2013: Veils of Secrecy as More ‘Green’ Taxpayer Money Disappears

Money down the drainLast year at this time NLPC reviewed 2012 as “The Year of Taxpayer ‘Green’ Waste,” and that description applied to 2013 as well. But additional trends of government opaqueness and inattention to safety and security – often related to stimulus-funded programs and their corporate beneficiaries – were also revealed.

EPA, Dept. of Energy Secretive About Communications

As President Obama began his second term, watchdogs of the administration’s environmental (EPA, Dept. of Interior) and energy (Department of Energy) cabinet spaces discovered that officials maintained secret email accounts to conduct government business out of public view. Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute uncovered a fake identity maintained by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson while researching his book The Liberal War on Transparency. The effort to access her messages and those of other officials has been protracted.

EPA began producing records in January from Jackson’s “Richard Windsor” email account …

Inspector General Says DOE Hid Vital Info from Audit of Bankrupt Ecotality

Blink chargerAfter an Inspector General’s audit earlier this year of now-bankrupt electric vehicle charging company Ecotality, which determined that millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted in a nearly unworkable program, the IG has returned with findings that the Department of Energy withheld information about the project’s problems during his first investigation.

The audit, released by DOE IG Gregory Friedman in July, determined (among other things) that the persistent weak demand for electric vehicles harmed the deployment and timeliness of a $135 million-plus taxpayer funded charging network, which led to excessive grants and project expansion that became virtually unusable under the grants’ guidelines. Investigators discovered that conditions for reimbursement to Ecotality for the EV charging demonstration project were “very generous” and that cost-sharing requirements were extremely lenient.

Shortly after that report was released, on August 7, Ecotality informed DOE that it was in financial distress and that its ability to do …

Taxpayer Millions Squandered on EV Charging Study Project

Volt recharging photoAn audit by the Department of Energy’s Inspector General found that the persistent weak demand for electric vehicles harmed the deployment and timeliness of a $135 million-plus taxpayer funded charging network, which spun a cycle of excessive grants and project expansion, that led to an enormous waste of public money.

The investigators, led by IG Gregory Friedman, determined that conditions for reimbursement to Ecotality, Inc. (and its subsidiaries) for the EV charging demonstration project were “very generous,” although not explicitly prohibited under federal regulations.

“While we acknowledge that the Department had maintained and archived award documentation, an independent reviewer cannot understand the rationale behind important decisions made by Department officials, as required by government internal control standards,” Friedman’s report said. “Additionally, the Department’s weaknesses in oversight of administrative aspects of Ecotality’s awards may have led to funding items that were not directly attributable to the grant.”

The IG noted …

Incompetence and Dysfunction Rampant at Energy Department

Chu photo“Ineptocracy” is a new Internet-popularized word in wide circulation, which came to my inbox with the following definition:

“A system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.”

Clearly the word’s creation was inspired by the current presidential administration, where the ineptocrats abound. And as NLPC has documented for 4+ years, nowhere has that been more evident than in President Obama’s Department of Energy, under the management of soon-departing Secretary Steven Chu.

Most of those stories have documented the foolishness, misjudgment and cronyism surrounding the distribution of stimulus funds. But another area of mismanagement and incompetence has been revealed at DOE, and this time it has security implications.

Inspector …

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

Did DOE Rush to Give Away Stimulus Compromise National Security?

The hurry to take advantage of funds appropriated through the Recovery Act for “shovel ready” projects impelled the federal agencies – especially the Department of Energy – to hastily allocate the money, and as a result taxpayer money flowed to projects marred by fraud, corruption, poor workmanship, failing companies, and crony corporate socialism.

And now DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman has discovered the rush to distribute stimulus money may have compromised national security. In an audit report of the department’s management of the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, which received $3.5 billion to modernize and improve the reliability of the U.S. power grid, the IG found that grant recipients’ plans to prevent “malicious cyber attacks” were often inadequate.

“In our review of security plans,” the report said, “we noted that the plans did not always include sufficient information related to risk assessments and/or other important elements, and, that …

Russian Oligarch Tries to Cash In on Obama’s Crony Capitalism

Alexi MordashThe Department of Energy announced on Friday it would not complete a low-interest, $730 million loan to Severstal North America, after it had given the company a conditional commitment in July under its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program.

DOE gave no reason for its disapproval of the loan, but it had come under scrutiny about its judgment after the collapse of solar company Solyndra, which was lent $535 million in taxpayer dollars. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa called upon Energy Secretary Stephen Chu to revisit the Severstal project – which would modernize its facility in Dearborn, Mich. to produce so-called advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) – because the company “had ample means to carry out the project” and had “apparently no need for federal financing,” among other reasons. Severstal N.A. is a wholly owned subsidiary of OAO Severstal, owned by Russian tycoon Alexei Mordashov (in photo), …

DOE’s Chu Can’t Manage Apology, Much Less Department

Chu photoTwo weeks ago Texas Gov. Rick Perry made what many formerly mainstream media pundits thought was his crowning debate gaffe in Michigan, when he could not remember the third of three cabinet departments (after Education and Commerce) he would eliminate if he were elected president.

The one he momentarily forgot, the Department of Energy, should have been the first one on his lips.

Republican presidential candidates like Gov. Perry (as well as Rep. Ron Paul and a couple others) aren’t alone in their view of the DOE as a frenzy of incompetence, waste, fraud, and crony capitalism – better known as (Secretary Steven) Chu’s Chum, which lures scavengers of subvention from the most desperate of bottom-feeders (Solyndra) to those at the top of the chain who need it least (like Duke Energy, Nissan). It’s the enclave where the top fish toggles between his unfailing-but-unfounded belief in catastrophic sea …