Center for American Progress: How Corruption Works

This a portion of a much longer article entitled “Podesta Power and Center for American Progress: The dark, driving force behind the president’s massive green energy scheme“, published on March 3, 2014 by Christine Lakatos

2014 began with a bang: “Obama’s Second Term Is All About Climate Change.” New York Magazine, in their reporting, claimed that the evidence of this has to do with President Obama’s appointment of John Kerry (“longtime climate obsessive”) as Secretary of State, as well as other key green appointees.

Podesta Power
John Podesta

John Podesta

Over the course of unleashing this scandal, I’ve hinted that CAP is a dark, driving force behind President Obama’s massive green energy scheme –– roles that range from legitimate to shady lobbying practices, to the fact that numerous CAP “fellows” were at the helm of the green energy deal making, holding key positions inside the Obama White House, his Green Team, and his Energy Department.

Today’s Green Corruption File will connect the dots as to Center for American Progress’ part in this scam, while shedding light on old and new data. As I progress, I’ll expose its alternative energy advocacy as well as its funders –– corporate donors that were kept secret until their release in late 2013 –– with those in the renewable energy business (at least 17) cashing in at the Green Bank of Obama.

Let’s go back in time when Podesta –– former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton –– was infamous for what is dubbed “Project Podesta“: “This was a system that enabled the Clintons to push through unpopular policies that neither Congress nor the American people wanted. Its implementation marked a dramatic tilt in the balance of power, giving the executive branch an unprecedented ability to force its will on the legislative branch,” documented DiscoverTheNetworks.com.

Most know that in 2003, Podesta founded CAP, which as mentioned, is organization funded by billionaire George Soros, who has a massive footprint inside this green corruption scandal. He then served as the organization’s president and CEO, of which it was reported, “Podesta was hand-picked for the job by CAP co-founders Soros and Morton H. Halperin.”

In 2008 and early 2009, Podesta, an Obama bundler, while still at CAP, ran Obama’s transition team as the co-chair along side Valerie Jarrett and Peter Rouse. Meanwhile by 2011, Podesta stepped down from his CEO role and became the Chair of CAP and the CAP Action Fund –– only to leave CAP and join the White House at the end of 2013 in his new role as Obama’s “executive power czar.”

But if you go back to right after the Republican 2010-midterm victory, Podesta already had a plan: “The president should bypass Congress and wield the executive powers of his office,” reported Bloomberg last December. In fact, “Podesta had compiled 47 pages of proposals for unilateral action on issues from immigration to solar energy.” Podesta even wrote the foreword for that CAP report “on how the president could use his executive authority to advance a progressive agenda, including actions to unilaterally force the U.S. economy to become greener.”

Furthermore, Podesta has served as an Independent Advisory Council member of the notoriously corrupt community organization ACORN
. Podesta was also on the board of the Apollo Alliance as late as 2011. While I’ve unleashed the Apollo Alliance (now BlueGreen Alliance) and their part inside this massive clean-energy scam, I’ll briefly touch upon them again today. But what’s key here is that Apollo is another Soros-funded left-wing organization, who along with its “green jobs radical network,” exerts powerful influence on the views and policies of the Obama administration –– and they too were involved in drafting the 2009-Recovery Act.

CAP’s Left-wing Billionaire George Soros: Obama’s “agent of green”

Meanwhile, Soros is one of the 2009 stimulus authors that I had covered in October 2013: Those individuals and groups that were involved in crafting the clean-energy sector of the 2009 Recovery Act, and who ultimately financially benefited directly (and/or their invested firms, family or friends) from the $100 billion that was earmarked for renewable energy.

According to Peter Schweizer’s blockbuster 2011 bestseller Throw Them All Out:

Billionaire George Soros gave advice and direction on how President Obama should allocate so-called “stimulus” money in a series of regular private meetings and consultations with White House senior advisers even as Soros was making investments in areas affected by the stimulus program.

While we know that early on, Soros had visited the White House on at least five occasions since Barack Obama became president, possibly more, Schweizer gives specifics, “Mr. Soros met with Mr. Obama’s top economist, [Larry Summers –– also a CAP fellow] on February 25, 2009 and twice more with senior officials in the Old Executive Office Building on March 24th and 25th as the stimulus plan was being crafted. Later, Mr. Soros also participated in discussions on financial reform.”

As documented by Schweizer, “In the first quarter of 2009, Mr. Soros went on a stock-buying spree in companies that ultimately benefited from the federal stimulus,” including twelve alternative energy and utility companies. Moreover, if we add in other Soros green energy investments that bagged “green” funds, we can confirm that this Soros is connected to at least $11 billion from the Green Bank of Obama, the majority from the 2009-Recovery Act.

Due to the fact that Soros is a well-known donor to CAP, I have personally tracked more on George Soros here, exposing how this left-wing billionaire not only bankrolled Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, but cashed in on the stimulus bill that he helped craft. Interestingly, four of these companies are also CAP corporate donors (marked with an asterisks), which will be detailed later.

Major Soros Green Corporate Investments
  • Brookfield Asset Management (BAM): As documented in the March 20, 2012 House Oversight report on the DOE’s disastrous loan program, “George Soros and Martin J. Whitman, both prominent Democratic donors, are both heavily invested in Brookfield.” In September 2011, The Granite Reliable wind project was awarded $168.9 stimulus loan, which is owned BAM. Then on May 23, 2012, they also snagged a $56 million 1603 stimulus grant for “wind in New Hampshire.” While there are additional ties to this wind deal that I’ll highlight later when I get to Heather Podesta (super lobbyists sister-in-law of John Podesta), whose firm Heather Podesta & Partners, from 2009 until 2012, served as lobbyists for BAM.
  • First Solar*: Through various funds, and as early as 2007, Soros invested in First Solar –– the big solar company that is tied to $3 billion of the 1703 DOE stimulus loans, including one project that was sold to NRG Energy –– another Soros timely investment.
  • SolarCity: In February 2012, the Private equity firm Silver Lake Kraftwerk invested in SolarCity –– whereas in early 2011, Silver Lake had launched a clean energy fund in collaboration with billionaire Soros and Cathy Zoi (former DOE Insider). SolarCity,which will be detailed later, so far (and since 2009) has been subsidized with “green” through various stimulus funds, grants and federal tax breaks at the tune of $514 million.
Soros’ Twelve “Stimulus” Green Energy Stock-Buying Spree:
  1. NRG Energy and its subsidiaries: Initially won $5.2 billion in 1705 stimulus loans for four projects and at least 65 grants that total over $363 million of taxpayer money with 37 unaccounted for. Plus much more green energy funds through various alliances.
  2. American Electric Power (AEP)*: at least four stimulus grants totaling $740 million. Plus, more detailed later.
  3. Ameren: five stimulus grants totaling about $672.5 million
  4. FirstEnergy Solutions: at least two stimulus grants totaling just over $71 million. No cash that I could find for BioFuel Energy benefited when the EPA announced a regulation on ethanol.
  5. Constellation*, an Exelon Company: at least one grant worth $200 million stimulus grants and Constellation is one of the most prolific providers of green energy to federally owned facilities.
  6. Covanta Energy*: Covanta is a solid waste management company. Unclear as to how many green government subsidies or the exact dollar amount, but obviously Covanta stands to benefit from the NAT GAS Act if it comes to light again. And what about those Congressional earmarks Schweizer found?
  7. Edison International: at least two stimulus grants worth $64.6 million, and I’m sure there are more…
  8. Entergy: I’ve only tracked two small stimulus grants, which add up to close to $10 million
  9. PPL Corporation: I found one stimulus grant at $19 million
  10. PSEG: one stimulus grant for $76 million.
  11. Powerspan Clean Energy Technology: one large stimulus grant worth $100 million
Mr. & Mrs. Podesta the Super Lobbyists: Strike “green” gold

Tony and Heather Podesta

In my June 2013 Green Corruption File, I briefly addressed John Podesta, but more so profiled his brother, Tony Podesta –– dubbed “The Lobbyist” by Newsweek, and the founder and Chairman at the Podesta Group, which he started with his brother John in 1987.

Even though news hit in early 2013, that Heather and Tony Podesta, the married super lobbyists separated, they are both (via different firms) tied to numerous Obama-backed clean-energy deals.

As documented by the Center for Responsive Politics, you’ll find that the Podesta Group‘s lobbying income went from $16,070,000 in 2008 to $25,780,000 in 2009, and has since significantly increased. Their client lists (past and present) includes large corporations such as Bank of America, BP America, and General Electric (GE aviation), General Motors, and Google (Computers/Internet) –– all in the green energy business, with BofA, GE and Google also CAP donors that won green energy funds from the Obama administration.

CH2M Hill

Nevertheless, there are quite a few others, of which in 2009, the Podesta Group took on as clients that stand out –– those that ultimately won a significant amount of stimulus funds, starting with CH2M Hill that received $1.3 billion for the clean up at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The details on this special stimulus earmark can be found in my June 2013 “Nuclear Crimes and Misdemeanors” story, which highlights not only the cronyism and corruption, but the fact that in June 2013, CBS News reported that this costly project has been plagued with problems, “delays and billions over budget.”

SolarReserve

SolarReserve got special treatment from the Department of Interior (DOI) for their Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project located in Tonopah, Nevada, which received a $737 million DOE stimulus loan. SolarReserve also snagged stimulus grants, yet the amount is unknown. This large DOE deal (another non-grade investment) was announced on May 19, 2011, and despite those inside the Energy Department that wanted to “kill the transaction,” it was finalized on September 28, 2011. Along the way, it included “relentless assistance” by the Majority Leader Harry Reid as well as some drama. Not to mention, SolarReserve, a predominately Democrat donor, executives had given to Reid’s campaign since 2008.

Needless to say, there are more SolarReserve investors in the mix that can be found in my November 2013 Green Corruption File: “Underneath Senator Harry Reid’s Clean-Energy Dirt: Career politician directly linked to over $3 billion in green energy stimulus loans.” One of the key connections to this deal is Citigroup, who has been a major investor in Solar Reserve since 2008, which is chronicled in my February 2013 post, “Citigroup’s Massive ‘Green’ Money Machine.” Still, since Citigroup is also a CAP corporate donor, we’ll dig deeper later.

General Motors & the Chevy Volt

General Motors (GM) –– the failed Big Auto company that was bailed out by taxpayers in 2009 –– was a client of the Podesta Group from 2010 until 2012. GM was also a CAP donor in 2011, and a big recipient of stimulus money. Starting in 2009 until recently, they have bagged hundreds of millions of stimulus dollars (I tracked $471.6 million so far) to support the Chevy Volt as well as green car components, of which I’ll get more specific when I dissect CAP’s corporate donors.

Duke Energy

Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric power company, is another CAP corporate donor, which has been a client of the Podesta Group since 2009. What’s interesting here is that Jim Rogers, the chairman of Duke Energy is another Obama donor, and was a major player at the 2012 Democratic convention, as a contributor, creditor, host, and a speaker. Duke Energy won hundreds of millions of green energy money for various projects, which will be detailed later.

Progress Energy

From 2011 to 2012, the Podesta Group added Progress Energy, which in 2009, won a $200 million smart-grid stimulus grant. Progress Energy is a customer of Silver Spring Networks that is a Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins, and Google investment –– all with friends and ties to the Obama White House that will be documented in this and other posts.

SolarCity & SunEdison

Additionally, in 2012, the Podesta Group added SolarCity and SunEdison to its list of clients –– both members of ACORE, the renewable energy lobby powerhouse that helped “design the Department of Energy grant programs that partly offset the loss of tax equity financing arrangements.” This is part of the green corruption story that I chronicled in my post, “The RAT in the Recovery and the Gang of Ten.”

Founded in 2006, SolarCity has a string of connections to the Obama White House that I’ve been tracking and reporting on for some time, including billionaire players that received taxpayer money for other green energy deals, such as Elon Musk, Nicholas J. Pritzker, and George Soros. Throw in other stimulus winners like Al Gore’s firm Generation Investment Management (early investor and major stockholder) as well as Obama’s Wall Street buddies: Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Citigroup. In between, SolarCity has developed partnerships with PG& E, and Google. But before Podesta came along in 2012, SolarCity had been an energy client of top D.C. lobbyist McBee Strategic Consulting, since 2009 –– another major green corruption villain that I in an earlier article.

Nevertheless, Fox News reported in December 2012, when SolarCity was under a federal probe that they had applied for $341 million in grants. However, I found 33 federal stimulus grants from the 1603 Program that were awarded to SolarCity and USB SolarCity Master Tenant in 2011 and 2012, ranging across 15 states, totaling over $92 million more.

According to California Watchdog.org

SolarCity has accepted more than $11 million in federal stimulus funds [from September 2009 to March 2010] to make its business run. But the real public support appears elsewhere. Because SolarCity technically owns the energy systems it installs, SolarCity — not the homeowner — earns the federal tax break intended as an incentive to go solar. So far the company has earned $411 million in such tax breaks. The company also may earn additional income on state subsidies.

Meanwhile, SunEdison, a global provider of solar-energy services, was an early Goldman Sachs clean-energy investment –– Goldman, another CAP donor, and huge winner from the Green Bank of Obama that I’ll get to much later. But we can confirm that SunEdison, in 2013, won 5 federal stimulus grants from the 1603 Program for “solar electricity” that ranges across 5 states, totaling over $1.8 million tax dollars.

Granite Reliable / Brookfield Renewable Power

On the other side, there is Granite Reliable that received a $168.9 million stimulus loan in September 2011 for a wind project in Coos County, New Hampshire. Then on May 23, 2012, they also snagged a $56 million 1603 grant for wind in New Hampshire, which I am assuming is the for the same project. Work on Granite Reliable’s wind farm created 198 construction jobs and six permanent jobs.

Nancy Ann DeParle, President Obama’s former Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy in the White House, had a financial stake in the success of Granite Reliable, due to the fact that she and sat on the Board of Directors for Noble Environmental Power, LLC, which owned Granite Reliable.

Obviously, this is a conflict of interest, but there are additional ties to this wind deal. Noble sold Granite Reliable in December 2010 to Brookfield Asset Management (BAM), just 6 months prior to the conditional approval (June 2011) of the DOE loan guarantee and deep into the application process. Despite the speculative credit rating, this loan was finalized in September 2011.

Not only was Brookfield Renewable Power (a subsidiary of BAM) represented by Citigroup as lead advisor during the loan review process, BAM has additional Democrat ties such as Diana Taylor, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s long-time girlfriend. As mentioned earlier, George Soros and Martin J. Whitman, which are both prominent Democratic donors, are both heavily invested in Brookfield.

But this case directly hits the Podesta family, because from 2009 until 2012, Heather Podesta, sister-in-law of John Podesta, via Heather Podesta & Partners served as lobbyists for BAM –– and they’ve been lobbying on behalf of Brookfield Power (electric utilities), since 2011, raking in over $1.3 million from the two connected groups.

Southern Company

Mrs. Podesta’s firm also represented Southern Co. from 2008 until 2010, raking in over $300,000. This energy giant is part the Vogtle Project, which in February 2010, won a massive DOE loan: “a conditional commitment for $8.33 billion to support the construction of the nation’s next generation of advanced nuclear reactors.” Despite the project’s troubles coupled with harsh criticism, the Obama administration just finalized this DOE deal.

Southern Company –– a heavy hitter lobbyist and big donor to both political parties –– bankrolled President Obama’s 2013 Inauguration. And due to the fact that this was another DOE loan approval that was pressured by the White House (this one in December 2009), further Intel is found in my July 2013 Green Corruption File, “Nuclear Disaster: $10.33 billion in energy loans pressured by the White House and POTUS approved, now at risk.”

Center for American Progress: The “green” pusher

While CAP characterizes itself as “an independent nonpartisan educational institute dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action,” according to left-leaning Huffington Post, they’ve “been a vocal voice for this president’s policies in the media and on the Hill. But their area of highest visibility is advocacy for a clean-energy economy where John Podesta has personally led the effort.”

Of course, as a strong proponent of alternative energy, CAP has also been a big backer of the Energy Department’s huge multi-billion-loan guarantee program for renewable energy projects –– a government program, of which the stimulus law added $16 billion in lending power (the DOE’s “junk bond” and cronyism portfolio), where we find that many of CAP’s corporate donors have cashed in big time.

We also know that according to the Washington Free Beacon, in September 2008, CAP “authored a report titled “Green Recovery: A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy” that included many recommendations ultimately incorporated into President Obama’s controversial $800 billion stimulus package.” But CAP is not done: since the president released his Climate Action Plan in June 2013, CAP continues to pressure for additional action, including, but not limited to, rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline and a call to dole out billions more in renewable energy funds.

CAP, the progressive think tank with deep rooted ties to the Clintons, has been on my radar since 2010, and periodically mentioned throughout my work. As noted already, they are closely aligned with, and have a major foothold inside the Obama White House. This is not limited to the new CAP additions: Denis McDonough, White House Chief of Staff and Obama’s new advisor, John Podesta.

What’s been forgotten is that a squadron of CAP experts worked with President Obama’s transition team, and they have been “reportedly highly influential in helping to craft White House Policy.” In 2008, Edwin Chen of Bloomberg, in his article, “Soros-Funded Democratic Idea Factory Becomes Obama Policy Font,” noted “CAP, which has 180 staffers and a $27 million budget, devotes as much as half of its resources to promoting its ideas through blogs [ThinkProgress and the Wonk Room], events, publications and media outreach.”

In fact CAP boasts of John Podesta’s part: “Podesta served as co-chair of President Barack Obama’s transition, where he coordinated the priorities of the incoming administration’s agenda, oversaw the development of its policies, and spearheaded its appointments of major cabinet secretaries and political appointees.”

In addition to Podesta as the co-chair, “at least 10 other CAP experts” were advising the incoming administration, “including Melody Barnes (Obama bundler), the center’s executive vice president for policy who co-chairs the agency-review working group and Cassandra Butts, the senior vice president for domestic policy, who is now a senior transition staffer,” reported Bloomberg.

What was has not been widely disclosed is CAP’s dark participation, other than their “recommendations,” inside the stimulus package, whereas as noted, $100 billion was earmarked for renewable energy. Hidden deep inside the 1,073-page stimulus bill, which was drafted by the Obama transition team and congressional aides, was a RAT: an attempt to suppress potential investigations, and only a few news outlets caught it in February of 2009: the Washington Post and the Washington Examiner, and completely exposed in my Green Corruption File entitled, “The RAT in the Recovery and the Gang of Ten.”

Entitled the Obama-Biden Transition Project, it employed approximately 400 people and it was comprised of Obama bundlers and campaign contributors as well as lobbyist and those that operate inside Washington’s egregious revolving door. What’s more fascinating to point out is that according to the Center for Responsive Politics, “Members of Barack Obama’s presidential transition team weren’t necessarily selected solely on their resumes and expertise — some may have scored positions over similarly qualified individuals because they supported the president-elect by bundling money for his presidential campaign or opening their own wallets to him.”