Murphy Leads Charge, Takes Lumps on Solyndra Issue
By Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor
Tim Murphy is getting some time in the sun. He’s been a leading voice in the investigation of Solyndra, a solar energy manufacturer in California that went bankrupt after receiving a federally-backed loan via the economic stimulus program. He’s also taking heat over his support of similar programs in the past.
He and other critics seized on the initial news, and have alleged that the White House had conflict of interest. This week, emails emerged in which the Energy Department requested Solyndra delay its layoffs until the day after the 2010 midterm elections.
In a Thursday morning hearing, members of Murphy’s House Energy and Commerce Committee questioned Energy Secretary Stephen Chu about the issues. Chu said the loan had been his call.
It’s been good press for Murphy. After all, what Republican congressman wouldn’t the chance to be a headache for the Obama administration?
But it’s not all sunshine for the Congressman. His critics – Democrats and Republicans alike – are calling hypocrisy, based on his own history of supporting federally-backed loans for alternative energy projects.
“Solyndra represents big government run amok, but Tim Murphy’s feigned outrage is mired with hypocrisy,” said Evan Feinberg, Murphy’s primary challenger. “Murphy voted for and enthusiastically supported the program authorizing this flawed intrusion into the energy sector.”
Several emails have gone out to reporters highlighting this highly unflattering profile in USA Today, which details Murphy’s support for Westinghouse Electric. The company, which is headquartered in Butler County, Pa., received $450 million in federal loan guarantees to build two nuclear power plants.
Westinghouse and its employees also account for $40,000 in campaign contributions to Murphy over the past decade.
On ideology, Murphy cedes the territory to his right. He is unapologetic in his support of federal assistance for alternative energy, citing the need to move the country away from foreign oil imports.
“It’s simply not the same as Solyndra,” said Murphy. “That was an economic stimulus issue that changed the rules, that I did not vote for. And the economic stimulus bill changed it so they didn’t have to come up with the money up front to cover some of the costs of the loan.”
Murphy supported the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which established similar guarantees for alternative energy production. But those guarantees are different from those in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, aka the stimulus plan. According to factcheck.org, the stimulus changed the loan process to remove credit subsidy fees – which act as an insurance premium – against the possibility of default.
He denied a conflict of interest with Westinghouse, and blamed the White House for trying to muddy the waters. A source close to the Congressmen noted that the reporter who penned the USA Today piece has written similar stories on other Obama critics, including Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Fred Upton.
“I make no apologies for supporting jobs in western Pennsylvania. Westinghouse has added thousands of jobs from the [Energy] Policy Act of 2005.”