An email from February 2011 shows that the now-bankrupt solar energy company Solyndra denied receiving money from the federal government. Solyndra spokesperson David Miler reacted viscerally to an early Daily Caller report about a growing congressional investigation into $535 million in federal loan guarantees, which have recently become the subject of scandal and intense scrutiny.
“Your story today on Solyndra has several inaccuracies I wanted to point out,” Miller wrote to TheDC on February 22, 2011. “For sake of accuracy … [T]he federal government has not spent a dime on Solyndra.”
He went on to write that the congressional investigators were incorrect, and that the federal government would only have to pay anything “in the unlikely event Solyndra can’t pay back its loans.”
Miller has come under scrutiny in recent days for another email offering White House special assistant Johanna Maska “corporate employment,” and for his efforts to manipulate media coverage through contact with the White House. (RELATED: White House political pressure alleged in Solyndra loan deal)
In a conversation with The Daily Caller, Republican Georgia Rep. Tom Price, who chairs the House Republican Policy Committee, denounced the failing green energy company’s apparent effort to work with the White House to manipulate news coverage.
Solyndra’s efforts to manipulate coverage are “worse than Nixonian,” said Rep. Price, and the latest example of “classical Chicago politics” coming out of the Obama administration.
Recent events have vindicated the concerns raised by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns in their initial Feb. 17, 2011 letter about the company’s viability and long-term solvency. In that letter, which spurred TheDC’s initial report, the congressmen asked Secretary of Energy Steven Chu for information about the loan guarantee.
“In March 2010,” Upton and Stearns wrote, “Solyndra’s own auditor declared in an amendment to the company’s SEC registration that ‘the Company has suffered recurring losses from operations, negative cash flows since inception and has a net stockholders’ deficit that, among other factors, raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern,’ … [S]ubsequent concerns raise questions about whether Solyndra was the right candidate for a loan guarantee in excess of half a billion dollars.”
Miller, the Solyndra spokesman, objected particularly to comments Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) spokeswoman Leslie Page made to The Daily Caller, calling the loan guarantee “pork-barrel spending.”
“Correction: Again, not a dime has been spent on Solyndra,” Miller responded in his email to TheDC, “it is a loan guarantee.”
Rep. Stearns, however, recently disputed Miller’s claims.
“There is no doubt, they received the money,” Stearns said.
CAGW President Thomas Schatz said Solyndra’s bankruptcy filing has vindicated his group’s early concerns about the loan guarantee, and condemned Miller’s effort to spin the story.
“There is always risk for the taxpayer being obligated to cover a loss anytime things don’t work out as planned,” Schatz said. “That has been one of the major criticisms of we have had of the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program for some time.
“How is a loan not spending money when money is lent and the taxpayers are liable if it is not paid back?”
Schatz added that Miller was trying to manipulate news coverage by twisting loan-guarantee language into something more favorable in an attempt to knock TheDC off the trail.
The approximately 900 recently released White House emails show that Miller’s effort to manipulate TheDC’s coverage of the Solyndra issue could be part of a larger pattern. Some emails show that he previously worked closely with the Obama White House to quash negative coverage.
According to Politico, Miller e-mailed Johanna Maska in advance of Obama’s May 23, 2010 tour of a Solyndra plant, asking the Obama administration to give former Fortune correspondent Todd Woody — who freelances for the New York Times — special access because he would “do a great piece.”
Miller also responded to a July 6, 2010 Greenwire story titled “Did solar startup’s financial crunch catch the White House napping?” with an email to the White House.
“It’s total crap (my subtle professional opinion),” he wrote to Maska, “and I wanted you to be aware we are working on a response and working to intercept it so it doesn’t get picked up by the NY Times if we can, and have a plan to mitigate it if it does.” Gregory Nelson in the White House’s Office of Public Engagement and Daniella Leger, director of message events, were also recipients of that email.
In May 2011, Miller emailed Nelson with a warning that Washington Post reporter Joe Stephens “has been poking at us for several months regarding the DOE investigation and various other issues.”
Records also show that Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser has visited the White House 16 times and has raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama’s 2008 campaign. He has publicly denied lobbying on Solyndra’s behalf.
Miller could not be reached for comment.