In the course of following the unfolding Solyndra scandal there was one small detail that piqued my suspicions but which I hadn’t had time to chase down further. It concerns the Obama donor and Solyndra investor George Kaiser, who made numerous trips to the White House while the loan guarantee was in process, meeting with senior White House staff.
About what?, you may well ask. Not Solyndra, Kaiser has said. All my White House visits, he claimed, were to discuss his charitable interests, since he has a large foundation.
And journalists have dropped the story at that point. No one has thought to ask the obvious question: since Kaiser’s investment in Solyndra was through his foundation, his answer that his charitable interests were all he talked about at the White House smacks of Clintonian legalism, or perhaps more akin to Alger Hiss’s famous answer to the House committee in 1948 that he had “never known a man by the name of Whittaker Chambers,” which was legally speaking accurate, since Hiss and Chambers went by code names in the Communist underground. It was that answer in particular from Hiss that aroused Richard Nixon’s suspicion that Hiss was lying, when everyone else thought Hiss had vindicated himself. If Kaiser ever appears before a congressional committee—or a grand jury—he should certainly be pressed about whether the “charitable activities” discussed at the White House included his foundation’s investment in Solyndra.
Scott Walter has some of the details about Kaiser’s slippery self-dealings in Philanthropy Daily:
It turns out that the “George Kaiser Family Foundation” isn’t exactly a foundation as conventionally understood. Legally speaking, it’s not a “private nonoperating foundation” like, say, the Ford Foundation or the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Instead, it’s a “supporting organization” of the Tulsa Community Foundation.
That fact has several consequences:
– George Kaiser can use a much higher proportion of his donations to lower his personal income tax bill.
– The Kaiser Foundation can own big chunks of for-profit companies like Solyndra, whereas it’s not clear a standard foundation could legally do so.
– Unlike standard foundations, the Kaiser Foundation has no legal requirement to give away at least 5 percent of its assets every year (and so far it hasn’t come close to giving that much away – in 2009, the last year for which figures are available, it contributed just over 1 percent to charities).
And then there’s this from Kaiser, from a speech he gave in July 2009 in Tulsa:
“There’s never been more money shoved out of the government’s door in world history and probably never will be again than in the last few months and the next 18 months, and our selfish, parochial goal is to get as much of it for Tulsa and Oklahoma as we possibly can.”
Nice. I think I might just change my mind about Obama’s attitude toward billionaires. Or at least the rapacious ones who support him.