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House GOP seeks probe of loan to failed solar energy company

September 02, 2011|By Kim Geiger
  • Ben Bierman, left, and Chris Gronet, right, explain solar technology to President Obama on a tour of the Solyndra solar panel company in May 2010 in Fremont, Calif.
Ben Bierman, left, and Chris Gronet, right, explain solar technology to… (Paul Chinn / Pool Photo )

House Republicans are pressing forward with a probe into a $535-million loan guarantee to a California-based solar panel manufacturer, charging that the Obama administration may have improperly awarded the loan to a company whose major investor was a bundler for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

The company, Solyndra Inc., announced earlier this week that it will file for bankruptcy, putting 1,100 employees out of work and likely leaving taxpayers on the hook for much of the massive loan.

Solyndra was the first company to receive a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the stimulus program that began in 2009. The company has struggled financially and the agency was forced to restructure the loan in February. 

President Obama made Solyndra the poster child of his clean energy efforts. He visited the company’s Fremont, Calif., manufacturing plant in May 2010, where he noted that, “the true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra.”

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, sent a letter to the White House on Thursday requesting more information to “better understand the rule of the White House with respect to the review of the Solyndra loan guarantee and the administration’s support of this guarantee, even in the face of Solyndra’s deepening financial problems.”

The duo began investigating the Solyndra case in February. In their letter Thursday, Upton and Stearns said the investigation had found that “White House officials monitored Solyndra’s application, and communicated with [DOE] and Office of Management and Budget officials during the course of their review in 2009 and when those officials were restructuring the Solyndra deal this year.”

The Government Accountability Office found in a July 2010 report that the Energy Department’s implementation of the loan program “treated applicants inconsistently, favoring some and disadvantaging others.”

In their letter, Upton and Stearns also noted Solyndra’s ties to President Obama’s presidential campaign.

“In addition, we are also aware that a major investor in Solyndra, George Kaiser, was a bundler for President Obama’s 2008 campaign,” they wrote.

Kaiser bundled at least $50,000 for Obama’s 2008 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

iWatch News and ABC News have reported extensively on the Solyndra loan guarantee. 

kim.geiger@latimes.com

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