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CAGW Names Energy Sec. Steven Chu 2011 Porker of the Year

image(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) announced the results of its online poll for the 2011 Porker of the Year.  Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu won with 43 percent of the vote.  Second place went to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) with 27 percent, and third-place honors were awarded to Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon with 16 percent.  Honorable mentions go out to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis.

Sec. Chu’s weak oversight of DOE’s loan guarantee program (LGP) resulted in huge losses to taxpayers when solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, the recipient of a $535 million loan guarantee, filed for bankruptcy in September, 2011.  Solyndra was granted the $535 million loan through a green energy technology section of the LGP, which received a massive increase in funding on the 2009 stimulus package.  The LGP program itself has been the subject of three Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports since its inception, all detailing its management weaknesses, arbitrary selection process, and vulnerabilities to manipulation and politicization.

To make matters worse, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that Solyndra’s former employees qualify for federal aid packages worth $13,000 each under DOL’s Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, which compensates and retrains American workers who can prove that their jobs were lost as a result of foreign competition.  The TAA benefits far exceed normal unemployment benefits.  The DOL granted TAA to Solyndra’s employees by accepting the company’s claim that it went belly up as a result of unfair competition by Chinese solar panel manufacturers, rather than from mismanagement by company executives.

Unfortunately, Solyndra was not Sec. Chu’s and DOE’s only ill-fated LGP recipient.  Beacon Power and Evergreen, Inc., both of Massachusetts, along with Ener1 of Delaware and SpectraWatt of Oregon, have filed for bankruptcy after receiving DOE loan guarantees.  In addition, Fisker Automotive, which was awarded a $529 million loan guarantee, announced layoffs at its Delaware plant after the government halted payments due to “delays” in its production schedule.  A July, 2010 GAO report concluded that the LGP lacked clear goals and failed to hold all applicants to the same standards.  GAO said that the LGP “has treated applicants inconsistently, favoring some and disadvantaging others,” and that “some applicants … receive conditional commitments before incurring expenses that other applicants had to pay.  It is unclear how DOE could have sufficient information to negotiate conditional commitments without such reviews.”

“Sec. Chu dismissed numerous warning signs that the LGP was a ticking time bomb,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz.  “The dramatic program expansion in 2009 and the continued funneling of taxpayer dollars toward poor investments reeks of poor management and crony capitalism, since Solyndra’s major investors were among the President’s largest campaign donors.  If this is the Obama administration’s idea of how America can ‘invest’ in its economic recovery, taxpayers would much rather keep the money and do it themselves.”

For acting as if winning a Nobel Prize in physics also magically confers the title of venture capitalist, and for frittering away taxpayers’ hard-earned money, DOE Sec. Steven Chu is CAGW’s 2011 Porker of the Year.

Citizens Against Government Waste is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.  Porker of the Year is a dubious honor given to a lawmaker, government official, or political candidate who has shown the most blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers throughout the year.

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Countdown to DesertXpress begins

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March 28, 2011

States and regions across the country are working tirelessly to realize President Obama’s vision for American high-speed rail.  And on Friday, I had the pleasure of joining Nevada Senator Harry Reid to announce that construction on the DesertXpress corridor between Las Vegas and Southern California will soon get underway.

The DesertXpress project cleared a major hurdle last Friday when the Federal Railroad Administration released its final environmental impact statement.

DesertXpress promises travel times of 85 minutes between Victorville, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada.  This cuts the existing drive–three hours under the best conditions and nearly twice as long in traffic–in half.  Sitting in congestion for four, five and even six hours along I-15 is especially brutal for travelers paying sky high gas prices.

But high-speed rail means much more than a shorter trip from California to Las Vegas.  It means jobs, and it means reinvigorated American manufacturing.

Already, 30 rail companies from around the world have pledged that, if they’re selected for high-speed rail contracts, they will hire American workers and expand their bases of operations in the United States.  And the administration’s 100 percent “Buy America” requirement will generate a powerful ripple effect throughout the supply chain.

Just think about the possibility.  Factory workers building electric-powered trains.  Engineers laying new track.  Conductors, operators and ticket-takers helping passengers speed to their destinations.  Americans of every trade advancing down the track to a better future.

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And those are just the direct ripple-effects.  High-speed rail also means economic development.  As Nevada Senator Harry Reid said:

“This announcement brings us one small step away from tens of thousands of new jobs not only through the project’s construction, but by boosting our tourism.  This line will connect tourists from southern California to our state’s great attractions like the Las Vegas Strip and the Hoover Dam. This announcement is excellent news for our state’s economic recovery.”

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With US Senator Harry Reid announcing the DesertXpress EIS release

DesertXpress will give people a safe, convenient transportation alternative to the notoriously congested I-15.   And in a time of enormous economic challenge, it will create quality jobs.

This is the promise high-speed rail offers communities across the country.  This is how America wins the future.

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