LightSquared: The next Obama pay-for-play morass?
By Michelle Malkin • September 15, 2011 11:49 AM
While the Solyndra BGB (big green boondoggle) continues to blow up on Capitol Hill, the White House faces another pay-for-play backlash — this time from his own left flank.
The liberal Daily Beast reports on a broadband project backed by a frequent Obama White House visitor and donor that has Pentagon officials concerned over potential military GPS interference. The Obama FCC took the lead in intervening on the donor, billionaire hedge fund manster Philip Falcone’s, behalf and granting his company called “LightSquared” one of those coveted Obama waivers from existing law. Then Obama officials reportedly pressured a general to alter his testimony about the company’s impact on military satellite transmissions.
In a nutshell:
The four-star Air Force general who oversees U.S. Space Command walked into a highly secured room on Capitol Hill a week ago to give a classified briefing to lawmakers and staff, and dropped a surprise. Pressed by members, Gen. William Shelton said the White House tried to pressure him to change his testimony to make it more favorable to a company tied to a large Democratic donor.
The episode—confirmed by The Daily Beast in interviews with administration officials and the chairman of a congressional oversight committee—is the latest in a string of incidents that have given Republicans sudden fodder for questions about whether the Obama administration is politically interfering in routine government matters that affect donors or fundraisers. Already, the FBI and a House committee are investigating a federal loan guarantee to a now failed solar firm called Solyndra that is tied to a large Obama fundraiser.
Now the Pentagon has been raising concerns about a new wireless project by a satellite broadband company in Virginia called LightSquared, whose majority owner is an investment fund run by Democratic donor Philip Falcone. Gen. Shelton was originally scheduled to testify Aug. 3 to a House committee that the project would interfere with the military’s sensitive Global Positioning Satellite capabilities, which control automated driving directions and missile targeting, among other things.
According to officials familiar with the situation, Shelton’s prepared testimony was leaked in advance to the company. And the White House asked the general to alter the testimony to add two points: that the general supported the White House policy to add more broadband for commercial use; and that the Pentagon would try to resolve the questions around LightSquared with testing in just 90 days. Shelton chafed at the intervention, which seemed to soften the Pentagon’s position and might be viewed as helping the company as it tries to get the project launched, the officials said.
Gen. Shelton, Air Force Space Command, said that the proposed broadband wireless service would degrade or render useless billions of dollars of equipment essential to military operations.
Dee Ann Divis . September 15, 2011
LightSquared Would Jam GPS, Defense Officials Tell Congress
FCC Chairman is a hearing no-show amid allegations of pro-LightSquared pressure from White House
Amidst a storm of political controversy and the conspicuous absence of a key administration witness, Department of Defense (DoD) officials told members of Congress today (September 15, 2011) that a proposed broadband wireless service would degrade or render useless billions of dollars of equipment essential to military operations.
“Based on the test results and analysis to date, the LightSquared network would effectively jam vital GPS receivers,” General William L. Shelton, commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command, told the members of the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. “And to our knowledge thus far, there are no mitigation options that would be effective in eliminating interference to essential GPS services in the United States.”
White House Pressure
The White House, which is widely seen as pushing the LightSquared proposal, had reportedly tried to tone down Shelton’s earlier classified testimony. A report appearing on the Daily Beast website just hours before the second hearing commenced said the administration had sought to add language to Shelton’s testimony in support of the its plan on two key points: that the general supported White House policy to add more broadband for commercial use and that the Defense Department would “try to resolve the questions around LightSquared with testing in just 90 days.”
Those points did not appear in Shelton’s testimony today.
One member of the Obama administration was notable for his absence. Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski, though originally set to speak before the panel, had refused to appear, Turner said in his opening remarks to the hearing.
“I consider the chairman’s failure to show up today to be an affront to the House Armed Services Committee,” said Turner. “It appears to be symptomatic of a disregard by the chairman for the consequences of the FCC’s January 26 waiver to LightSquared.”
“We have not estimated cost,” Shelton told the subcommittee, “however. I think it would be very safe to say that the cost would in the B’s — billions of dollars. We believe that the time would probably be a decade or more to accomplish all this. There are probably a million receivers out there in the military, maybe even more than that.”
Obama’s Big Green Boondoggles
by Michelle Malkin
With the scandalous bankruptcy of Solyndra (a shady California solar power company that received $535 million in stimulus funds and is now under investigation by the FBI) hanging overhead, President Obama wisely whitewashed any mention of “green jobs” out of his latest address to Congress.
But buried in the details of his latest government jobs bill released this week — Spawn of the Spendulus, Porky’s II, Night of the Keynesian Dead — are yet more big green boondoggles that will reward cronies, waste taxpayer dollars and make no dent in the jobless rate.
After pouring half a billion bucks into Solyndra, the company filed for Chapter 11 last month and laid off 1,110 employees. Obama administration officials met with Solyndra execs at least 20 times; the green cheerleader-in-chief personally visited and promoted the company in 2009 before his administration fast-tracked approval for the loans.
Solyndra is now the third solar company to go belly-up this year. Yet the Energy Department is doubling down on failure. As the FBI and House GOP investigators launch a probe into Enron-style accounting problems with Solyndra’s books, DOE is doling out more than $850 million in new loan guarantees for another California solar firm sponsored by NextEra Energy, along with nearly $200 million more for separate solar manufacturing facilities on the West Coast.
Obama claims new “investments” in environmentally friendly school construction projects will put thousands of Americans back to work immediately. (Never mind that Big Labor-backed rules and executive orders will raise the cost of the projects, slow their implementation and freeze out the vast majority of non-union contractors.) Among the new green pork initiatives: $25 billion for green roofs, green cleaning, installation of renewable energy generation and heating systems, and “modernization, renovation, or repair activities related to energy efficiency and renewable energy.”
But how are existing green construction spending programs working in practice?
A brand-new report from Texas Watchdog, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative group, sheds inconvenient light on Obama’s $5 billion stimulus-funded Weatherization Assistance Program. In Texas alone, the $327 million program has spent more than $226,000 on each of the 1,041 jobs the program is claimed to have created or saved.
Intended to “green” low-income homes, at least three of the original participating organizations have been shut down due to chronic mismanagement, fraud allegations and shoddy workmanship. Baylor University economist Earl Grinols summed up: “First, it is not an appropriate government function to provide weatherization of private homes. Second, even viewed as a stimulus measure, it is not very effective as a stimulus based on cost-per-job, and third, it appears not to be well-managed.”
Nearly 31 months after Porkulus One was signed, the Texas housing agency still hasn’t spent $91.6 million in allocated weatherization/green construction funds. Millions cannot be accounted for by auditors and inspectors.
Now, multiply that by 49 other states. A review of the weatherization boondoggle last year revealed state-trained workers were flubbing insulation jobs in Indiana, according to the Associated Press. In “Alaska, Wyoming and the District of Columbia, the program (had) yet to produce a single job or retrofit one home. And in California, a state with nearly 37 million residents, the program at last count had created 84 jobs.”
The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney, a vigilant chronicler of green subsidies, notes that time and again, it’s Obama insiders and Democratic operatives pocketing all the green while the unemployment hovers at double-digits. To wit: “Al Gore acolyte Cathy Zoi was Obama’s assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy while her husband was an executive at a company that received direct subsidies from the Obama administration and profited from the Cash-for-Caulkers bill Zoi’s division implemented.” Treasury Department Chief of Staff Mark Patterson lobbied for Goldman Sachs on ethanol subsidies while holding down his job in the administration. And last year, another Obama pet project — Illinois-based FutureGen, a near-zero emissions coal power plant — received a $1 billion stimulus earmark despite having been previously defunded over doubts about the feasibility and efficiency of the project.
An Obama green job trainee with seven certificates, Carlos Arandia, spoke for all non-crony Americans when he asked last fall: “What is the point of giving somebody the tools to do something but to have nowhere to use them?” Perhaps the White House can find a way to weatherize all the Grand Canyon-sized taxpayer sinkholes that “green job” spending has created.