Rick Perry and Other Republicans Are Loving an Obama-backed Green Car Company

Green loans are a GOP target during campaign season, but job-producing projects of any color are hard for governors to turn down.

A row of new Tesla Superchargers are seen outside of the Tesla factory on August 16, 2013 in Fremont, California.   
National Journal
Ben Geman
Aug. 11, 2014, 9:54 a.m.

Pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate Rick Perry wanted to shut down the En­ergy De­part­ment. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is scram­bling to bring an En­ergy De­part­ment-backed car com­pany’s jobs to his state.

Perry is not alone: Perry’s one of sev­er­al con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernors bat­tling to win fa­vor with an un­likely part­ner: Tesla Mo­tors, the Cali­for­nia elec­tric-car com­pany that has drawn at­tacks from Sarah Pal­in and Mitt Rom­ney.

Ari­zona’s Jan Brew­er, New Mex­ico’s Susana Mar­tinez, and Nevada’s Bri­an San­dov­al are com­pet­ing to lure Tesla’s planned mult­i­bil­lion-dol­lar bat­tery plant, called the Giga­fact­ory, to their states. Jerry Brown, Cali­for­nia’s Demo­crat­ic gov­ernor, wants the pro­ject — which is ex­pec­ted to cre­ate thou­sands of jobs — built at home.

Nevada is the front-run­ner. Tesla broke ground in June on a site out­side Reno, but the com­pany in­sists the oth­er states are still in the run­ning. Tesla told share­hold­ers on Ju­ly 31 that a fi­nal call will de­pend on factors in­clud­ing “agree­ment on the rel­ev­ant in­cent­ives.” CEO Elon Musk told fin­an­cial ana­lysts that he ex­pects the state that wins the com­pet­i­tion to put up about 10 per­cent of the es­tim­ated $4 bil­lion to $5 bil­lion the pro­ject will cost.

The GOP court­ship of Tesla un­der­scores Re­pub­lic­ans’ dif­fi­culty with fed­er­al al­tern­at­ive-en­ergy sup­ports: spend­ing on green tech­no­logy is a great small-gov­ern­ment talk­ing point when it fails, but the eco­nom­ic good­ies that suc­cess­ful spend­ing pro­duces are tough to turn down.

Dur­ing the 2011 GOP White House primary sea­son, cam­paign Perry railed against gov­ern­ment “pick­ing win­ners and losers” in en­ergy mar­kets and bashed the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion over the col­lapse of the En­ergy De­part­ment-backed sol­ar-pan­el man­u­fac­turer Solyn­dra. (Al­though Perry’s cam­paign, in 2011, also said he didn’t con­sider loan guar­an­tees to be sub­sidies in a Wash­ing­ton Post story about Perry sup­port­ing fed­er­al sup­port for a pro­posed nuc­le­ar pro­ject in Texas.)

But Solyn­dra proved to be among the ex­cep­tions, as the En­ergy De­part­ment’s over­all loan pro­file has suc­ceeded at a high rate des­pite a few mis­fires. Tesla is among the the suc­cess stor­ies: The com­pany re­ceived a $465 mil­lion En­ergy De­part­ment loan in 2010 to help fin­ance the Cali­for­nia fact­ory for its Mod­el S elec­tric sedan, then re­paid the loan in 2013 — nine years early.

Perry, who is weigh­ing an­oth­er White House bid, works ag­gress­ively to lure com­pan­ies to his state. In June, Perry even drove around Cali­for­nia’s state cap­it­ol of Sac­ra­mento in a Tesla Mod­el S, emer­ging to speak with re­port­ers in sunglasses that, as BuzzFeed put it, “look like they’re from the Mat­rix.”

But his fu­tur­ist­ic look isn’t far re­moved from the re­cent polit­ic­al past.

In re­cent years, a slew of Re­pub­lic­ans with na­tion­al stature have at­tacked Solyn­dra and oth­er flops, and the En­ergy De­part­ment’s green-tech­no­logy loan pro­grams more broadly.

The com­pet­i­tion to woo Tesla, des­pite the cri­ti­cism of the pro­gram that helped spawn it, re­calls the con­gres­sion­al probes of Solyn­dra. GOP led House com­mit­tees ag­gress­ively in­vest­ig­ated Solyn­dra and the loan pro­gram more broadly.

But pro­gram sup­port­ers fought back by cir­cu­lat­ing let­ters these same law­makers — in­clud­ing House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Chair­man Dar­rell Issa — had pre­vi­ously writ­ten to the En­ergy De­part­ment seek­ing loans for pro­jects in their states.

“Cog­nit­ive dis­son­ance is an ele­ment of the mod­us op­erandi of the Re­pub­lic­an Party on en­ergy these days,” said Ry­an Cun­ning­ham, a pub­lic-af­fairs strategist who rep­res­en­ted Solyn­dra and oth­er green en­ergy cli­ents while with the Glover Park Group.

“If the elec­ted of­fi­cials can be held to ac­count and forced to re­con­cile their rhet­or­ic with their very ra­tion­al and cor­rect sup­port for re­new­able en­ergy, then I think we would have a much more sane con­ver­sa­tion about these tech­no­lo­gies,” said Cun­ning­ham, who now heads Cun­ning­ham Stra­tegic Com­mu­nic­a­tions.

What We're Following See More »
ASKS CONGRESS FOR $1.1 BILLION MORE
White House Grants $53 Million for Opioids
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday awarded 44 states, four tribes and the District of Columbia a combined $53 million in grants to expand access to treatment for opioid use disorders and ultimately aimed at reducing the number of opioid-related deaths." But HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell and drug czar Michael Botticelli both called on Congress to approve the $1.1 billion Obama has requested to fight the opioid crisis.

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Many Offices Does Trump Have in Battleground States?
1 hours ago
THE ANSWER

Eighty-eight, according to PBS. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has 291 offices in those same 15 states.

Source:
CORRINE BROWN LOSES HERS
Wasserman Schultz Wins Her Primary
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz beat back a primary challenge by law professor Tim Canova on Tuesday. The Florida Democrat and deposed former Democratic National Committee chief led 57%-42% with more than 80% of the vote counted last night. Meanwhile, fellow Florida Democratic Rep. Corrine Brown became the fifth incumbent to lose during this election cycle. Brown, who was recently indicted for fraud, lost to former state Sen. Al Lawson.

Source:
CHALLENGER MAY NOT ENDORSE HIM
McCain Survives in Arizona
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Reports of Sen. John McCain's demise were greatly exaggerated. Seeking a sixth term, the Arizona Republican handily defeated upstart Kelli Ward. The Associated Press called the race around 8:30pm local time. Ward was in no mood to be conciliatory, saying, "After refusing to debate while running a slash and burn campaign devoid of actual ideas, I hope the senator can rest comfortably with his conscience as he continues to lecture others about civility. The Republican party cannot win as a national party if we keep nominating unprincipled career politicians whose only objective is perpetual re-election." McCain now faces U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in the Nov. 8 general election.

Source:
SURPRISING DEVELOPMENTS
Trump Meeting with Mexican President Today
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump will meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto today. "Trump's meeting is at the invitation of Pena Nieto, who tweeted that he's planning to meet with other candidates as well." Few details were made public, but "Trump is scheduled to be on stage at 6 p.m. in Phoenix for a major immigration speech, so the meeting will be early in the day."

Source:
×