FBI agents raided the California headquarters of solar-panel maker Solyndra on Thursday, magnifying the Obama administration's embarrassment over $535 million in loan guarantees the now-bankrupt company received as part of Obama's push to create green jobs. Also plaguing the president: News that one of Solyndra's main investors, billionaire Obama fundraiser George Kaiser, had visited White House aides 16 times since 2004, suggesting that Kaiser may have tried to leverage his influence with Team Obama to win favors for his company. How damaging will this saga be to Obama — and to the alternative energy industry? Here, three theories:
1. The raid further discredits Obama and his green-jobs push
"This raid couldn't have come at a worse moment for the administration," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. A federal bust on Obama's "pet green-tech company" on the very day when Obama was pitching his jobs plan to Congress? Ouch. And the Kaiser connection stinks of cronyism. But remember, "if this raid turns up any official corruption... this moment will look like a Sunday afternoon on a Martha's Vineyard golf course" compared to what's coming next.
2. And exposes the danger of playing favorites with tax dollars
"While the government has always played a big role in fostering new industries from the railroads to alternative power," says Steve Gelsi at MarketWatch, "the saga around Solyndra exposes the risks [in] awarding loan guarantees to specific companies." It's possible that the FBI and Energy Department, who've teamed up on the probe, are fishing for evidence of wrongdoing to take "political heat" off the Obama administration.
3. But Solyndra's problems shouldn't be generalized to an entire industry
The FBI's involvement only proves Solyndra is a special, possibly criminal, case, says Eric Wesoff at Greentech Media. It doesn't reflect on the work of other green companies, such as SolarCity and First Solar, that continue "leading the charge to get solar power on the United States grid at a competitive price." Short of a letter from Obama to Kaiser thanking him for his campaign contributions and promising loans in return, Solyndra is no reflection on Obama, either. It's just a meaningless "distraction."