The Washington Post today reported at length on former Vice President Al Gore's investments in clean energy companies, but in lending credence to cronyism claims from Republicans, the Post ignored that Gore said he donated “every penny” he made on green investments to his nonprofit organization and exaggerated the amount of stimulus money available to the clean energy firms Gore invested in.
In a front-page article, the Post cited a 2009 exchange between Gore and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) during testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee:
One of the rare times Gore addressed the questions, at a congressional hearing in 2009, Republicans had suggested that Obama's agenda appeared destined to help him become the nation's first “carbon billionaire.”
Gore bristled when Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) asked if he stood to profit from his investments and political connections.
“I believe that the transition to a green economy is good for our economy and good for all of us, and I have invested in it,” he said. “And, congresswoman, if you believe that the reason I have been working on this issue for 30 years is because of greed, you don't know me.”
BLACKBURN: So you're a partner in Kleiner Perkins. OK. Now, they have invested about a billion dollars in 40 companies that are going to benefit from cap-and-trade legislation. So is the legislation that we are discussing here today, is that something that you are going to personally benefit from?
GORE: I believe that the transition to a green economy is good for our economy and good for all of us, and I have invested in it. But every penny that I have made, I have put right into a nonprofit, the Alliance for Climate Protection, to spread awareness of why we have to take on this challenge.
And Congresswoman, if you're -- if you believe that the reason I have been working on this issue for 30 years is because of greed, you don't know me.
The Post's cropped quote left out crucial context for their readers, and mirrored the selective editing that O'Reilly Factor guest host Laura Ingraham used in 2009.
The Post also tied Gore's investments to Mitt Romney's misleading claim in the first presidential debate that the Obama administration spent "$90 billion" on clean energy in a process that was marred by favoritism:
In building his new career, Gore's name has become ensnared in a broader criticism from Republicans, who put him among political allies they say the Obama administration has unjustly enriched with stimulus and clean-energy funding.
In last week's presidential debate, Romney criticized the $90 billion that went to promote green technology, saying a number of businesses owned by Obama campaign contributors were winners.
Gore's investments coincided with the government's largest investment in clean tech. A full 10 percent, estimated at $80 billion to $90 billion, of the 2009 stimulus package was devoted to clean energy.
Like thousands of other companies, those Gore invested in entered the competition for a piece of the pie.
But as fact-checkers quickly pointed out after the debate, the $90 billion went to “government investment and tax incentives” for many energy projects, not only “to promote green technology.” Nearly one-third of the money was for energy efficiency measures, including retrofits in low-income neighborhoods, and another $10 billion went to electricity grid modernization. The Post itself noted that “not all” of the $90 billion went to green energy -- “About $23 billion went toward 'clean coal,' energy-efficiency upgrades, updating the electricity grid and environmental clean-up, largely for old nuclear weapons sites.”
The Post also uncritically repeated the claim that “a number of businesses owned by Obama campaign contributors were winners,” ignoring the fact that an extensive investigation by House Republicans found no evidence of wrongdoing in the awarding of Department of Energy loan guarantees, and some prominent investors contributed to Republicans. Reporter Carol Leonnig's focus on the political ties of clean energy loan and grant recipients is not new. In reporting on the political battle over Solyndra's bankruptcy, Leonnig focused on Obama fundraiser George Kaiser, whose charity owned a large percentage of Solyndra (the second largest investor was Madrone Capital, a firm associated with major Republican donors). But the articles often ignored the purpose of the loan guarantee program -- to address the market failures that hamper the deployment of clean energy -- and the money budgeted by Congress to cover for losses.