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Lawmakers Flay Fisker


Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, wasn't very charitable last week to Fisker Automotive, the foundering start-up electric carmaker.

As Cathy Taylor reported from Washington, D.C., Rep. Jordan, chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on economic growth, job creation and regulatory affairs, said Fisker never should have received federal tax dollars to build what he described as "luxury, novelty" electric cars.

That Fisker was provided l $528.7 million by the feds, $192 million of which it actually deposited in its corporate bank account, proves that the near-bankrupt company's "North Star was the political winds of Washington," said Rep. Jordan.

It gives us absolutely no pleasure to see a start-up company pilloried. Yet, Rep. Jordan was correct in saying that President Obama's Energy Department had no business misinvesting in Fisker.

As the subcommittee chairman noted, the Energy Department, headed at the time by Steven Chu (whom President Obama recruited from the University of California, Berkeley), gave the electric carmaker taxpayer dollars despite the fact that the start-up was undercollateralized, had Triple C-plus (junk-grade) credit and couldn't meet its payroll.

And that was long before its latest troubles.

Indeed, the telltale sign that Fisker might be in its death throes was the untimely resignation last month of Henrik Fisker, who in 2007 co-founded the company that bears his name.

That was followed this month by reports that Fisker laid off 160 of its 215 remaining employees without advance notice, that it was preparing to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and that it was desperately seeking buyers or investors save the company from going completely out of business.

No one could have been more chastened at last week's hearing than Fisker, the Danish auto designer, who remains the face of his former enterprise.

"You know your place in history," Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told him. "Innovative cars have a history of failing," he said, alluding to vehicles brought to market by such figures as John DeLorean, Preston Tucker and Harry Stutz, among others.

But there is a big difference between DeLorean, Tucker and Stutz and Fisker: Those former carmakers never received handouts courtesy of the American taxpayers.

Their companies lived and, ultimately, died on their own. And, by virtue of that, they were not nearly the failures that latter day Fisker has proven to be.




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