More Cronyism in the Obama Administration – The President’s Utility, and More

The cronyism in the Obama administration never ends. Even The New York Times has taken notice of “The President’s Utility,” Exelon Corporation. It’s a giant Chicago energy company that received $200 million in stimulus funds. Not only that, regulations enacted by the administration benefited Exelon while hurting it’s competitors.

Early in the Obama administration, a lobbyist for the Illinois-based energy producer Exelon Corporation proudly called it “the president’s utility.” And it was not just because it delivers power to Barack Obama’s Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago.

Exelon’s top executives were early and frequent supporters of Mr. Obama as he rose from the Illinois State Senate to the White House. John W. Rogers Jr., a friend of the president’s and one of his top fund-raisers, is an Exelon board member. David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s longtime political strategist, once worked as an Exelon consultant, and Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor and Mr. Obama’s former chief of staff, helped create the company through a corporate merger in 2000 while working as an investment banker.

With energy an increasingly pivotal issue for the Obama White House, a review of Exelon’s relationship with the administration shows how familiarity has helped foster access at the upper reaches of government and how, in some cases, the outcome has been favorable for Exelon.

White House records show that Exelon executives were able to secure an unusually large number of meetings with top administration officials at key moments in the consideration of environmental regulations that have been drafted in a way that hurt Exelon’s competitors, but curb the high cost of compliance for Exelon and its industry allies.

In addition, Exelon, which provides power to more than 6.6 million customers in at least 16 states and the District of Columbia, was chosen as one of only six electric utilities nationwide for the maximum $200 million stimulus grant from the Energy Department. And when the Treasury Department granted loans for renewable energy projects, Exelon landed a commitment for up to $646 million allowing it, on extremely generous financial terms, to finance one of the world’s largest photovoltaic solar projects.

Exelon’s seemingly easy access to top administration officials has hardly gone unnoticed among competitors.

“I would like to get some treatment in Washington like that,” said Ken Anderson, general manager at Tri-State G&T, a Colorado-based power supplier that has been at odds with Exelon over environmental regulations. “But Exelon seems to get deference that I can’t get.” (Read More)

Donald Douglas says  ”This company is the administration’s mother load for green energy crony capitalism.” I’ll say.

But that’s not all. The AP reported that one of Obama’s top donors is a watch dog over the Department of Energy’s loan programs. Of course, he found them free of any wrongdoing.

A veteran Wall Street executive who performed an independent review that exonerated the Obama administration’s program of loans to energy companies contributed $52,500 to re-elect President Barack Obama in the months since completing his work, according to an Associated Press review of campaign records. The executive defended the integrity of his conclusions and said he decided to donate to Obama after his work was finished.

The campaign contributions to Obama started just weeks after Herbert M. Allison Jr., in congressional testimony in March, minimized concerns that the Energy Department was at high risk in more than $23 billion in federal loans awarded to green energy firms. Two weeks later, Allison began giving to the Obama campaign. His contributions to Obama and the Democratic National Committee totaled $52,500 by last month. Allison previously was the former head of the government’s mass purchase of toxic Wall Street assets.

Allison did not make any Obama donations during his four-month review of Energy Department loans, and he has a long history of working with and giving money to both political parties. However, Republican Party officials and congressional critics of the energy loans said Allison’s donations to Obama raise doubts about his objectivity and highlight his decision not to assess multimillion-dollar loans to two companies that later went into bankruptcy – the troubled Solyndra solar panel company and Beacon Power, an energy storage firm. (Read More)

If things don’t change soon, all of our kids will say they want to grow up to be cronies, just like the kids in this video.

Find out more about crony capitalism at Crony Chronicles.