Oct. 14--In 2008, former Gov. Ted Strickland's plans for Ohio were green.
The Democrat, who serves as a national co-chairman of President Obama's re-election campaign, pushed sources of clean energy as a way to revolutionize the state's economy and generate jobs.
From 2007 to 2008, Mr. Strickland's administration helped usher in a $1.57 billion bipartisan state stimulus package that included a $150 million Advanced Energy Job Stimulus Program.
That program included $84 million for solar, wind, nuclear, and other noncoal initiatives. The entities that received support under it were supposed to use taxpayer-funded loans to become industry leaders, job creators, and technological innovators.
Four years later, it turns out that it isn't so easy being green.
Four of the 10 companies or projects funded under the advanced energy program have failed to repay the state on time, submit financial reports by designated deadlines, or adhere to stipulations of state loan agreements, a Blade investigation found. Some of them face a combination of these problems. Four of the 16 projects initially approved by the state aren't moving forward.
Two of the advanced energy loans, which were made to Toledo-area companies, are in default. A third company, Toledo-based Xunlight Corp., could default on its loan if it does not raise $3 million by Monday. All the troubled loans are related to the solar industry.
The issues don't end there.
The board of the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority, which makes financial decisions regarding the advanced energy program, has not been kept up to speed on the details of problems with loan recipients, sometimes learning about them months later.
The board decided to hire an attorney in September to review the program's administration, which is split between the air quality's staff and USA Energy Advisors. USA Energy Advisors was hired in 2008 to vet program applicants. The firm's duties were expanded in 2009 to underwrite and monitor the loans granted under the advanced energy program.
The attorney is another cost -- $250 an hour -- that can be added to a growing list of expenses related to the advanced energy program.
The ties between the advanced energy program and the Strickland administration are strong -- the former director of the air authority also served as Mr. Strickland's energy adviser, making him a key player in the program.
Mr. Strickland also appointed his former chief of staff to the air authority's board before he left office in January, 2011.
All three men went into business together after leaving public office.
According the investigation, Mr. Strickland received at least $144,740 from employees or people connected to companies affiliated with the advanced energy program during his unsuccessful 2010 re-election bid.
Although Republican Gov. John Kasich received $118,245 from some of those sources, only two gave more than $1,000 to his campaign. Mr. Strickland received more than $1,000 from five of those sources.
"The bottom line for me and as far as this discussion is concerned is that political contributions, political considerations, political relationships were not involved in our decision-making regarding the decisions that were made," Mr. Strickland said. "We were doing our best to advance an agenda that would be good for the economy of our state and position Ohio for future growth."
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