The Obama administration is utilizing the U.S. prison system to help bolster its green-energy agenda, while boosting foreign companies and funneling cash into the hands of Obama’s largest campaign donors, according to a startling new report by the Washington Free Beacon.
Federal Prison Industries, more commonly known as UNICOR, is a wholly owned corporation of the U.S. government that uses penal labor from the Federal Bureau of Prisons to produce various products and services. Established in 1934, the organization was designed as a voluntary vocational-training program for federal prisoners, but has recently gone into business providing green-energy technology to federal agencies.
Federal inmates in Oregon and New York are earning between $.23 and $1.15 per hour building solar panels, which are then sold to a range of government agencies. In rationalizing the program, administration officials say it provides federal agencies with an opportunity to buy solar panels from domestic manufacturers. UNICOR emphasizes this rationale on its website, asserting that its panels “are domestically sourced and produced, meeting the requirements of the Buy American Act, Trade Agreement Act, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”
However, in 2009 UNICOR entered into a $219-million contract with a Taiwanese company that supplies the solar cells used to build the panels. It’s the typical maneuver to work around the “Buy American” rhetoric, Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) charged, because products built using foreign parts are still considered “American-made” as long as they are physically assembled in the United States. “It’s yet another outrage on what is happening with our tax dollars,” Huizenga said in an interview with the Beacon.
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