Human Events Blog

GSA Report: Obama Administration broke stimulus rules to buy Chinese solar panels

Last week, the Washington Times published an eye-opening report about a previously unnoticed memo from the Inspector General of the General Services Administration, who in July 2011 raised some questions about the solar panels that had been installed atop the Senator Paul Simon Federal Building in Carbondale, Illinois.

These solar panels were part of a renovation partially funded by President Obama’s 2009 “stimulus” bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  But they came from… China.

As the Washington Times reports, the contractor who installed the solar panels “questioned GSA officials on whether solar panels assembled in China could be used under the stimulus program, but a procurement officer told the company to proceed, according to records.”  Jim Conkey, president of the contracting company, said “we did what we were told by the federal government.”

A bureaucratic argument was offered by the Federal Acquisition Service of the GSA, in which it was asserted that the solar panels were not technically covered by the Buy America Act, so it would be up to the Bureau of Customs to decide using stimulus funds to buy them from China was a legal violation.  The Inspector General of the GSA dismissed that argument.  It certainly doesn’t seem appropriate to be purchasing Chinese-made solar panels as part of a project funded by the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”

But it’s especially galling when you consider that the Administration’s standard excuse for the failure of Solyndra, and other solar-powered boondoggles, is that cutthroat competition from the Chinese has ruined the American solar panel industry.  The House Energy and Commerce Committee blog, in a post trenchantly entitled “Obama Administration Caught Redistributing Stimulus Dollars to Chinese Solar Firms,” notes that Chinese competition was directly cited as a reason for rushing into the Solyndra loan guarantees.

Once again, the right hand of this bloated government doesn’t seem to know what the left hand is doing, and a pile of laws with patriotic names evoking American investment and commerce don’t guarantee all those government “stimulus” dollars will be spent with American firms.

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