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Solyndra investors are sought for questioning in House inquiry

Reps. Henry A. Waxman and Diana DeGette ask that executives from Argonaut Private Equity and Madrone Capital Partners be called to testify before a panel investigating the failed solar panel firm's $535-million federal loan guarantee.

September 20, 2011|By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times
  • One important question for the committee to examine is whether there were sound reasons to make an investment in Solyndra, Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), above, and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said in a letter to Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce investigative subcommittee.
One important question for the committee to examine is whether there were… (Susan Walsh, Associated…)

Reporting from Washington — Two House Democrats want to question two major investors in solar panel manufacturer Solyndra about the failure of the Fremont, Calif., company.

Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) asked that executives from two of Solyndra's largest private investors, Argonaut Private Equity and Madrone Capital Partners, be called to testify at a hearing Friday or in the near future.

Solyndra Chief Executive Brian Harrison and Chief Financial Officer W.G. Stover Jr. are expected to testify Friday about the failure of the company, which received a $535-million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy in 2009 as part of the Obama administration's economic stimulus plan.

Solyndra filed for bankruptcy this month, igniting a political controversy because President Obama had touted the company as an example of a successful alternative energy manufacturer.

Republicans charged at a hearing last week that the administration rushed approval of the loan, putting taxpayer money at risk. They also said that the loan approval might have been influenced by large investments in the company by billionaire George Kaiser.

Kaiser was a major Obama fundraiser in 2008, and Argonaut is an investment fund operated on behalf of the George Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser has denied personally investing in Solyndra or talking to White House officials about the loan.

On Monday, Waxman and DeGette wrote to Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce investigative subcommittee, asking that he call the two investment firms' executives as witnesses.

"One important question for the committee to examine is whether there were sound reasons to make an investment in Solyndra," Waxman and DeGette wrote. "Some sophisticated and experienced private venture capital investors thought the answer was yes, and they invested over $1 billion in Solyndra — twice the support provided by the federal government."

Stearns' office did not respond to a request for comment.

Madrone is affiliated with the Walton family, which founded Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and is a large Republican donor. It invested $37 million.

Argonaut invested $271 million in Solyndra, making it the largest private investor, according to the Department of Energy. GKFF Investment Co., also a vehicle of the Kaiser foundation, invested an additional $50 million.

jim.puzzanghera@latimes.com

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