Tax Money for Obama Supporters (Solyndra Solar)
Political Pressure to approve LightSquared Wireless Plan
Firing the Inspector General
The Iowa Fakeout
Tony Rezko & the Shady Land Deal
Hanging Out with Radical 60s Bomber
Secret Muslim? Educated in Madrassa?
Barack Obama started his public career with an unusual move--- writing a book where he talks about using cocaine. It was unconventional, but damned if it didn't just work. After that promising start, though, he has been a scandal dud. Like Ron Paul, a doctor who also had money before he entered Congress, Obama doesn't seem to have made much money from people he passed laws for (especially compared to someone like Rick Santorum). And like Ron Paul, we haven't seen any credible allegations of sexual immorality (especially compared to someone like Newt Gingrich or Bill Clinton.) He has mostly lived up to his motto of "No Drama Obama," to the point of dullness.
The biggest scandal since he became president is the loan guarantee -- and loss -- of a half-billion taxpayer dollars to Solyndra, a solar company run by Obama donors that went bankrupt. Less well known but similar is Obama administration pressure on government bureacrats to push through the LightSquared wireless broadband network -- which just happens to be run by Obama donors. In fact, Obama himself was an early investor.
Part of the difficulty in working out this president's scandals is that some of his opponents, including Fox News, have pushed a bunch of scandals that just don't hold up, from the conspiracy theories about Obama's birth certificate -- which have been conclusively debunked -- to the weak attacks against things like political "czars" -- which have been common since the 1970s. Other scandals, such as the Gerald Walpin case, looked very promising when they started but just haven't lived up to their potential (as scandals.)
We could easily be missing something, though. If you have any tips, as always please email us.
Long before he ever ran for political office, Obama wrote a book about, well, himself, and his amazing his journey from messed up kid to, um, himself. It was quite an epic, considering he was 34 at the time.
In that book, called "Dreams From My Father", he writes that he used marijuana and cocaine ("maybe a little blow".) Oddly enough, he writes that he didn't try heroin because -- wait for it -- he didn't like the pusher who was selling it. (Weren't there any other reasons?) In a later interview, he added "Teenage boys are frequently confused."
But cocaine aside, the press has ignored the one truly outrageous drug scandal that Obama has successfully hid -- he's a SMOKER. That's right, tobacco cigarettes. Obama theoretically gave it up, and claims he never smoked more than 7 or 8 cigarettes a day, but if you dig deeper, he admits he has been bumming cigarettes during the campaign.
Tax Money for Obama Supporters (Solyndra Solar)
George Kaiser was a major "bundler" of campaign contributions for Obama -- he pulled in between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama's successful presidential campaign, and hosted Obama at his Oklahoma home. The George Kaiser Family Foundation also owned 36.7% of Solyndra, a big manufacturer of solar electrical panels using a new, non-silicon technology. Solyndra was one of the 16 finalists out of 134 companies that applied for federal loan guarantees (which had been approved under President Bush). They spent $1.8 million dollars on lobbying during the application process, and Kaiser has visited Obama's aides 16 times since 2009.
On January 9, 2009, two weeks before the Obama administration took office, the credit committee of the Energy Department reviewed the loan guarantee proposal and put it on hold, saying there were issues that needed to be resolved first. Nonetheless, the Obama Administration tentatively planned to give approval anyway during a visit to California by Obama on March 19th. On March 10th, a White House budget analyst wrote that the deal was "not ready for prime time" but they gave conditional approval anyway, with full approval scheduled for September.
MORE warnings -- on August 20, 2009, an Energy Department analyst predicted a cash flow problem for the Fab 2 project (that the loan guarantee covered) would occur by September 2011. Despite all this, Solyndra was the first of the 134 applicants to get approved, on September 2, 2009. Sure enough, in late August 2011, cash flow problems caused the entire company to go bankrupt, and the US government had to pay off the $535 million loan.
Government auditors found that the Obama administration had rushed through the loan package without completing legally required evaluations, and had failed to properly evaluate Solyndra's business plan. The Washington Post newspaper reported that they had pressured regulators to approve it in time for Vice President Joe Biden to announce it at a ground-breaking ceremeony in September 2009, and that politics played a key part in the approval despite repeated warnings.
Federal agents searched Solyndra and the homes of Brian Harrison, the company's CEO, and Chris Gronet, the company's founder, in September 2011, and Harrison resigned a month later,
but even then the Obama Administration pushed through a loan restructuring that put federal taxpayers in line behind other creditors -- including the George Kaiser Family
Foundation -- despite warnings that it was illegal. By October 6, 2009, Jonathan Silver -- the director of the Department of Energy's loan office -- resigned, and a
federal investigation into links between the campaign contributions to Obama and the loan guarantee was under way.
Pressure to Approve the LightSquared Wireless Deal
The Obama Administration pushes a lot of its favorite technologies -- and they sure seem to have Obama campaign donors as investors a lot of the time. Lightsquared is company with 3 satellites (2 since 1995), some L-Band spectrum, and a plan to cover the U.S. with a national, wireless broadband network (in progress) partnering with Sprint, Cricket, Best Buy and other big players. That last plan is controversial because it might interfere with the adjacent GPS spectrum, which could mess up key military functions as well as the ability of anyone under 45 to find directions.
LightSquare's investors include Donald Gips, Obama's friend, donor and former White House personnel chief; billionaires Phillip Falcone (a Republican who donated $50,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee -- and $80,000 to Republicans -- since 2007) and George Soros (no introduction needed), and -- in 2005 -- Barack Obama himself. However, Obama invested back in 2005, about the time the the plan was first proposed, and he lost $13,000 of his original $90,000 by the time he sold his stock, just 8 months later.
LightSquared's wireless plan received initial government approval on February 25, 2005 under President Bush as a satellite service, but it needed a special waiver in 2010 to operate terrestially only. Despite warnings by Air Force General William Shelton, the head of the Space Command, and Anthony Russo, director of the National Coordination Office for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (a government agency), Obama's FCC approved this waiver on January 26, 2011 -- on the condition that LightSquared resolve the concerns of GPS providers.
Shelton, a four-star general, told a closed-door session of Congress that the White House had pressured him to change his comments -- given in advance to the White House for review -- to be more favorable to LightSquared, and both men said the White House asked them to insert a specific sentence, saying that testing of the potential interference could be resolved within 90 days. Both men refused (though neither would publicly say he was inappropriately pressured) and both warned against the LightSquared technology.
In any case, it looks like the proposed system is dead in the water, since the 9 federal agencies involved in testing the LightSquared system sent a letter in January 2012
unanimously agreeing that it interfered with "many GPS systems," even when modified to reduce the impact, and stating that they planned no further tests. Perhaps most
disturbing is the finding that the LightSquared system interfered with an air-safety system designed to help airplanes avoid hitting buildlings and mountains. Kind of like
when flight attendants tell you to turn off your cell phone, except that it's a real problem.
Barack Obama has been a major supporter of Americorps, the do-gooder organization set up by Bill Clinton, and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson -- the former National Basketball Association star, and an Obama supporter -- has run a large, Americorps-aided community development project called St. Hope, which includes several charter schools.
In June of 2009, a few months after taking office, Obama abruptly fired Gerald Walpin, an Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which runs Americorps. Walpin, a Bush appointee, had been investigating St. Hope and referred charges that St. Hope misspent federal funds, had Americorps volunteers running errands for Kevin Johnson, and other violations to the U.S. Attorney. The president is supposed to give Congress 30-days notice of any IG firing, but Walpin got a phone call saying he had one hour to decide to resign or get fired. (He did not resign, and protested loudly.)
Democratic Senator Claire McGaskill, an Obama supporter but also a strong supporter of Inspector General independence, joined Republicans in demanding an explanation. Alan Solomont, the outgoing head of the CNCS, had said that he discussed the Walpin case only with the White House Counsel's office, but there were rumblings that Michelle Obama, a strong supporter of Americorps, was meddling in its affairs, and sure enough, White House logs showed that Solomont had met with Jackie Norris, Michelle's then-chief of staff, the day before Walpin wsa fired -- and five days before Norris would leave Michelle Obama's office to become a senior CNCS adviser. Republicans charged that Norris and Solomont must have discussed Walpin's firing.
Sadly, the more this situation was probed, the less scandalous it appeared. The White House got around the 30-day notice provision by putting Walpin on administrative leave for 30 days before officially firing him, which is sleazy but legal, and they released mounds of documents and emails. It turned out that Walpin is 78 years old and mostly retired, telecommuting part time from his home, and had been confused and incoherent at the May meeting of the board, unable to answer questions. (He said that he was frustrated at being interrupted when he spoke, and "may have had a bug.")
But the real problem was Walpin's behavior on the Johnson case. Walpin is a very partisan Republican, a member of the Federalist Society, and once introduced Mitt Romney to a crowd by saying that Mitt was from Massachusetts, which is run by a "modern-day KKK -- the Kennedy Kerry Klan." Walpin's pursuit of Kevin Johnson was similarly partisan and sloppy. He never did an audit to pin down how much money had been misspent -- he just alleged that all of it was. He announced his findings publicly and proclaimed Johnson guilty in the middle of Johnson's mayoral race, but the Republican local US Attorney that Walpin referred the case to found no criminal wrongdoing. (The AG settled with St. Hope, forcing them to pay back half the money. Kevin Johnson personally paid back about $72,000.)
Walpin even took the unusual step of recommending that Kevin Johnson be barred from receiving any federal money, which -- as Walpin knew -- may have prevented the City of Sacramento from receiving any federal funds, once Johnson was elected. (The AG ended that ban with teh settlement.)
In fact, local US Attorney Lawrence Brown filed a formal complaint against Walpin for unethical and sloppy work with the board that hears complaints against government watchdogs. Walpin withheld evidence that exculpated Johnson from his charges, for example, and failed to conduct an audit.
Walpin made as much hay as he could off of this scandal, suing the federal government and touring conservative talk shows (with help from the PR firm behind the Swift Boat ads against John Kerry). He lost his suit in District Court, appealed, and was unanimously rejected by a 3-judge panel (2 of whom were Republican appointees.)
There's one final, odd twist to this story. Remember Michelle Rhee, the brash, young, conservative, Harvard-educated Korean woman who was chancellor of the
Washington DC school system for a couple of tumultuous years, until she angered too many people with her mass firings and school closures? She was more than once accused
of racism for her efforts to reform the largely-Black DC school district. In September, 2011, she married Kevin Johnson.
The details indicate that this could be much more significant than that simple description sounds. Edwards is charged with impersonating Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz -- or, confusingly, his brother Thomas Schultz -- on June 24, 2011 -- "in an alleged scheme to falsely implicate Secretary Schultz in perceived illegal or unethical behavior while in office," according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
Both parties realized the power of secretaries of state in 2000, when Katharine Harris -- Bush's Florida campaign co-chair and Florida's Secretary of State -- played a key role in delivering that state's electoral votes -- and the presidential election -- to Bush. More recently, secretaries of state have been at the center of the controversy over alleged (but rarely proven) vote fraud and restrictions on voting to fight it. So taking out a swing-state secretary of state, early in a presidential election year, could have a huge impact.
So far, there is no direct link to the Obama campaign, but Edwards worked on Obama's 2008 campaign, and Link Strategies is run by Jeff Link, himself a media consultant for Obama in 2008. Link Strategies fired Edwards hours after his arrest, and denied any involvement. It's not clear exactly what happened, but a good guess is that Edwards hacked into Schultz' email account looking for dirt.
There is a liberal blog in Iowa called "Under The Golden Dome" (UTGD). On June 24th -- the same day Edwards is alleged to have committed his crime -- UTGD began a series of 3 blog posts criticizing Matt Schultz for attacking Jon Huntsman on official Iowa state stationery. UTGD charged Schultz with illegally using state resources for partisan reasons and alleged that the Santorum campaign was behind Schultz' statement. It helps to know that Schultz' brother Thomas was the leader of the Draft Rick Santorum campaign in Iowa.
In June, the Iowa Democratic Party had filed an ethics complaint with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board about Schultz' letter. The agency dismissed the complaint on the grounds that Schultz had not violated the law.
UTGD printed several emails from Schultz' office. Where did they get them? Joe Quimby of UTGD wrote "A helpful tipster has provided Under the Golden Dome with documents from an open records request to Iowa’s Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s office that contain some very troubling internal emails." He did not identify the helpful tipster. You would think that the results of an open records request would be public information, by definition really. Then again, you would also think that you couldn't fool Schultz' office by pretending the emails were from an open records request to Schultz' own office; Schultz would kind of have to know about it, right? The official press release said that the case started with a report from the Secretary of State's office on June 24th, so maybe they didn't fool them.
It's not clear why the official Iowa release called it an attempt to "falsely implicate" Schultz. You'd think a hacker would look for whatever they could find.
If they were sending out fake emails from the account that sounded bad, that would be an attempt to falsely implicate. But at this point, we really just don't know.
In Rush to Assist a Solar Company, U.S. Missed Signs By ERIC LIPTON and JOHN M. BRODER, September 22, 2011
Solyndra employees: Company suffered from mismanagement, heavy spending By Carol D. Leonnig and Joe Stephens, Washington Post, September 21, 2011
Solyndra loan: White House pressed on review of solar company now under investigation by By Joe Stephens and Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post, September 13, 2011
Amid Solyndra controversy, head of federal loan program resigns By Carol D. Leonnig and Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post, October 6, 2011
Solyndra loan deal: Warning about legality came from within Obama administration By Joe Stephens and Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post, October 7, 2011
Solyndra Supporter Spoke to President by RYAN TRACY AND DEBORAH SOLOMON, November 10, 2011
More E-Mails Released on Failed Solar Company By MATTHEW L. WALD, New York Times, January 13, 2012
White House Pressure for a Donor? by Eli Lake, The Daily Beast, September 15, 2011
White House’s Testimony ‘Guidance’ by Eli Lake, The Daily Beast, September 19, 2011
Soros Surfaces on the Edge of White House Controversy Involving LightSquared (no author listed), Fox News.com, September 23, 2011
Harbinger’s Falcone defends LightSquared, D.C. connections By Cecilia Kang The Washington Post, September 19, 2011
GOP lawmakers scrutinize LightSquared By Cecilia Kang The Washington Post, September 15, 2011
FCC grants LightSquared approval to use satellite airwaves for cell phones by Cecilia Kang,Washington Post, January 26, 2011
FCC's Genachowski: We won't let LightSquared operate without GPS interference resolution, by Lynnette Luna, Fierce Broadband Wireless, June 5, 2011
LightSquared Asks for More Tests After U.S. Cites GPS Disruption by Todd Shields, Bloomberg Business Week, January 14, 2012
"Fed: LightSquared Network Causes 'Harmful Interference' to GPS, No New Tests Planned," By David Murphy, PC Magazine, January 14, 2012
Politically-connected LightSquared pushes wireless Internet plan despite GPS concerns by John Aloysius Farrell and Fred Schulte, Center for Public Integrity iWatch, July 19, 2011
Emails show wireless firm's communications with White House as campaign donations were made by John Aloysius Farrell and Fred Schulte, Center for Public Integrity iWatch, September 14, 2011
Lawmakers Question Obama's Dismissal of AmeriCorps IG, By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post, June 16, 2009
Watchdog fired by Obama loses appeals case, By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post, January 4, 2011
White House Explains IG Firing — Will It Be Enough?, by Zachary Roth, TPM Muckraker, June 17, 2009
White House Explains Firing of AmeriCorps IG, By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post, June 16, 2009
GOP investigation ties Rhee to IG firing, Ed O'Keefe and Bill Turque, The Washington Post, November 20, 2009
Republicans revive the Walpin IG case, By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post, December 18, 2009
Man Charged with Identity Theft after Falsely Implicating Secretary of State in Illegal Activity, Press Release, Iowa Department of Public Affairs, January 20, 2012
Des Moines man accused of sec. of state ID theft, Assoicated Press story, Des Moines Register, January 20, 2012
Matt Schultz Open Records Exclusive, Part 1:SOS focused on UTGD blog post, Under The Golden Dome (a liberal blog), June 24, 2011
Matt Schultz Open Records Exclusive, Part 2: Caucus Updates and the Rappsheets, Under The Golden Dome (a liberal blog), June 26, 2011
Matt Schultz Open Records Exclusive, Part 3: Santorum Campaign Operative and Schultz Brother behind the Attack on Jon Huntsman, Under The Golden Dome (a liberal blog), June 26, 2011
Political consultants quickly fire arrested man, by Tom Witosky, Des Moines Register, January 21, 2012
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Copyright 2012 Mark Saltveit Photo of Obama by White House (Pete Souza) (White House) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons