Raids and Raids

There are so many angles from which to approach the fall of Solyndra, the solar cell company that got a $535 billion loan guarantee in 2009, staggered in 2010, was looked at as a boondoggle by Republicans in June 2011, and collapsed one week ago. This certainly isn’t good:

Federal agents executed a surprise search warrant early Thursday morning at the California offices of Solyndra, a solar energy company that shuttered its offices last week and filed for bankruptcy, leaving taxpayers on the hook for a $535 million government-backed loan.

An FBI spokesman said Thursday that the early morning search was part of a sealed investigation by the FBI and the Department of Energy’s inspector general into the company.

That story was the first basis of the “Enron?!?!” murmurs. Then again, with some fanfare, John Boehner’s invited the CEO of Gibson Guitars to join him at Obama’s joint session of Congress. Why?

Though no charges have been filed, Gibson factories have been raided twice, most recently last week, by federal agents who say ebony exported from India to Gibson was “fraudulently” labeled to conceal a contravention of Indian export law.

In Gibson’s case, it’s falling afoul of a stupid, 111-year-old law on imports. In Solyndra’s case, the Feds are looking for evidence that Solyndra may have duped the government. We know that the company joined two other solar tech companies in collapse this summer, that under its current structure it will pay private investors back before it pays back the government, and we are learning more about how the Obama administration paid it (and other solar companies) special attention. The Gibson raid is seen as meritless; the company is appealing to the Tea Party for support, successfully.

I’m not trying to elide the big difference here, which is that Solyndra’s economic model couldn’t have worked even if it had free access to all the solar cells in China, and that taxpayers were responsible for huge loan guarantees.