Throw It All Out: Schweizer's DOE Claims Rest On Bad Math

In his new book Throw Them All Out, conservative author and Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer accuses the Department of Energy (DOE) of directing funds “to friends, cronies, and supporters” of President Obama. However, the claim relies on faulty math, and many of the individuals that Schweizer identifies as Obama supporters have also donated to Republicans.

Schweizer Gets His Numbers Wrong

Schweizer Claims 80 Percent Of Section 1705 Loans Went To Companies Run Or Owned By “Obama Financial Backers.” Schweizer states that “In the 1705 government-backed loan program, for example, $16.4 billion of the $20.5 billion in loans granted went to companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers,” a category that he said included “large donors to the Democratic Party.” [Throw Them All Out, 79-80][Newsweek, 11/12/11]

17 Of The 25 Companies That Schweizer Identifies Did Not Receive 1705 Loan Guarantees. Schweizer provides a list of individuals with ties to companies he claims received $16.4 billion through the 1705 loan guarantee program. But a closer look at that list reveals that only 8 of the 25 “politically connected” companies Schweizer lists actually received loan guarantees through the 1705 program. Six others received grants from the Department of Energy, four received conditional commitments but ultimately did not receive a loan guarantee (Schweizer noted that his information was “as of September 15”), two received loans under the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, one received a loan guarantee from the Department of Agriculture, and two received grants from the Treasury Department.* When Schweizer states that "$16.4 billion of the $20.5 billion" went to companies with ties to Obama financial backers, it is not clear what the $20.5 billion figure refers to. The total size of the separate programs from which he draws his examples would be much higher. [Department of Energy, accessed 11/17/11]

Schweizer Invents Loan To Wind Farm. One project on the list -- the Beech Ridge Energy Wind Farm -- does not appear to have received any DOE funds, despite Schweizer's claim that the company “pulled in another $68 million in taxpayer money.” A search of Google, Nexis, the Department of Energy's website and turns up no such loan or grant. Schweizer's citation goes to a Business Insider article featuring a slideshow of Invenergy CEO Michael Polsky's house, without mention of the wind project. [Business Insider, 9/27/10]

Schweizer Overstates Size Of Federal Aid To Some Companies. Schweizer claims that Summit Texas Clean Energy received $1.5 billion in federal funds. In reality, DOE will contribute $450 million out of a total project cost of more than $1.7 billion. Schweizer also claims that First Solar received "$4.7 billion in loan guarantees for three solar projects." In fact, these projects received a total of just over $3 billion. [Texas Clean Energy Project, accessed 11/18/11] [The Hill, 10/25/11]

Many Of Schweizer's Alleged Obama Cronies Have Supported Republicans

Schweizer Suggests His List Consisted Of Those Who Had Donated “Exclusively To The Democratic Party.” In Throw Them All Out, Schweizer provides a list of what he says are “Obama Bundlers, Large Donors, and Supporters” who are connected to companies that received DOE assistance. He also states:

In the 1705 government-backed loan program, for example, $16.4 billion of the $20.5 billion in loans granted went to companies either run by or primarily owned by Obama financial backers - individuals who were bundlers, members of Obama's National Finance Committee, or large donors to the Democratic Party. The grant and guaranteed loan recipients were early backers of Obama, before he ran for President, people who continued to give to his campaigns and exclusively to the Democratic Party in the years leading up to 2008. [Throw Them All Out, 79-80, emphasis added, in-text citations removed for clarity]

Schweizer Identifies A Former Bush Bundler As An “Obama Financial Backer.” Schweizer writes that the founder of Madison Dearborn Partners, which owns part of First Wind, “gave heavily to Obama” in 2008. Schweizer repeatedly refers to him as David Canning, but is apparently referring to John Canning, a co-founder of MDP. As Schweizer notes, Canning “had been a bundler for George W. Bush.” But according to Schweizer, “he switched sides in 2008.” In fact, John Canning continues to give primarily to Republicans, although he has donated to both parties. Canning gave $2,300 each to Obama and Mitt Romney during the presidential primaries; he was not a bundler for Obama. Canning has also given to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee. [MDP, accessed 11/18/11] [OpenSecrets, accessed 11/18/11]

Tesla Founder Donated To George W. Bush And Several Republican Candidates. Schweizer highlighted the founder of Tesla Motors as an example of an “Obama financial backer” that received federal funding, saying “Telsa founder Elon Musk was a major DNC contributor and in 2011 donated $35,800 to the Obama Victory Fund.” But Musk has given $785,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee since 2007. He has also donated to a number of Republican candidates, including David Vitter, Denny Hastert, Kevin McCarthy, Scott Brown, and John Hoeven, and to the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2003. [, accessed 11/18/11] [OpenSecrets, accessed 11/18/11]

Coskata Investor Has Supported Both Parties. Schweizer writes that “billionaire Vinod Khosla was also a big winner in the taxpayer-funded giveaway” and noted his role in the Obama campaign and that he “contributed to Democratic candidates.” But Khosla has also donated to Orrin Hatch, Dick Lugar, John Sununu and the RNC. During the 2008 presidential race, Khosla donated to John McCain as well as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. [, accessed 11/18/11]

Fisker Investor Never Donated To Obama. Schweizer writes that Fisker investor “John Doerr was one of the biggest winners in the taxpayer sweepstakes” and noted that he has donated “almost $2 million to Democrats.” But while making the case that Doerr is an Obama crony, Schweizer neglected to mention that Doerr has never donated to Obama, according to FEC records. [, accessed 11/18/11]

Summit Power Executive Has Donated To Republicans And Democrats. Schweizer identifies Eric Redman, President of Summit Power, as “a major DNC donor.” Redman has also donated to Republicans Mike Huckabee, Dino Rossi, and Raul Labrador. [, accessed 11/18/11]

First Solar Investor Has Contributed To Several Republicans. Schweizer identifies “billionare investor Paul Tudor Jones” as “another Obama bundler [who] also owns a stake in First Solar.” Jones has also donated to Republicans John Boehner, Rudy Giuliani, Saxby Chambliss, Bob Goodlatte, and Jonathan Golnik. [, accessed 11/18/11]

This post originally incorrectly said that five projects received conditional commitments but ultimately did not receive a loan guarantee, and one project received a grant from the Treasury Department. It has been updated with the corrected information. Media Matters regrets the error.