programs might be the greatest—and most expensive—example of crony capitalism in American history. Tens of billions of dollars went to firms controlled or owned by fundraisers, bundlers, and political allies, many of whom—surprise!—are now raising money for Obama again.