The PJ Tatler

Elon Musk Project Comes Under IRS Scrutiny

PJ Media has covered all side of the space debate, from Nasa to SpaceX to Obama.  Since I last visited this topic, SpaceX has enjoyed success delivering cargo to the International Space Station.  But today’s Washington Examiner reveals that founder Elon Musk is attracting the eye of the IRS in Green stimulus profiteer comes under IRS scrutiny.

The Internal Revenue Service is auditing SolarCity, the SEC filings reveal, and at the same time the Treasury Department’s inspector general is investigating the company. The question at hand: Did President Obama’s Treasury Department inappropriately give stimulus money to Musk’s company.

. . .

Treasury found that SolarCity repeatedly overstated the value of its investments, the SEC filings indicate. In those cases, Treasury awarded smaller grants than SolarCity had tried to claim. Now the department’s IG and the IRS are doing a broader audit of the projects for which SolarCity and other large solar companies got stimulus cash. Investigators want to know if the companies regularly overstated the value of their investments and thus got overly generous taxpayer grants.

But Musk’s problems are bigger than just valuation reporting issues.  More from the Examiner:

Musk is the paradigmatic political entrepreneur, launching businesses that seek to capitalize on government favors and lobbying clout rather than provide goods or services that consumers demand.

. . .

Musk has personally given more than $100,000 to Obama’s re-election campaign, including two gifts of more than $30,000 each to the Obama Victory Fund, which divides the money between the maximum allowable donations to the Democratic National Committee and the maximum to the Obama campaign. (Musk has also given generously to Republicans.)

Tesla got that $465 million loan from Obama’s DOE in order to produce the Model S, an all-electric plug-in car, which will also benefit from other stimulus goodies. This summer, Tesla began delivering the taxpayer-subsidized cars at $50,000 a pop.

Musk touts SpaceX as the cutting edge of free-enterprise space exploration, but so far the company’s revenue seems to come mostly from Uncle Sam.

Musk demonstrates a fundamental quandary about “privatized” space flight.  “Private” space advocates and libertarians tout Musk as the next step in space exploration, free from NASA’s budgets and bureaucrats.  But there is one problem – only the price tag has changed (for now).  The people paying the bills remain the same.  Sure, it costs less.  But what of the much touted principle of “private” space flight.  If a small budget is the only payout, then there are possibly ways to achieve the same ends in a revolutionized NASA.

This isn’t private space flight.  This is government money spent on spaceflight in different places.

Musk and SpaceX don’t stand for the principle of privatized space flight, because SpaceX certainly isn’t.  So once the philosophical goal of private spaceflight isn’t in play, and all we are talking about are dollars spent, then a whole range of issues are on the table.  As the Examiner is determined to root out, what role does political coziness play in Musk obtaining enormous sums of taxpayer money to pursue his failed green projects and his yet to be fully successful SpaceX project?  Should the taxpayers be funding Musk’s solar and electric car projects?

Either way, Musk now seems to epitomize what has gone wrong with the Obama administration’s crony capitalism.  Should Romney win the White House, SpaceX shouldn’t escape the same scrutiny that Tesla Motors and SolarCity deserve.