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Fox targets Rep. Miller but gets its facts wrong

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Thursday, October 13th, 2011 at 6:29 pm in Congress, Environment, George Miller.

CHECK OUT MY FULL STORY HERE. POSTED 4:40 PM OCT. 17, 2011

Fox cable pundits such as Sean Hannity are naming Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and his lobbyist son, George IV, as unholy kingpins in SunPower’s successful bid for $1.2 billion in federal loans to create jobs in Mexico. (See update below.)

It’s provocative but all untrue.

George Miller IV is a California lobbyist and a partner at Lang, Hansen, O’Malley and Miller. Yes, SunPower retained the firm but only for state-level lobbying activities. Its state lobbyist is Bob Giroux. No, George IV is not a federal lobbyist. And he told Media Matters for America, a web site where much of this stuff has been debunked (see more about this site below), that he has never even worked on the SunPower state account.

More important, no one needs to lobby Congressman Miller to support solar projects. He has been a vocal advocate for alternative energies for decades.

SunPower’s is headquartered in San Jose but it has a research and development facility in Miller’s district in Richmond. In October 2010, he toured SunPower’s R/D facility in Richmond along with Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and SunPower CEO Tom Werner.

In July 2009, Miller and Werner were among many sponsors of a meeting of the Council on Competitiveness Energy Summit held at Moffett Field.

Media Matters found no evidence that SunPower is likely to  go the way of  Solyndra, another Silicon Valley-based solar company that gained massive notoriety and triggered a federal investigation when it suddenly defaulted on its Department of Energy loans. In fact, they found the opposite. Media Matters noted that analysts in a New York Times piece found SunPower “srongly placed” in the market. Other experts have said there is little chance SunPower will default.

Media Matters also refuted the allegation that the federal dollars will be used to create jobs in Mexico. The loan guarantee is for the construction of a 250-megawatt solar farm in San Luis Obispo County.  Yes, the company is building a manufacturing facility in Mexico but it is also building one in Milpitas, neither of which will require the use of  federal dollars.

How did this all get started with the Millers?

The first mention of Miller and his son, George IV,  in connection with SunPower appears to have been in Human Events, a conservative web site.  From there, the story spread to the cable shows with apparently little effort to verify the information. Even a local blog, Claycord.com, posted a Hannity video clip with a lead-in that says the congressman is involved in a “scandal.”

The story has also spawned concern in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, which signed a contract with SunPower for the installation of solar panels on school facilities.

Reasonable people may disagree on the merits of federal investment in the alternative energies market but there is no scandal involving the Millers and SunPower.

UPDATE 9:40 AM FRIDAY: Critics have rightfully noted that I failed to state that Media Matters is a web site dedicated to debunking statements made by conservatives. But honestly, Media Matters’ motives are irrelevant. If I only listened to entities that had pure motives, I would listen to almost no one.

I linked to this site because it contains a long list of direct links to articles elsewhere that contain the facts, not opinions by Media Matters, which are clear:

  • Congressman Miller’s son, George IV, is not a SunPower lobbyst and he played no role in the company’s receipt of a federal Department of Energy Loan.  If he had been a SunPower lobbyist, I would have written an entirely different post.
  • Numerous financial experts quoted in reputable news organizations such as the New York Times, San Jose Mercury News, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have found SunPower to be a viable business and unlikely to default on its federal loan guarantee.

In further reporting late yesterday, a colleague who covers business in the Silicon Valley for the San Jose Mercury News confirmed that SunPower is using the federal loan guarantee to build a solar farm in San Luis Obispo, not open a manufacturing plant in Mexico.

And I just got off the phone with the congressman and he tells me that his involvement in SunPower’s application for a federal loan guarantee consisted of a letter of support he and Rep. Zoe Lofgren wrote to the Department of Energy recommending its approval.

Again, there is no scandal involving SunPower and Congressman Miller.

If there was a scandal, you can bet I would be all over it because reporters love scandals. We live for them.

But I am also cognizant of the fact that as public confidence in all forms of government continues its devastating downward spiral, I have an equal responsibility to challenge inaccurate accusations. The utter disregard by people on both ends of the political spectrum for facts is downright scary.

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  • Jen

    Media Matters, a liberal media group, main aim has been to challenge the “factual claims” of the channel (Fox) and to attempt to prevent them from reaching the mainstream media.

    You cannot trust what Media Matters says. Period. Stop being brainwashed!!

  • Concord Taxpayer

    Lisa Vorderbrueggen, You have lost any journalistic credibility you may have had when you cite “Media Matters” without identifying it as a partisan left-wing website funded by the Democrats.

    We all now know you are simply a spokesperson for George Miller and the Democratic Party. You should resign or appologize.

    The scandal issue here is not that George Miller needs to be lobbied for solar. The scandal is his namesake son is working as a lobbyist period! This stinks to high heaven. Although legal, it is obviously corrupt. Would George Miller IV laneded a job like this without his name and connections? What are you thinking?

  • Dorothy Englund

    Additional research/investigation is needed to determine if there is a scandal or not involving the Millers and SunPower.

  • Publius

    Lisa,

    Do you work for the Millers? What a stirring defense.
    I see your liberal sensitivities were ruffled when some attempted to shine the light on St. George.

    George has been using tax dollars to secure votes for years. You and your paper are in the bag for Miller. Step back for a second, can’t you see the reason why some people will think that there is a scandal in the wake of the Solyndra mess?

  • Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    I have posted an update to my blog above, which I have also repeated below:

    UPDATE 9:40 AM FRIDAY: Critics have rightfully noted that I failed to state that Media Matters is a web site dedicated to debunking statements made by conservatives. But honestly, Media Matters’ motives are irrelevant. If I only listened to entities that had pure motives, I would listen to almost no one.

    I linked to this site because it contains a long list of direct citations to articles elsewhere that contain the facts, not opinions by Media Matters, which are clear:

    Congressman Miller’s son, George IV, is not a SunPower lobbyst and he played no role in the company’s receipt of a federal Department of Energy Loan. If he had been a SunPower lobbyist, I would have written an entirely different post.
    Numerous financial experts quoted in reputable news organizations such as the New York Times, San Jose Mercury News, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post have found SunPower to be a viable business and unlikely to default on its federal loan.

    In further reporting late yesterday, a colleague who covers business in the Silicon Valley for the San Jose Mercury News confirmed that SunPower is using the federal loan to build a solar farm in San Luis Obispo, not open a manufacturing plant in Mexico.

    And I just got off the phone with the congressman and he tells me that his involvement in SunPower’s application for a federal loan consisted of a letter of support he, along the rest of the Bay Area congressional delegation, wrote to the Department of Energy recommending its approval.

    Again, there is no scandal involving SunPower and Congressman Miller.

    If there was a scandal, you can bet I would be all over it because reporters love scandals. We live for them.

    But I am also cognizant of the fact that as public confidence in all forms of government continues its devastating downward spiral, I have an equal responsibility to challenge inaccurate accusations. The utter disregard by people on both ends of the political spectrum for facts is downright scary.

  • Night Stocker

    Some data from SunPower’s (SPWR) financials:

    $800M (MC Market Cap) + $820M (Debt) – $245M (Cash) = $1.375B (EV Enterprise Value).

    Rounding it to $1.4B, that means their EV exceeds MC by $600M, that’s $600,000,000…or SIX HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS.

    In summary, that means they are an unhealthy company.

    Go ask the financial experts at Media Matters if those kind of numbers are good. And maybe ask them how common it is for companies on such shaky financial footing to secure loans (or guarantees) of $1.2 Billion.

    Oh, but wait a second, that’s right, you’re a JOURNALIST so you already have it all figured out!!! It doesn’t “matter” at all that George Miller, Steve Chu, Ken Salazar, and Jerry Brown touted SunPower as one of their rising stars of the “green” industry. There is absolutely no way at all they had the power to influence the decision to put taxpayers on the hook for $1.2 BILLION. Nope, nothing to see here.

  • ulno

    Media Matters is shill front for the left, I can’t believe anyone imagines them to be of any value in any way. Unless you keep running cover for people like Miller. Like certain reporters continue to do.

  • Elwood

    “there is no scandal– involving Congressman Miller.”

    Except for the scandal that this worthless POS has been in Congress for 36 years.

    Exceeded only by the 38 years of Pete Stark Raving Mad.

  • John W

    To be clear, I’m not a George Miller fan. Too much owned by unions. But I’ll trust Lisa V and Media Matters over Sean Hannity (zero journalistic credentials or credibility) any day. The fact that Media Matters is devoted to debunking conservative propaganda does not mean it is inaccurate, any more than the fact that Judicial Watch is a conservative group means it is wrong in the matters it investigates. Guilt by association (loose association in this case) is a time honored smear tactic.

  • Rick K.

    I agree with “ConcordTaxpayer” #2. George Miller IV is yet another example of the “political class” using blood relatives’ public office to enrich themselves. What exactly does Prince George IV do? Whom does he lobby? If he just focuses on state government, does he lobby Congressman Miller’s little friend Mark DeSaulnier? (Prince George IV is a campaign donor to DeSaulnier.) If so, on what matters? As for Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Dan Borenstein of the Times has done an expose on their wasteful Measure C passed by voters in June 2010. See
    http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Mt._Diablo_Unified_School_District_bond_proposition,_Measure_C_%28June_2010%29
    Are any of those bond funds being used to fund the solar panel project/boondoggle?

  • Rick K.

    It looks like the Garamendi family also is cashing in on its membership in the “Political Class” (America’s version of aristocracy that would have outraged our Founding Fathers). John Garamendi, Jr., son of the career politician, has held a series of high posts in the U.C. System. See http://med.ucmerced.edu/2.asp?uc=1&lvl2=35&contentid=13
    http://www.modbee.com/2009/12/02/957197/garamendi-leaving-job-at-uc-merced.html
    The first website says that John Garamendi, Jr. was “Vice Chancellor, University Relations”

    http://www.collegiatetimes.com/databases/salaries/university-of-california-merced
    This website says that Garamendi, Jr., then in his 30′s, was making a $216,000 per year salary. He was the 4th highest-paid person at the UC Merced campus in 2008. What the heck qualified Garamendi, Jr. for such a job other than the fact that Daddy was a big-name career politician? The “Political Class” is using nepotism to steal high-paid jobs away from more meritorious candidates. What’s worse is that U.C. students are forced to work extra jobs, etc., to pay the higher tuition to compensate people like Garamendi, Jr.

    Plus “Live Shot Garamendi” (Daddy) used to sit on the UC Board of Regents where he cried crocodile tears for the TV cameras whenever the Regents approved tuition increases (which had the added benefit of padding his son’s pockets). People of Vacaville, Dixon, Fairfield and points north, please get expel “Live Shot Garamendi, Nepotist-in-Chief” from Congress in 2012!

  • Elwood

    “Are any of those bond funds being used to fund the solar panel project/boondoggle?”

    Why, of course!

    Something like $93 million as I recall. By the time that borrowed money is amortized over 40 years, won’t that be a hell of a deal?

  • For Liberty

    If he and the others could only follow the true principles taught in the following short film:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgXdbtJ13oc

  • Bill

    That’s probably why Foxnews beats all other cable news COMBINED. Because they make so many mistakes obvious enough for little weasles like this to use as a propaganda piece.