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Friday, September 16, 2011

Act Two of Solargate

“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men.” — John Adams

As the Solyndra scandal begins to draw nationwide attention and those in the White House that pushed the $535 million dollar government backed loan begin to squirm another scandal with direct ties to the Obama administration is beginning to surface. This latest scandal involves a company based in Virginia, an air force general, and our global positioning system.

With the White House already reeling over the Solyndra collapse, a new scandal may have erupted today that could make the disappearance of $535 million in taxpayer funds look like a paperwork glitch. Eli Lake starts off his new gig at The Daily Beast with a huge bombshell — an accusation made to members of Congress from a four-star Air Force general that claimed the White House pressured him to change his testimony to boost a big donor to the Democratic Party:

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 Whiteshelton-william 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.”

As Eli explains, it’s not unusual to distribute prepared Congressional testimony in draft form to other related agencies before giving the testimony. The review gives everyone a chance to make sure that the facts are correct and the testimony is as accurate as possible. But sending Shelton’s testimony to LightSquared would raise big red flags on its own — let alone the accusation that the White House attempted to dictate Shelton’s testimony to benefit LightSquared and their big donor.

Rep. Mike Turner told Eli that this was definitely an attempt to influence Shelton, bias his testimony, and essentially mislead Congress. And that has a watchdog organization drawing parallels between Shelton’s accusation and the Solyndra collapse:

“Melanie Sloan, who runs the nonpartisan ethics groups Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the emerging allegations about possible White House involvement in LightSquared’s matter seemed to mirror earlier allegations in the Solyndra case.

“With this new set of facts, it starts to sound like a pattern of the White House improperly pressuring people at agencies involving decisions that affect companies tied to donors and fundraisers,” Sloan said. “It’s always a problem when the White House is pressuring anyone’s testimony. I don’t care if you are a four-star [general] or a GS-15 [career employee], you should be giving your true opinion and not an opinion the White House is seeking for political expediency.”

This brewing scandal has also been reported in the Wall Street Journal and on Fox News. According to the Fox report:

The Virginia-based satellite and broadband communications company has plans to build a nationwide, next-generation, 4G phone network that many, including Shelton, think would seriously hinder the effectiveness of high-precision GPS receiver systems, a product used most commonly by the United States military.

A source familiar with the technology told Fox News that the LightSquared spectrum would be 5 billion times stronger than the military's GPS system, rendering the military's system almost useless.

“Imagine trying to have a telephone conversation while your neighbors are hosting a rock concert,” the source told Fox News. “That’s the situation the military is facing.”

Shelton, in testimony Thursday before a House Armed Services subcommittee, refused to suggest that interference problems could be mitigated, as he allegedly was being pressured to say.

Military training that relies on precision GPS, such as dropping ordnance, potentially could cease to exist in the United States. Many farmers who also rely on the systems would also be affected. It's estimated this system is used by as many as 1 million people.”

A House Armed Services Committee staff member confirmed to Fox News that when asked whether he was pressured to change public testimony he had prepared to for the hearing Thursday, Gen. Shelton said he was "being asked to say things he didn't agree with."

It's unclear who exactly pressured Shelton, but it's possible the culprits are in White House, Department of Defense or the Office of Management and Budget, which each approve military testimony prepared for Congress. The House staff member also told Fox News a copy of Shelton’s prepared testimony was leaked to LightSquared.”

The company also defended its work.

“We understand that some in the telecom sector fear the challenges for their business model that LightSquared presents. It’s also ludicrous to suggest LightSquared’s success depends on political connections. This is a private company that has never taken one dollar in taxpayer money,” chief executive Sanjiv Ahuja said in a statement quoted by the Post.

At the House subcommittee hearing Thursday, which focused on strategic forces and sustaining GPS for national security, Republican Chairman Michael Turner lashed out at the Obama administration for its acceptance of LightSquared proposals. He took aim at FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a longtime basketball buddy of President Obama, for not showing up at the hearing and for granting a waiver to LightSquared on Jan. 26.

"I trust Chairman Genachowski is doing something very important this morning if he couldn't be here to discuss the significant harm to national security that may result from the FCC's action,” Turner said.”

Quite frankly, this would be a lot more blatant and much more troubling. If the White House has been leaning on the military to mislead Congress in order to benefit Democratic donors. That indicates a whole new level of corruption, one that could seriously damage the non-partisan nature of civilian control of the military. If Shelton sticks to this accusation, then Congress needs to hold immediate hearings into who exactly pressured Shelton — and from whom that person took his or her orders.

Like Watergate and so many other scandals connected to the White House the Solyndra debacle will grow as more and more mid-level White House bureaucrats begin blowing the whistle in order to save their own skins. Fox News reported today that At least four other companies have received stimulus funding only to later file for bankruptcy, and two of those were working on alternative energy.

“Solyndra, the solar panel company whose highly publicized failure and consequent investigation by federal authorities has flashed across headlines recently, isn't the only business to go belly up after benefiting from a piece of the $800 billion economic stimulus package passed in 2009. “

Evergreen Solar Inc., indirectly received $5.3 million through a state grant to open a $450 million facility in 2007 that employed roughly 800 people. The company, once a rock star in the solar industry, filed for bankruptcy protection last month, saying it couldn't compete with Chinese rivals without reorganizing. The company intends to focus on building up its manufacturing facility in China.

SpectraWatt, based in Hopewell Junction, N.Y., is also a solar cell company that was spun out of Intel in 2008. In June 2009, SpectraWatt received a $500,000 grant from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as part of the stimulus package. SpectraWatt was one of 13 companies to receive the money to help develop ways to improve solar cells without changing current manufacturing processes.

The company filed for bankruptcy last month, saying it could not compete with its Chinese competitors, which receive "considerable government and financial support."

On Tuesday, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman wrote an editorial for "USA Today" in which he blamed China in part for the failure of U.S. solar energy manufacturers to compete. “

Democratic strategist James Carville has just one word of advice for President Barack Obama: panic.

Carville said Tuesday’s two special election results are a warning to the White House – and a sign the president must make drastic changes now to stave off the Republican momentum. It’s time to panic, he wrote.

Carville said Democrats are “past sending out talking points” and said he would tell the president, “The time has come to demand a plan of action that requires a complete change from the direction you are headed.”

Carville’s advice: “Fire. Indict. Fight.”

Obama must fire someone – “No – fire a lot of people” — because the current team is just not working, Carville wrote.

No, the current team is not working and that includes the coach. Barack Obama has brought his Chicago community organizing tactics to the White House along with some very inept ideologues. People Van Jones, Valerie Jarred, Cass Sunstein and his wife Samantha Power (the person behind Obama’s intervention in Libya), Timothy Geithner, and Eric Holder.

With his disapproval rating dropping to 40% Obama is approaching the point of no return for incumbent presidents who could not be reelected. This is what Carville and his Democrat buddies fear. If Obama goes down so will they.

While all politics are local there are some exceptions. One of those exceptions is the President of the United States. Representatives and Senators will begin avoiding any association with Obama in fear of being tagged with his policies, ineptness, and corruption. Scandals like Fast and Furious, Solyndra, and the wasteful use of his stimulus programs will become millstones around Democrats necks in 2012. The latest special elections in NY-9 and Reno were just two more of death by a thousand cuts that began with the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts.

In 1968 Lyndon Johnson became so unpopular due to the Vietnam War he was confined to giving speeches on military bases. Yesterday Barack Obama gave a jobs and class warfare speech at North Carolina State University. He was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of college students who cheered wildly at his class warfare remarks and his request for love. Just one day earlier Obama made a similar pitch at Fort Hayes Arts and Academics High School in Columbus, Ohio. Will Obama be confined to campaigning at college and high school campuses for the next thirteen months as the scandals grow, unemployment remains stuck above 9%, and his popularity continues to wane?

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