Five Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Solyndra
By Dave Johnson
September 16, 2011
Oil-backed conservatives have been absolutely ecstatic
over the collapse of American solar-power company
Solyndra and the rise of China as the dominant country
in green energy, because they think they can turn this
into a story that makes President Obama and government
look bad. It also gives them a bonus opportunity to
attack alternatives to coal and oil.
So is there really a "scandal" behind what happened to
Solyndra? Or is this just one more conservative smear,
made up from whole cloth and spread around conservative
outlets, talk radio and FOX News, hoping the "mainstream
media" will be tricked into propelling the propaganda
out to the public?
The Smear Machine
When Bill Clinton was president, conservatives developed
and refined a "smear machine" technique of making up
accusation after accusation after accusation (after
accusation after accusation), repeating them endlessly
and hysterically in conservative-funded outlets, and
working to get major media outlets to pick up and repeat
them. Unfortunately they were often successful at
driving phony smears into the public arena. Even though
the stories were invariably refuted after investigation,
by the time each smear was refuted many, many more were
circulating. After a while people began to believe
"where there's smoke there's fire."
One such story that major outlets repeated involved the
supposed "sale" of an Arlington cemetery plot for
campaign contributions. When it was proven to be nothing
more than a false smear, the repetition in major outlets
was justified "because it's just the sort of thing he
might have done."
In the 2004 presidential election we saw the process
repeated with the "Swift Boat" smear that turned around
Sen. John Kerry's lead in the polls. It was entirely a
made-up lie, but the mainstream media picked it up and
Since President Obama's election, right-wing media
outlets have again been engaged in creating a constant
stream of negative and destructive "stories" that try to
turn the public against the president, Democrats in
general and government itself.
We have been told that the President is secretly a
Muslim terrorist, was not born in the United States and
therefore is an illegitimate president and is a
"socialist" out to destroy our way of life. They have
claimed he raised taxes when in reality he cut taxes,
that he "tripled the deficit" when in reality he cut the
deficit from the $1.4 trillion hole Bush left us in,
that his stimulus plan "created zero jobs" when in
reality it turned around a rapidly-deteriorating
economy, that he has dramatically increased spending
when in reality he did not-all in an attempt to turn
people against him and against the idea that government
can be a force for good. (See Three Charts To Email To
Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law.) Accusation after
accusation has been shot down.
The Top Five Lies
Now they're at it again, this time trying to turn the
unfortunate bankruptcy of a solar-power company named
Solyndra into an all-out, anti-Obama and anti-government
attack. Here is a countdown of the top five lies they
are telling about what happened with Solyndra:
5. The biggest investor in Solyndra was an Obama donor.
Conservatives (and now picked up by corporate
"mainstream" outlets) make the accusation that there was
corruption in the process by which Solyndra received its
loan because a major Obama donor named George Kaiser is
a major investor in Solyndra. The charge is that
Solyndra only received the loan guarantee as a result of
campaign contributions by people "connected to"
Solyndra. The problem with this is that George Kaiser
was not an investor in Solyndra. According to Tulsa
In an emailed statement to the Tulsa World, a
representative of the George Kaiser Family
Foundation said the organization made the
investment through Argonaut.
"George Kaiser is not an investor in Solyndra and
did not participate in any discussions with the
U.S. government regarding the loan," the statement
said. "GKFF invests in a globally diversified
portfolio across many different asset classes."
The Kaiser Family Foundation is a philanthropic
organization, which means Kaiser (or anyone else) could
not personally profit from a successful investment by
4. Green energy is a bad investment.
Oil-connected conservatives have been trying to kill off
investment in green energy for some time. They see
opportunity in hyping up a "scandal" over the bankruptcy
of Solyndra as a way to attack the idea of developing a
green-energy industry in the US. Just today, Heritage
Foundation, which for months has been attacking the idea
of creating green jobs, has this today: Solyndra Scandal
Ends Green Jobs Myth. (I have several examples of
conservative attacks on green manufacturing in the post,
The Phony Solyndra Solar Scandal.)
Just in the last year China gave $30 billion financing
to 6 solar companies. If the benefits from developing a
green energy industry that provides lots of green jobs
are a myth then why is China putting so much into this
3. The government lost money "picking winners and
This is a core line of attack by the right. By tricking
the public into thinking that the purpose of
government's efforts to trigger a green-energy industry
was to make money for the government by investing in
individual companies, they can make this look bad
because one company went into bankruptcy. But the
purpose of our government's involvement in this is to
help trigger an ecosystem around which a green-energy
industry can grow. When a new technology is promising,
it might be risky to investors, but very beneficial to
us as a country to pursue it. That way we end up with a
chunk of the millions of jobs and trillions of dollars
that result. That benefits everyone.
The government does not operate like a venture
capitalist, investing in companies with the hope of
reaping a profit for itself. Compare the effort to
trigger a green-energy industry to government-funded
cancer research. Some directions of exploration don't
pan out. But you don't know that until you fund the
tests. This is what happened with Solyndra. The loan
guarantee enabled Solyndra to get private investment,
and hire researchers as well as manufacturing and other
employees, to build a state-of-the-art manufacturing
facility in the U.S., to develop a supply chain, to buy
equipment and the other components that would make a
viable business. This was part of the stimulus and all
that money was moved into the economy. And all of those
are still in the United States, ready to be part of
scaling up a green-energy industry. So where the country
is concerned, we didn't lose at all.
The goal was not to make Solyndra a successful company;
the goal was to trigger an ecosystem for the green-
energy industry in the U.S. Weren't the things the money
was used for good for the country? Even though the
company Solyndra didn't make it, the money created jobs
and leaves behind technology, equipment and facilities
that other companies will use.
2. The Solyndra loan was rushed or pushed.
This loan originated under the Bush administration-and
for good reasons. Following the passage of the Energy
Policy Act of 2005, the Bush administration began
efforts to cultivate a U.S.-based green-energy industry.
Solyndra offered a promising technology and applied for
loan guarantees. Following a review by career
professional in the Department of Energy olyndra was
asked to provide more information. A few months later,
under the new Obama administration, the same career
professionals received the requested information and
proceeded to approve the loan.
The Energy department imposed some conditions, and a few
months later those conditions were met, and the timeline
of meeting the conditions meant it happened under the
new administration but was handled by the same career
professionals. It was the right thing to do for the
country to suggest the loan under the Bush
administration, which did nothing wrong. Approving the
loan under the Obama administration also helps the
country because that money went toward helping develop
that ecosystem that creates companies and jobs. Stories
about rushing the approval are meant to make it sound as
if it was done to help a major campaign donor who, as
point #1 above makes clear, was not the investor. It is
the only reason the timing is an issue.
The Number One Lie
And the number 1 lie told by conservatives is:
1. Something bad happened.
The right has been trying to push the idea that
something bad has happened involving Solyndra. They are
calling it a "scandal." But it is entirely a
manufactured scandal, like those from the Clinton era.
This is what they do. Nothing bad happened.
The supposed campaign donor/investor is not an investor.
The timing of the loan is not suspect, it followed the
proper, transparent, accountable procedures. The loan
assisted the development of a promising technology. The
green-energy industry stands to create millions of jobs
and trillions of dollars for the countries that are
smart enough now to make the investments that help them
grab a chunk of it. The loan was good for the country,
even though one company went bankrupt.
But by the time this smear is refuted, five more will
have taken its place.
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