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” …

House Committee Grills DOE Loan Program Director Over Secret Emails

Jonathan SilverA hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week investigated the Obama administration’s practice of concealing email communications, with former top officials getting grilled about their use of private Internet accounts to conduct government business.

Two of the most egregious offenders were subject to withering scrutiny, although it didn’t last long enough to get very deep. Lisa Jackson, the former EPA Administrator whose FOIA-evadable email address was under the alias “Richard Windsor” – named in part for her dog – was questioned about a message sent to Siemens vice president Alison Taylor in which she asked her to “use my home email rather than this one when you need to contact me directly….”

Jackson, of course, said it was perfectly normal to direct a corporation official that she regulates to communicate with her via methods for which the public has no access. Marlo Lewis …

DOE Hid Info About Loan Recipient’s Bad Condition in April House Hearing

Fisker hearingBeing an Obama administration stimulus failure doesn’t mean you have to be electric, and it also doesn’t mean the Department of Energy won’t pretend you’re still legitimate when Congressional pressure is on.

The neutrally named Vehicle Production Group, which was loaned $50 million by the DOE thanks to the Recovery Act, revealed in May it had stopped operations in February and laid off 100 staff, after DOE froze its assets. Now, in a typical Obama administration “hope-they-don’t-notice” Friday announcement, DOE told American taxpayers that $42 million of that money won’t be paid back. Apparently there weren’t many assets left to freeze.

About $5 million was recovered by the government. The weekend info release said the rest of the debt was sold at auction for about $3 million to AM General, a Humvee manufacturer.

“After exhausting any realistic possibility for a sale that might have protected our …

Obama’s Electric Vehicle Loans Program is a Failure

Fisker logoMark it down: the report this month about the shutdown of Vehicle Production Group – beneficiary of a $50-million stimulus loan from the Department of Energy – means the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing initiative within the Loan Program Office has been a thorough failure.

All five ATVM recipients, awarded a total of $8.4 billion of taxpayer-backed financing under the Recovery Act, have earned derision to some degree. Most fit into the already much-ridiculed electric vehicles program. VPG was funded to produce wheelchair-accessible passenger vehicles that ran on compressed natural gas.

The recipients range from the start-ups (Fisker Automotive, Tesla and VPG) to the established (Ford Motor Company and Nissan). The highest-profile flop, by far, has been Fisker, with its single $102,000-plus electric model built for wealthy California elites that couldn’t muster a stronger review from Consumer Reports than “the fourth-worst luxury sedan” on the market, …

Administration Denies Reality at Fisker Congressional Hearing

Fisker hearingAs the Department of Energy seized the last of Fisker Automotive’s reserves in lieu of an unknown amount that it was due to repay this week, what’s left of the lame electric automaker clings to the slim hope it can survive.

While CEO Tony Posawatz and his team may need an intervention, a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday revealed that DOE and committee Democrats (as well as those in the Obama administration) are hopelessly stuck in an alternate universe, where losing millions of taxpayer dollars is considered a good record. Republicans had called officials from the company – including founder Henrik Fisker, as well as administrators of DOE’s loan program – to explain the logic that went into granting $529 million to a fledgling, unproven car company that targets an ultra-rich clientele.

Democrats attempted to dismiss the hearing as a “show trial” to …

Lawsuit and a Congressional Hearing as Fisker Bankruptcy Nears

Fisker logoAs green energy stimulus recipients raked in billions of dollars the last few years, with President Obama declaring what a great “investment” they were for taxpayers, friends of mine would jokingly ask, “Where’s my dividend?” “Where are my stock certificates?” “Where’s my free electric car?!” 

In the case of our $193-million stake in Fisker Automotive, thanks to a Department of Energy loan guarantee, it looks like American shareholders will end up with the whole company itself.

With the Anaheim non-automaker (no cars produced since last summer) firing about 160 of its 200 remaining employees on Friday, a bankruptcy law firm hired, and no buyer to pick over the $102,000 Karma model’s carcass, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday the imminent insolvency “could leave the federal government essentially owning” Fisker.

That would be quite a feat, since it’s been widely reported that Fisker drew more than $1 billion in private investment …