From the Fact Check Desk — Did the Energy Department Inspector General Testify that Energy Loans Had Been Steered to Friends and Family?

Jun 1, 2012 3:45pm

Yesterday in California, Mitt Romney stood in front of the failed Solyndra factory and said “an independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the administration had steered money to friends and family, to campaign contributors.”

In a TV ad focused on Solyndra, the Romney campaign makes a similar claim, saying the “Inspector General said that contracts were steered to friends and family.”

This isn’t true.

The Romney campaign cites as “proof” a book excerpt in Newsweek/The Daily Beast, which states that the Department of Energy’s inspector general, Gregory Friedman “has testified that contracts have been steered to ‘friends and family.’”

That isn’t correct.

What Friedman testified to, in March 2011, is: “We currently have 64 open investigations associated with the Recovery Act, nearly 25 percent of our current case load. Schemes under investigation include the submission of false information in applications for funding, fraudulent claims for rebates, claims for unallowable or unauthorized expenses, the directing of contracts and grants to friends and family, weatherization fraud to include mischarging, and other attempts to fraudulently obtain Recovery Act funds.”

You can read his testimony HERE.

So this is one of many areas that the Department of Energy is looking into.

“We cannot comment on open or closed cases not in the public domain,” a spokeswoman for the Inspector General’s office told ABC News. “However, none of the cases that resulted in convictions for recovery act fraud were related to the directing of contracts or grants to family or friends.”

I asked the Romney campaign why the candidate is saying something that is not true.

A campaign aide responded with the campaign’s – not the inspector general’s — take that “friends” and “family” benefited from the Solyndra loan.

As examples the aide cited excerpts from THIS ABC NEWS STORY by Matt Mosk about Obama fundraiser Steve Spinner, who helped oversee the loan program, while his wife Allison’s law firm represented Solyndra.

Spinner’s ethics agreement said his wife would forgo pay “earned as a result of its representation of applicants in programs within your official duties” and a statement from a spokeswoman for Allison Spinner’s law firm, Wilson Sonsini, saying that the firm had established a wall between her and client matters involving the Energy Department while Spinner was in office.

The Romney campaign also cited Obama campaign fundraiser George Kaiser, Solyndra’s single-largest investor, as an example of a “friend.”

Neither example has anything to do with the claim Romney and his campaign are making, that the inspector general has testified the contracts have been steered to friends and family.

There are certainly donors who benefited from the program, and big donors – “bundlers” – who benefited from the program. But friends and family benefiting is a charge that has yet to be proven – and it has certainly never been alleged by the Inspector General.

The charge is simply false.

-Jake Tapper

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