This Newsweek article reviews the amazing coincidence that so many Obama DOE loans and subsidies benefited heavy-duty Obama campaign supporters. The author seems surprised:
...these were highly competitive grant and loan programs—not usually a hallmark of cronyism. Often fewer than 10 percent of applicants were deemed worthy.
Nevertheless, a large proportion of the winners were companies with Obama-campaign connections. Indeed, at least 10 members of Obama’s finance committee and more than a dozen of his campaign bundlers were big winners in getting your money.
But his first sentence misses an important aspect. Sure, competitive contracts for, say, building a bridge may not be fraught with cronyism. If so, it is likely because these contracts have pretty clear decision criteria - ie we will take the lowest bid by anyone with minimum qualifications.
But the DOE loans were all to companies with sketchy prospects -- if they had actual profits or even a reasonable hope of profits, someone would have funded them privately. So these are all wild longshots no one in the private sphere would touch. Given that, what objective criteria can possibly exist? And even if one can imagine such a criteria - e.g. least dollars invested per ton of Co2 mitigation - it is clear that no such criteria existed or were applied. So of course it was going to be a crony-fest.
But my point is this - even without fraud or cronyism. Even if every choice were made by the best and the brightest in a politically color-blind fashion, the program would still be failing. Because by definition the program's success would require a few folks in Washington to be smarter than, and to have more and better information than, the entire rest of the country which turned down the opportunity to invest in these companies.