The Solyndra Story Just Keeps Getting WorsePosted: September 18, 2011 Filed under: 2012 presidential campaign, Team Obama, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: 2008 presidential campaign, 2012 presidential campaign, bundlers, Department of Energy, fundraising, George Kaiser, Solyndra, Steve Spinner, The Chicago Way 3 Comments
It turns out that two major Obama 2008 fundraisers benefited from the decision by the Department of Energy to go ahead with a risky $535 million loan to Solyndra, the solar energy company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month.
Steve Spinner, who helped monitor the Energy Department’s issuance of $25 billion in government loan guarantees to renewable energy projects, was one of Obama’s top fundraisers in 2008 and is raising money for the president’s 2012 reelection campaign.
Spinner did not have any role in the selection of applicants for the loan program and, in fact, was recused from the decision to grant a $535-million loan guarantee to Solyndra Inc. because his wife’s law firm represented the company, administration officials said Friday.
But Spinner’s role as a top official in the Energy Department program, which had not been previously revealed, is likely to spur new inquiries into whether political influence played a role in the handling of the “green” energy fund. Solyndra faces a congressional probe, a criminal investigation and separate internal inquiries at the Energy and Treasury departments.
Steve Spinner raised $500,000 for the Obama campaign in 2008, and he is currently organizing a fundraising drive for 2012 called “Technology for Obama.” Spinner is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. According to the LA Times, Spinner praised the Solyndra loan in a piece at the Center for American Progress on July 13. He did not disclose his involvement with the loan program in that article.
We’ve already heard about the second major Obama donor involved with Solyndra, George Kaiser.
The largest investments in Solyndra were funds operated on behalf of the family foundation of billionaire George Kaiser, another major fundraiser for Obama in 2008. Kaiser has denied personally investing in the solar energy company or talking to White House officials about the loan.
But I hadn’t heard before that when it looked like Solyndra might go bankrupt in February of 2011, the Obama administration restructured the loan so that in case Solyndra did go bankrupt, a Kaiser investment company and another private investor associated with the Walton family would be reimbursed before taxpayers.
Under terms of the February loan restructuring, two private investors — Argonaut Ventures I LLC and Madrone Partners LP — stand to be repaid before the U.S. government if the solar company is liquidated. The two firms gave the company a total of $69 million in emergency loans. The loans are the only portion of their investments that have repayment priority above the U.S. government.
Argonaut is an investment vehicle of the George Kaiser Family Foundation of Tulsa, Okla. The foundation is headed by billionaire George Kaiser, a major Obama campaign contributor and a frequent visitor to the White House. Kaiser raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama’s 2008 campaign, federal election records show. Kaiser has made at least 16 visits to the president’s aides since 2009, according to White House visitor logs.
Madrone Partners is affiliated with the Walton family, descendants of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. Rob Walton, the eldest son of Sam Walton, contributed $2,500 last year to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Newly released emails show the White House was worried about the likely effect of a default by Solyndra on Obama’s re-election campaign.
“The optics of a Solyndra default will be bad,” an OMB official wrote in a Jan. 31 email to a colleague. “The timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up.”
The budget official, whose name is blacked out in the email, wondered whether Solyndra should be allowed to restructure its loan.
“Questions will be asked as to why the administration made a bad investment, not just once (which could hopefully be explained as part of the challenge of supporting innovative technologies), but twice (which could easily be portrayed as bad judgment, or worse),” the email says.
According to conservative Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, the “Solyndra scandal reeks of the Chicago Way.”
Federal investigators want to know what role political fundraising played in the guarantee of the questionable loan. Washington bureaucrats warned the deal was lousy. And White House spokesmen flail desperately, like weakened victims in a cheesy vampire movie.
So forget optics. What about smell? It smells bad, and it’s going to smell worse.
Or, did you really believe it when the White House mouthpieces — who are also Chicago City Hall mouthpieces — promised they were bringing a new kind of politics to Washington?
It’s the Chicago Way, but instead of a paving or trucking contract, it’s a “green” solar panel contract. The company received a $535 million loan.
I guess he means pay for play and the taxpayers get stuck with the bill. Based on what I know so far, I can’t say I disagree with Kass.