Chinese Said To Turn Obama’s Stimulus Lemons Into Lemonade

Jason ForcierOne of the stimulus-funded alternative energy companies that National Legal and Policy Center reported about most the last few years was A123 Systems, which the Department of Energy awarded $279 million to crank out special batteries for electric vehicles.

The examples of government failures in picking successes in industries and economies are countless, with President Obama’s plan for subsidies of a million electric cars on U.S. roads by 2015 serving as Exhibit One. He was only off by several hundred thousand.

But that doesn’t mean that vultures can’t consume the carcasses left behind, which is exactly what the Chinese did with A123. As Bloomberg reported last week, the multinational automotive parts corporation Wanxiang Group is running the company to try to meet market demands and is “having better luck.”

Whether “fortune” is leading A123 to an ultimately healthier place is still undetermined, but Wanxiang …

U.S. Circuit Court Upholds Michigan Ban on Project Labor Agreements

Opposition to PLA adFor some two decades, Project Labor Agreements, or PLAs, have enabled unions in various states to dictate hiring for large-scale, taxpayer-funded construction projects. In Michigan, at least, this labor monopoly has been thwarted. On September 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a Michigan law, Public Act 238, enacted last year to bar the use of government-mandated PLAs. The legislation was a response to a lower court ruling in favor of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, an AFL-CIO affiliate. The latest ruling marks a second major victory this year for the open shop; New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie in April vetoed a bill that would have mandated PLAs for coastal-area reconstruction in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Project Labor Agreements, as Union Corruption Update explained in relation to the New Jersey situation, are a way for unions to reverse the decades-long decline …

Unions Appeal Ruling Upholding Michigan Public Employee Right to Work Law

Union protestors in MichiganFew things mobilize unions more than the prospect of passage of a Right to Work law in a given state. This reality of labor politics also applies to the aftermath. Just hours ago, a group of unions filed an appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court to overturn an August 15 ruling by a state Court of Appeals that public-sector Right to Work legislation, passed in December, applies to state civil service employees. That decision, for the time being, freed roughly 36,000 Michigan state government workers from worrying about losing their jobs because they refuse to pay financial tribute to a union. The legislation, which consists of a separate law each for the private and public sector, came about after the defeat last November of a ballot measure, Proposal 2, to amend the state constitution to grant unions enormous veto power over laws they don’t like. Labor officials believe they have an airtight case, but the reality says otherwise. …

Inspector General Confirms Fun & Games at LG Chem

LGChem logoThe employees of battery maker LG Chem still haven’t found anything to do worthy of their pay since they were caught playing games and watching videos four months ago, and now the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Energy has embarrassed the company into returning some – but not much – of the $142 million (out of a $151 million grant) in taxpayer money they took.

Gregory Friedman released his report – which was based on an inquiry spurred by the original media stories in the fall about the mostly idle workers in Holland, Mich. – last week. Turns out the reports about workers on-the-clock playing Texas Hold ‘Em and video games, doing Sudoku and crossword puzzles, and volunteering at nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity, were not exaggerations.

In the words of the inspector, “We confirmed the allegations.” The work that was supposed to be done under DOE’s stimulus

Sale of A123 Systems to Chinese Gets Final U.S. Approval

A123 logoA123 Systems has received approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States for the controversial bankruptcy sale of most of its taxpayer-funded technology and assets to China-based Wanxiang, according to a statement released by subsidiary Wanxiang America Corp.

The authorization was the final major hurdle needed to complete the transaction. A123 had been granted $249 million to refurbish two plants in Michigan for battery production, another $30 million as a subcontractor for another stimulus-funded wind energy storage project, and various other grants and contracts by state and federal governments. But A123’s executives, while making sure their own bank accounts were well-taken care of, ran the company into the ground and now Wanxiang will reap whatever technology value is left, for cheap.

“We’re pleased the government has completed its review and provided us with the go-ahead to finalize this transaction,” said Pin Ni, president …

Top Ten Union Corruption Stories of the Year

Top Ten logoThe increasing overlap of labor and political activism is an insidious form of public corruption in this country. It enables union officials to deemphasize their role of representing workers at the bargaining table in favor of advocating policies to socialize the economy, building incestuous relationships with politicians, and fattening their bank accounts. This tendency was heavily felt in 2012, a presidential election year. Union leaders recognized the need to re-elect their ally and benefactor, President Barack Obama, over someone who was a wealthy Republican with a strong business background; i.e., someone they truly could despise. They got what they wanted. In the process, they further built a political infrastructure. Yet union leaders also experienced reversals of fortune at the state level – most of all, in Michigan – where they had been used to getting their way. 

The passage by the Michigan legislature this past December of a pair of Right to Work laws

2012: The Year of Taxpayer ‘Green’ Waste

Obama InvescoThe past year was a dismal one for the passé idea that government would use taxpayer dollars responsibly, and that was nowhere more evident than with President Obama’s initiatives to promote “clean” energy technology companies and projects with so-called “stimulus” funds and other public money. NLPC reported extensively on some of the most egregious examples.

Solar Favors Don’t Stop Fizzle

Solyndra went bankrupt in 2011, and the reverberations over $535 million in lost taxpayer money were felt throughout 2012. Money still flowed out from the Department of Energy and its stimulus stash, but Congressional Republicans’ scrutiny of big projects – especially in the Loan Program Office –paralyzed some new projects.

The year began with BP, which not long ago downplayed fossil fuels in favor of a “Beyond Petroleum” motto, exiting the solar business despite having received a $7.5 million grant from the U.S. government …

Michigan Enacts Pair of Right to Work Laws; Unions Erupt

Union demonstrators in MichiganAnd now there are two dozen. This Tuesday, December 11, the Michigan House of Representatives passed, and Governor Rick Snyder signed, a pair of laws designed to protect employees from having to pay dues (or “agency fees” in lieu of joining) to a union in order to keep their jobs. The measures, one each applying to the private and public sector, make Michigan the nation’s 24th state with “Right to Work” legislation. “We are moving forward on the topic of workplace fairness and equality,” stated Gov. Snyder during an evening press conference following passage. Unions are taking the opposite view. About 12,500 opponents showed up at the State Capitol Building in Lansing to protest, with about 2,500, many of them shouting slogans, jamming the interior. In the wake of defeat, labor officials are vowing to reverse the laws. For now, Michigan has eclipsed Wisconsin as a focal point for labor conflict.…

Chinese Company Wins Auction for Taxpayer-Backed A123 Systems

A123 logoThe auction for the assets and business of green stimulus recipient A123 Systems has been won by Chinese auto parts manufacturer Wanxiang Group, which aggressively sought the electric vehicle battery maker at least since the summer.

The successful bid – reported to be about $260 million – follows weeks of warnings by the U.S. government, congressmen and a group of former military and other leaders that transfer of the Massachusetts-based company would compromise American jobs, technology and security. The auction attempts to address some of those concerns, as Wanxiang was not awarded any of A123’s contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense. Instead the company’s “government business,” including all its military contracts, was awarded to Illinois-based Navitas Systems.

“We think we have structured this transaction to address potential national security concerns expressed during the review of our previous investment agreement with Wanxiang announced in August as well as …

Opposition Grows to Sale of A123 Systems to China

A123 logoThe Chinese government, unsurprisingly, has approved a potential sale of stimulus-funded ($279 million-plus) A123 Systems to one of its own automobile parts manufacturers, should the Wanxiang Group’s bid be the highest this week for the bankrupt electric vehicle battery maker.

That was the easy part.

So far Republican Sens. Charles Grassley (Iowa) and John Thune (S.D.) have repeatedly raised questions and concerns about the possible transfer of A123’s business, jobs and technology from the U.S. – where taxpayers have thrown in approximately $132 million only to see many times that amount in losses since its 2009 initial public offering – to China. They’re no longer the only voices speaking out against the transaction.

Last week the Strategic Materials Advisory Council, a coalition of former U.S. Government and military leaders and industry experts, announced its opposition to a transfer of A123 to Wanxiang’s control. The group sent a …