Five '1-Percenters' That Have Milked The Stimulus


With President Barack Obama set to be sworn in for his second term on Jan. 21, it is a good time to look at just how he handled what was one of the biggest crisis in his first term in office: the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression.

President Obama urged Congress to pass a sweeping federal stimulus bill and signed the $840 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law on Feb. 17, 2009, promising that the legislation would create or save 3.5 million jobs over two years.

A six-month CRN investigation into the job creation impact of ARRA found a big discrepancy between the claims from President Obama and his administration and the actual job creation tied to the government spending.

Here we present a look at the top five 1-percenters that milked the stimulus during the president's first term, an exclusive report that originally ran on the CRN Tech News App for the iPad.

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, each of whom have a personal fortune estimated at $20.3 billion, hardly need government backing to finance a renewable energy venture. But that is just what they have gotten from President Barack Obama's green energy offensive and the $840 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Brightsource Energy Inc., which counts Google among its investors, said last April that it had received $1.6 billion in loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office for the world's largest solar project under construction -- the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California's Mojave Desert. At the time the federal loan guarantee was announced, Google itself also became a private equity investor in the project with a $168 million investment.

In addition to the $1.6 billion loan guarantee, the Ivanpah project has received $267.62 million in ARRA funds through BrightSource Engineering & Construction, according to the Recovery.gov website.

CRN has spent the past six months looking specifically at where ARRA funds were spent on technology projects, trying to determine how many jobs were created. CRN has spoken with dozens of executives and examined countless government documents. As part of that investigation, CRN looked at whether the funds benefited super-wealthy "1-percenters" with the means to finance on their own the initiatives undertaken with ARRA funding.

Neither Page nor Brin nor any of the individuals we named as the top five beneficiaries of the legislation were willing to be interviewed on the impact of the stimulus funds on their own investments, companies or on the overall U.S. economy.

Peter Schweizer, a William J. Casey Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the first to expose the Google founders' windfall in his book, "Throw Them All Out: How Politicians And Their Friends Get Rich Off Insider Stock Tips, Land Deals And Cronyism That Would Send The Rest Of Us To Prison," said the U.S. government's investment in BrightSource is just one example of crony capitalism on a "massive scale" that has been practiced by the Obama administration.

"What happens a lot of times with crony capitalism is you end up getting middle-class taxpayers, in effect, subsidizing the business ventures of billionaires," said Schweizer. "I think it is hard in any fashion to try to determine why that is a good thing or to say that is a good thing. They [Page and Brin] are obviously very, very smart. They took risks in developing Google. They got handsome rewards. And if they feel that they can have some more success in the energy sector or other sectors, let them. But don't expect the taxpayers to subsidize your financial risk taking."

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