The Locker Room

Biden's rent-seeker backslap tour stop in Durham

Posted by Paul Chesser at 05:50 AM

Vice President Joe Biden yesterday made his latest tour stop as he congratulates companies on their successes in securing Recovery Act grants, special tax breaks and government favors for their allegedly "green" companies. Today was a visit to Cree, Inc., a LED lighting company headquartered in Durham, where he was accompanied by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who praised the company for adding 375 new jobs since early 2009:

In the coming decades, the costs of oil and other forms of energy will rise, the risk of climate change is becoming increasingly apparent, and the world will begin to take serious steps to reduce carbon pollution....

By 2020, this kind of lighting could reduce America's lighting electricity by one-third, cut carbon pollution by -- the equivalent of taking 47 million cars off the road.

Neither Chu nor Biden addressed how much carbon pollution from Air Force Two trips would be overcome by 2020 if LED use increased. A news report did mention, however, that Cree has received a $39-million tax credit through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, as well as $1.8 million in stimulus money for research and development. This coincided nicely with a visit by Cree president and CEO Chuck Swoboda to the White House last July, as well as a 2009 increase in Cree's lobbying expenditures of 137 percent over the previous year. But then again, Cree has always been an expert rent-seeker (chasing earmarks as well), as explained in the standard "risk factors" section of their annual SEC filing:

Changes in federal budget priorities could adversely affect our contract revenue. Historically, government agencies have funded a significant portion of our research and development activities. When the government changes budget priorities, such as in times of war or financial crisis, our funding has the risk of being redirected to other programs.

But hey -- this is the Obama Recovery, so companies that call themselves "green" can get a windfall if they jump through the right hoops. Swoboda was so moved by the $40.8-million gesture from the administration that in October he told Gov. Beverly Perdue that he wouldn't make North Carolina pay one cent for the jobs he planned to add in the state. Whatta peach -- he's come a long way since he last expanded the company in 2004, when he demanded $5 million from the state to hire workers in Durham.

Pretty good when you can get more than $70,000-per-job covered by taxpayers -- good, that is, for Cree and other companies who glean subsidies for "green."

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