The RNC has released a new ad today blasting President Obama for potential cronyism. And unlike with so many recent political ads, this one's charge looks like it may stick a bit. Watch the ad below before proceeding with the story.
The ad charges, in brief, that Steve Westly, of Westly Group Investments, donated $500,000 to the Obama campaign in 2008, only to get back a $500 million return on his investments through government subsidies. The implication, made without very much subtlety at all, is that Westly is a crony of the administration who paid money for political influence.
And indeed, there may be a paper trail to substantiate that charge. Politico reports:
Republicans have long alleged that Westly’s campaign fundraising prowess garnered him preferential treatment in the form of federal money for companies backed by his firm, the Westly Group, and direct access to top White House officials. But the White House and the Obama campaign have strongly denied the allegations, dismissing them as a political stunt.
Westly’s name also came up in the Solyndra investigation: Emails showed he had warned White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett in May 2010 about Obama’s upcoming visit to the California solar company, a year before it filed for bankruptcy.
“Will the White House release all communications between Steven Chu and Steve Westly between inauguration day and the distribution of stimulus funds to Westly-backed companies?” the RNC asked in a memo to White House press secretary Jay Carney and Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “Will they release a transcript of advisory board meetings with Chu and Westly?”
To no one's surprise, Westly's spokesperson, Joel Berman, has denied any wrongdoing. From the Washington Post's fact check of the ad:
“Westly never contacted DOE or the White House regarding loan or grant applications for Westly Group portfolio companies,” Berman said. “There is no evidence to suggest a connection between Mr. Westly’s roles as an investor, member of SEAB, and as a supporter of President Obama.”
The Washington Times apparently wasn't going to take this assertion lying down however, so they cornered no less an eminence than Energy Secretary Steven Chu. However, as you'll see from the video below, they were stonewalled:
Now, while this behavior is suspicious, it's hardly conclusive. Readers are urged to proceed with caution. However, seeing as the Washingotn Post fact-checkers (mentioned above) gave the ad only One Pinocchio, it does not appear that the RNC is chasing ghosts.