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Westly tried to wave Obama away from Solyndra

Former state controller and prominent presidential fundraiser Steve Westly urged the White House to reconsider having President Obama visit Fremont-based Solyndra in May 2010, warning its precarious finances might become an embarrassment later, the Washington Post reports today.

“A number of us are concerned that the president is visiting Solyndra,” Westly wrote to Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett in May 2010. “Many of us believe the company’s cost structure will make it difficult for them to survive long term. … I just want to help protect the president from anything that could result in negative or unfair press.”

“If it’s too late to change/postpone the meeting, the president should be careful about unrealistic/optimistic forecasts that could haunt him in the next 18 months if Solyndra hits the wall, files for bankruptcy, etc.”

But Obama did visit Solyndra that month.

“Every day that you build this expanded facility, as you fill orders for solar panels to ship around the world, you’re demonstrating that the promise of clean energy isn’t just an article of faith — not anymore,” the president said that day. “It’s not some abstract possibility for science fiction movies or a distant future — 10 years down the road or 20 years down the road. It’s happening right now. The future is here.

Now Solyndra company is bankrupt, and the $535 million loan guarantee it got from the government in 2009 likely is lost. Although it’s only 3.4 percent of the Energy Department’s solar portfolio, it’s still a lot of scratch, and a veritable jackpot for the president’s critics.

In fact, Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich made hay of it just this morning at a fundraiser in Georgia.

“The president says he has full confidence in Secretary (Steven) Chu despite this scandal. What kind of confidence can we have in a president who refuses to hold his cabinet officers accountable?” Gingrich asked rhetorically. “As President, I would have fired Secretary Chu for so grossly mismanaging taxpayer dollars. Furthermore, to protect taxpayers, I would have blocked any additional loan guarantees until a full investigation had taken place into the mismanagement and potential corruption in the loan for Solyndra.”

“The difference between a Gingrich administration and the Obama administration in approaching waste and corruption in government could not be clearer,” he said.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.