It’s been a bad week for the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Loan program. First, the GAO slammed the program for weak oversight and a lack of performance metrics and professional expertise, and now the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News are unwinding a web of patronage that appears to be taking advantage of the program’s many shortcomings.
The investigation centers around Steve Westly, a fundraiser who “bundled” half a million dollars in donations to the Obama campaign, only to be given a spot on the DOE’s Energy Advisory Committee. From there, the CPI report alleges, Westly was instrumental in acquiring ATVM access for Tesla, a company that Westly sat on the board of from March 2007 until December 2009. Loans were given to Tesla when Westly was still serving on the board, and his firm, The Westly Group, has made millions on the sale of Tesla stock since the firm’s IPO. And it seems that most of the DOE loan recipients have some kind of connection to one Obama fundraiser or another, like John Doerr, who backs Fisker, another ATVM loan recipient. Meanwhile, smaller firms allege that their requests for loans were simply ignored, and with the GAO knocking the program for treating applicants “inconsistently,” it seems that some kind of favoritism is afoot. But then, isn’t that how Washington works?