Despite the Obama administration’s desperate attempts to blame George W. Bush for the Solyndra loan scandal, House Republicans have initiated a series of high-profile investigations into whether the loan guarantee was a political payback. Company VIPs have already said they will invoke the Fifth Amendment when called to testify before Congress tomorrow.
One of the people Republicans must compel to testify about her role in the scandal is Barack Obama’s closest adviser, Valerie Jarrett.
Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison will take the Fifth when he (briefly) testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Friday. Committee chairman Fred Upton of Michigan has asked, “Who exactly are Solyndra’s executives trying to protect and what are they trying to hide?”
Harrison hopes to hide the role one of his chief shareholders played in currying, or buying, favor with Jarrett and the administration.
In 2009, the same year Solyndra received its $535 million federal loan guarantee, the George Kaiser Family Foundation made a $10,000 donation to the Urban Health Initiative at the University of Chicago Medical Center. The foundation controls 35.7 percent of Solyndra.
Just months before Kaiser’s foundation poured tax-exempt cash into its coffers, Valerie Jarrett served as the medical center’s chairwoman. The initiative was created by none other than future First Larcenist Michelle Obama. In an earlier act of cronyism, Michelle “recommended” the center hire David Axelrod’s firm to provide PR in 2006. Indeed, the project employed a bevy of Obama’s Chicago cronies. In a 2008 story, The Washington Post reported:
One of Barack’s best friends, Eric Whitaker, is executive vice president at the center and is now in charge of the Urban Health Initiative. Hospital board member Kelly R. Welsh is executive vice president at Northern Trust Co., which extended the couple a $1.3 million home mortgage shortly after Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate. Dan Shomon, Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, is a university lobbyist. Jarrett, Whitaker, Welsh and Shomon all declined to be interviewed or did not respond to requests.
Perhaps it did not. Perhaps he merely cooed into Jarrett’s ear that his foundation made a $10,000 donation to the Urban Health Initiative and Kaiser personally bundled more than $50,000 for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. She would have known what to do.
Somehow after these meetings, Solyndra’s loan guarantee was approved, despite a series of red flags that included “a non-investment grade rating” from Fitch Ratings and serious questions from PriceWaterhouseCoopers. This February the government restructured Solyndra’s loan to assure new investors would be repaid before taxpayers in the event of bankruptcy, violating the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Obama and Jarrett had to assure the circular cash flow continued.
As a smart business man, Kaiser would have known the importance of having an inside track to the president. An Obama 2008 campaign official told the New York Times, “If you want [Barack Obama] to do something, there are two people he’s not going to say no to: Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama.” By all accounts, the president and first lady have a relationship with Jarrett that borders on co-dependence. The fact is, being connected to Jarrett means dwelling in the Obamas’ unmerited favor.
Kaiser is not the only one close to Jarrett to benefit from her advocacy. Another recent federal grant went to cover up one of her biggest mistakes.
Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago received one of five inaugural “Choice Neighborhoods Initiative” grants after promising to join with Preservation of Affordable Housing to fix up Grove Parc Plaza. Taxpayers are on the hook $30.5 million to fix up the federal housing tract formerly administered by Habitat, a real estate firm that gave Jarrett a soft landing after she lost stature in the mayor’s office. (Habitat is headed by Daniel Levin, the cousin of Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan.) The company’s upkeep was so poor that The Boston Herald noted in 2008 nearly 100 of the complex’s 504 units had been “rendered uninhabitable by unfixed problems.” Five years ago, federal inspectors rated the object of Jarrett’s stewardship an 11 on a scale of 1-to-100. Nonetheless, Habitat made more than $16 million as a protector of the downtrodden.
Federal officials had recommended Grove Parc’s demolition. But failure is no obstacle to receiving taxpayer dollars for Obama’s favored recipients. Now the funds are flowing in the hopes Obama can save Habitat’s (and thus Jarrett’s) bacon and point to its rehabilitation as one of his administration’s successes.
The Solyndra investigations have begun. In addition to tomorrow’s hearings, Rep. Lamar Smith has called for the appointment of an independent investigator. And Darrell Issa’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee has launched a “broad” probe into Solyndra and the wider question of government loans.
They could save time by holding a single hearing into the cronyism and influence of Valerie Jarrett in the hopes of forcing her removal from the White House. Until her bosom buddies from the Windy City can be turned out of the public housing they are currently defiling, removing Jarrett from a position of influence would be a satisfying proxy victory.