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Entries in Solyndra (13)

Wednesday
Sep052012

Solyndra Figure Gets VIP Tour at Democratic Convention

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The Obama campaign rolled out the red carpet this week for a former top Energy Department official who was at the center of the ill-fated government loan to Solyndra, a California solar panel firm that wound up in bankruptcy.

Steven J. Spinner joined other top fundraisers for a VIP tour of the Democratic National Convention floor in Charlotte, N.C., Monday evening, posing and waving for a photographer while standing behind the podium.  When he saw ABC News cameras, however, he ran for the exit.

Spinner was last in the headlines in October, when emails surfaced showing he had pushed for the Solyndra loan from his post in the Energy Department, apparently in an effort to score the loan as a political victory for President Obama.

"How hard is this?  What is he waiting for?" Spinner wrote in one of them. "I have OVP [the Office of the Vice President] and WH [the White House] breathing down my neck on this."

The fast-tracked Solyndra loan became the showpiece of the Obama administration's Green Energy loan program -- a plan to give a jolt of federal aid to firms developing new forms of alternative energy.  Solyndra, the program's inaugural loan recipient, received $535 million.

But it fast became a symbol for Obama's Republican opponents, who have characterized the loan as a boondoggle.  The company's bankruptcy led to a lengthy investigation by the Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee, which argued that the administration failed to heed warnings from budget analysts who believed the company was a bad bet.

White House officials have called the House investigation a waste of taxpayer money, noting that Republicans never uncovered any evidence to suggest the loan was granted as a result of political influence.

This week, Spinner has been attending a number of events organized for the campaign's top donors -- members of the National Finance Committee.  He is sporting a badge that identifies him as a "Finance Guest."

He appears also to be a top donor to the convention's host committee, which accepts up to $100,000 from individuals to help offset the cost of the three-day Charlotte event.  The host committee organized the podium tour that Spinner attended.

ABC News made repeated attempts to interview Spinner as the Solyndra saga unfolded, and he declined.  When he was approached by ABC News on the convention floor Monday, he bolted for an exit.

A DNC employee blocked ABC News reporters from following Spinner as he broke into a run.

"You can't follow people," the aide said, as he held up his arms to keep the camera from filming Spinner as he left the venue.

Neither the Obama campaign nor the White House responded to requests for comment about Spinner.

This is not Spinner's first foray into fundraising for Obama.

Spinner was awarded his high-ranking post with the Energy Department after raising more than $500,000 for Obama's 2008 campaign, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

After taking the job, Spinner had to sign a waiver saying he would not get involved in deliberations involving Solyndra, because his wife's law firm represented the company in certain legal matters.  Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Spinner "had no connection to overseeing the loan guarantee program."  Spinner's wife also pledged not to take proceeds from her firm's work with companies that had applied for loans, and a spokesperson for Allison Spinner's firm said she had not been involved in any Solyndra business.

But when the White House turned over internal emails to Congress, the records showed that Steve Spinner figured prominently into the Energy Department's efforts to promote the loan politically.  When the loan was set to be announced, he pushed for a "big event" with "golden shovels, bulldozers, hardhats, etc.," according to one email he wrote.

He also corresponded with career Department of Energy loan officials who were making the final decisions on the Solyndra loan.  In one instance, he wrote, "Hopefully, this might spur [the Office of Management and Budget] a little faster to help the closing."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug032012

Former WH Chief of Staff Briefed on Solyndra Concerns, Emails Show

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Buried in the treasure trove of White House emails related to Solyndra released Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee is one suggesting that concerns about Solyndra’s viability were shared all the way up to then-White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley a full six months before the company went bust.

It's been known for a while that career analysts at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had told the Department of Energy (DOE) that they had concerns about Solyndra.  The emails show that OMB analyst Kelly Colyar urged the company be shut down and its assets sold off in January 2011.  Liquidating Solyndra then, she estimated, would limit taxpayer losses to $141 million.  

The Department of Energy’s plan to save the company by restructuring the loan, she warned in a January 2011 email, could mean losses “significantly HIGHER” for taxpayers.

The Department of Energy rejected those warnings, leaving taxpayers on the hook for nearly the full $535 million loan when Solyndra declared bankruptcy last September.

As Solyndra began sinking for good last August, Colyar sent an email summarizing the events leading to a near total taxpayers' loss of the $535 million loan.

“You may recall that DOE announced in March that they had restructured the Solyndra loan,” Colyar wrote.  “Prior to this restructuring, OMB staff expressed reservations about the prospects of the company and DOE’s proposal.”

And here’s the key line: “The issue was discussed with the NEC (National Economic Council) and the Chief of Staff.”

In the end, of course, the loan restructuring went through anyway and, Colyar wrote, “Unfortunately, the scenario which OMB staff had feared has materialized.”

That “unfortunate situation”, of course, was a bankruptcy that left taxpayers unable to recoup almost all of the $535 million loan blown by Solyndra.

There’s no word from the White House on any of this.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul232012

Obama Fundraises with Players in Solyndra Scandal

Ken James/Bloomberg via Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- At an exclusive re-election fundraiser Monday night, President Obama hobnobbed with 60 of his wealthiest supporters, including two figures at the center of the Solyndra loan scandal.

Steve Westly, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, was one of the first to raise red flags about the administration’s support for a $500 million loan to Solyndra, the solar energy start-up that later went bankrupt.  He wrote directly to senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett in 2010 to raise concerns about the company’s viability ahead of the president’s high-profile visit that year.

Matt Rogers, a former senior adviser at the Department of Energy, played a key role in approving Solyndra’s loan as part of the stimulus plan.

Both men were spotted by White House print pool reporter Darren Samuelsohn of Politico at the Piedmont, Calif., home of Quinn Delaney and Wayne Jordan, who were hosting the $35,800-a-head event.

Samuelsohn noted that Westly was seen near the pool, “juggling lemons, entertaining kids at the party.”

Republicans have seized on Obama’s ties to Westly and Rogers -- as well as top Obama campaign bundler George Kaiser, who made multiple visits to the White House in an attempt to get the Solyndra loan pushed through -- as part of their case that the president engages in “crony capitalism.”

“The Obama Administration betrayed American taxpayers when it dumped hundreds of millions of public dollars into Solyndra while ignoring clear warnings about the company’s dire financial situation,” Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement.

“President Obama’s first term worked out well for his donors who got special access and taxpayer money for their failed ventures,” Williams said. “It hasn’t worked as well for the 23 million Americans struggling for work in the worst economic recovery our country has ever had.”

Solyndra first applied for a Department of Energy grant under the George W. Bush administration, but it was shelved two weeks before Obama took office because the company's fundamentals were in question. The Obama administration fast-tracked the massive loan in 2010, then touted the now-bankrupt company up as an example of a success story from the taxpayer-funder stimulus.

The Solyndra loan was so central to this strategy that the administration initially planned to have Obama personally announce it, and later sent the president to the company's solar panel manufacturing facility in Fremont, California to celebrate its work, according to a previous ABC News report.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun082012

Romney Backer Says Solyndra Is a ‘Cherry-Picked’ Example

Ken James/Bloomberg via Getty Image(WASHINGTON) -- Edward Conard, one of Mitt Romney’s biggest donors to his super PAC, says the GOP’s inexorable focus on the now-bankrupt Solyndra is a “cherry-picked” example of companies that got money from the government.

Romney and the Republican National Committee have been relentless in drawing attention to Solyndra, a solar panel maker that won a $535 million loan guarantee from the Obama administration but shut down in September.

Romney even staged a press conference at the shuttered headquarters of the energy company outside Silicon Valley last month, calling it a “symbol of how the president thinks about free enterprise.”

On Thursday night, though, Conard, who worked with Romney at the private-equity firm Bain Capital and who has donated $1 million to Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Romney, suggested that Solyndra’s failure is a rare case of companies gone wrong and isn’t indicative of government funding.

The way in which Conard got to that point was a little unique -- it was during an exchange with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, in an interview that was too long for broadcast but is available online.

The back-and-forth started when Stewart said that while he was at Bain, Conard “utilized rules that even the companies that failed used to -- could win.”

“That’s a rarest of the rare,” Conard replied.  “Those are cherry-picked examples.”

Stewart was ready with his comeback: “Like Solyndra would be a cherry-picked example.”

Conard agreed.

“Of course Solyndra’s cherry-picked,” he said.  “I don’t disagree with that.”

Then, in a rare moment of warmth in an otherwise lengthy and prickly “interview” about Conard’s controversial new book, Stewart said, “You’re a good man.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May312012

Mitt Romney Visits Solyndra Amid Attack on Obama Jobs Record

Ken James/Bloomberg via Getty Images(FREMONT, Calif.) – Mitt Romney arrived at the shuttered headquarters of Solyndra Inc. Thursday morning, a surprise visit that was shrouded in secrecy and part of the presumptive GOP presidential candidate’s attack on President Obama’s record on jobs creation.

“The reason for keeping it quiet is because we knew if word got out that Solyndra would do everything in their power and the Obama administration would do everything in their power to stop us from having this news conference,” an aide said in a briefing en route. “But taxpayers made a substantial investment in Solyndra, there are serious questions about what happened at Solyndra, why that investment was selected, what happened to that money.”

Solyndra is the failed California-based solar technology company that received more than $500 million in federal stimulus money before it went bankrupt last year. It has since become a mantle of Romney’s argument that Obama doesn’t know how to run the economy.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr112012

Latest GSA Docs Reveal More About Martha Johnson's Solyndra Meeting

Tom Williams/Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- The House Energy and Commerce committee released documents late Wednesday that show former General Services Administration administrator Martha Johnson had planned to meet with Solyndra in California at the same time GSA employees attended a lavish Las Vegas conference, but she changed her mind just days before her trip. An investigation into that conference and other wasteful spending at GSA led to Johnson’s resignation earlier this month.

Johnson did not attend the Solyndra meeting scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010, just days before the congressional midterm elections. Instead, travel records show she went to Portland, Ore., for three days to visit a GSA-sponsored construction project that taught women new job skills with stimulus money.

According to documents released by the committee, Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison had informed the Department of Energy on Oct. 25 that the green energy company intended to announce layoffs three days later, on Oct. 28, the same day Johnson considered attending meetings. Solyndra ended up delaying the announcement until after the election at the request of the White House, according to the committee.

In one document released by the committee from Oct. 25, GSA deputy administrator Susan Brita wrote a GSA spokesperson asking for details of Johnson’s upcoming trip to Solyndra.

“I’m coordinating with the Solyndra folks today to tie down the details. I’ll let you know if anything changes, but as of now the event is the morning of Thursday the 28th,” the spokesperson answered on Oct. 25. “I’m shooting for 10:30ish. MJ [Martha Johnson] will take a tour of the plant and speak to plant execs and workers. No formal remarks. I’m inviting a few targeted reporters who seem like good fits for this sort of thing.”

Solyndra is the now-bankrupt green energy company that the Obama administration had provided with a $535 million loan through the stimulus.

Republicans believe the timing is curious and contend the trip was scrapped due to Solyndra’s pending layoffs announcement, amid concerns by Democrats over political fallout from the layoffs.

Reached for comment, a White House spokesman said, “We don’t normally respond to or even get asked about events that never transpire.”

The White House and GSA both maintain that Johnson never met with Solyndra at any point during her tenure at GSA. There are no records that a meeting with Solyndra ever transpired.

Johnson also was set to receive an award in San Francisco the same week, but she had someone else accept the prize on her behalf.

ABC News reported Tuesday that a senior GSA official, Jeff Neely, who is currently on administrative leave, testified in a government investigation that Johnson missed the 2010 Western Regions Conference to attend “a meeting with Salindra [sic].” Other records prove Neely’s testimony incorrect, even if he had caught wind of Johnson’s planned meetings.

Administration officials said she did not meet there and provided records Wednesday morning that showed Johnson traveled to Portland, Ore., instead.

The agency spent about $823,000 on the 2010 convention for 300 employees, including thousands of dollars spent on items such as a commemorative coin set, a mind reader, a comedian and a clown.

Johnson resigned abruptly after the GSA inspector general presented findings of abuse and waste of taxpayer dollars from the conference. Seven other officials have resigned, been fired or suspended in the wake of the scandal.

Multiple congressional hearings are scheduled beginning Monday to investigate the matter when Congress returns to session next week. Johnson and Neely are both invited to testify at two hearings on the House side of the Capitol.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr112012

Former GSA Administrator Was in Va., Ore. During Vegas Conference

Tom Williams/Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Online records, hotel receipts and flight itineraries for former U.S. General Services Administration administrator Martha Johnson show that she was in Williamsburg, Va., and Portland, Ore., during the lavish Las Vegas conference that eventually led to her departure, not meeting with Solyndra company officials in California, as government testimony from a senior official at GSA claims.

Jeff Neely, a regional administrator now on administrative leave, testified in March 2011 that Johnson missed the 2010 Western Regions Conference to attend “a meeting with Salindra [sic],” according to ABC News’ Tuesday reporting on the transcripts.

But travel records show that Johnson flew coach on United Airlines from Washington National Airport, connecting through Chicago on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010.  Johnson left Portland on Oct. 29, flying non-stop to Washington-Dulles International Airport.  Hotel records also show that she stayed at a Courtyard Marriott. 

Johnson was in Portland to visit a GSA-sponsored construction project that taught women new job skills with stimulus money.  She was in Williamsburg for a leadership conference and panel discussion during the first two days of the Vegas conference.

GSA and Obama administration officials disputed Neely’s testimony on Tuesday, but provided no records showing Johnson’s whereabouts until Wednesday morning.

The agency spent about $823,000 on the 2010 convention for 300 employees, including thousands of dollars spent on items such as a commemorative coin set, a mind reader, a comedian and a clown.

Johnson resigned abruptly after the GSA inspector general presented findings of abuse and waste of taxpayer dollars from the conference.  Seven other officials have resigned, been fired or suspended in the wake of the scandal.

Multiple congressional hearings are scheduled to investigate the matter when Congress returns to session next week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr102012

Former GSA Administrator Skipped Vegas Conference for Meetings at Solyndra

Tom Williams/Roll CallUPDATE: On Wednesday morning, sources provided ABC News with records and documentation showing Martha Johnson did not travel to California to meet with Solyndra, and was in Virginia and Oregon for other meetings and activities. Read the updated story here.

(WASHINGTON) -- Former General Services Administration administrator Martha Johnson missed a lavish Las Vegas conference for government employees because she was already committed to meetings in California at Solyndra, according to testimony in an official government investigation.

Solyndra is the now-bankrupt green energy company that the Obama administration had provided with a $535 million loan through the stimulus.

The development, if true, dovetails together two embarrassing but otherwise unrelated episodes for the Obama administration.

According to a 52-page transcript from the Inspector General investigator’s March 15, 2011 interview with Jeff Neely, a regional administrator currently on administrative leave, Neely explained that GSA incurred some unanticipated expenses for a last-minute video link for four assistant commissioners assigned to participate at the conference in Johnson’s place.

Adam Elkington, a spokesman for GSA, disputes the testimony of Neely, claiming that Johnson did not attend meetings at Solyndra that day. Elkington, however, was unable to explain where Johnson was during the conference.

According to the testimony transcript, in response to a question about Johnson, Neely explained the need for extra audio/visual expenses because Johnson couldn’t attend the conference.

“Martha was actually coming to the West Coast and we had invited her to participate, but the events that she was coming to the West Coast for; one was a meeting with Salindra [sic], who is down to the San Jose area,” Neely answered, although the transcript incorrectly spelled the Fremont, Calif.-based business.

GSA ended up forking over $3,500 for the four assistant administrators to participate in a video-teleconference, according to Neely in the IG interview transcript.

ABC News was able to view a copy of the transcript, but it is not currently available to the public.

“Maybe some of those contract costs were related to that last minute change, because they were supposed to come present in person and then decided to do it via video,” Neely explained. “We said we would try this as an experiment. I, personally, explained to them that I had some concerns about this because we were spending $3,500.00 to save $1,500.00 in travel.”

At the time, the Department of Energy was working to help enable GSA to purchase Solyndra solar panels for rooftops of federal buildings, which some critics believed was an attempt to prop up the doomed company with more federal money.

Earlier Tuesday, GSA acting administrator Dan Tangherlini apologized for GSA’s conduct, and announced the agency had suspended a separate  “Hats Off” incentive program for employees.

“What took place was completely unacceptable,” Tangherlini said in a video statement posted to YouTube. “Those responsible violated rules of common sense, the spirit of public service, and the trust that America’s taxpayers have placed in all of us.”

The agency spent about $823,000 on the 2010 convention for 300 employees, including thousands of dollars spent on items such as a commemorative coin set, a mind reader, a comedian and a clown.

Johnson resigned abruptly after the GSA inspector general presented findings of abuse and waste of taxpayer dollars from the conference. Seven other officials have resigned, been fired or suspended in the wake of the scandal.

Multiple congressional hearings are scheduled to investigate the matter when Congress returns to session next week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar202012

GOP Lawmaker Stokes ‘Birther’ Drama

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Cliff Stearns, a senior Republican investigating the White House’s Solyndra energy loan guarantee, told reporters Tuesday that he is still not convinced that President Obama’s birth certificate is valid.

“I am, shall we say, looking at all the evidence,” Stearns, R-Fla., said at the Capitol Tuesday, just weeks after he waded back into the debate during a town hall meeting with constituents last month.

In April 2011, the White House released President Obama’s long-form birth certificate to the public, showing that he was born in Hawaii and is a U.S. citizen, but skeptics from the so-called “birther” movement have continued to question his eligibility for the presidency.

When Stearns met with his constituents on Feb. 25 in Belleview, Fla., one man insisted that the president was not born in the United States and should be impeached. Stearns then asked the audience, “Is it legitimate?” -- drawing the score of the White House.

Last week Dan Pfeiffer, the president’s communications director, called into question the legitimacy of Stearns’ Solyndra investigation into the Energy Department’s $535 million loan guarantee to the now bankrupt energy company, considering his concerns over whether the president is a natural born citizen. Stearns is the chairman of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee.

“One of the GOP members leading the Solyndra investigation is a birther, which raises all sorts of questions,” Pfeiffer tweeted. But last week, Stearns’ spokesman Paul Flusche told ABC News the story was “old news” and he had no further no comment on the issue.

But that did not stop Stearns from weighing in again Tuesday.

Asked if he thinks the president’s birth certificate is authentic, Stearns suggested the issue is not settled for him personally yet, as first reported by The Hill and Roll Call. Before coming to a conclusion, Stearns says he is awaiting the results of another independent investigation by Maricopa County [Ariz.] Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who claims he has proof the birth certificate is a “computer-generated forgery.”

Flusche did not respond to an ABC News request seeking an explanation of the Florida Republican’s latest comments.

The president’s father’s birthplace in Kenya was the basis of unfounded claims that he was born in Kenya, not the U.S. The Constitution stipulates only natural born citizens are eligible for the presidency.

Among the documents distributed last year by the White House were the president’s “long form” birth certificate and correspondence between the White House counsel and the state of Hawaii. Obama’s personal attorney, Judith Corley, flew to Hawaii to pick up the original certified copies and carry them back to the White House. The certificate of live birth includes the original, handwritten signatures of Obama’s mother Ann Dunham Obama, the attending doctor, and the local registrar. The verified document also reveals the location of Obama’s birth to be Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct182011

GOP Reps Object to White House's Withholding of Solyndra Documents

Paul Chinn-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Two Republican Congressional leaders -- House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns, R-Fla. -- criticized the White House on Monday for turning down an Oct. 5 request for “(a)ll communications among White House staff and officials relating to the $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra by the Department of Energy between Jan. 20, 2009, and the present.”

“What is the White House trying to hide?” Upton and Stearns asked in a joint statement.  “Since day one of the Solyndra investigation, the Obama administration has fought us tooth and nail, even forcing us to subpoena documents from [Office of  Management and Budget].  Along the way, they have repeatedly claimed there’s nothing to see and no wrongdoing to uncover, but the facts have proven we are on the right trail.  For an administration that campaigned and governs under the banner of transparency, such an overt refusal to share emails directly relevant to an ongoing investigation is deeply troubling.”

On Friday, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler denied the committee’s request, writing in a letter, “Your most recent request for internal White House communications from the first day of the current Administration to the present implicates longstanding and significant institutional Executive Branch confidentiality interests.  Encroaching upon these important interests is not necessary, however, because the agency documents the Committee has requested, which include communications with the White House, should satisfy the Committee’s stated objective -- to ‘understand the involvement of the White House in the review of the Solyndra loan guarantee and the Administration’s support of this guarantee.'”

Ruemmler also noted that that Department of Energy, Office of Management and Budget, and the Treasury Department “have to date produced over 70,000 pages of documents, participated in nine briefings for committee staff and provided testimony at several Committee hearings relating to this matter.”  The White House has handed over 900 pages of related documents.

Stearns said earlier in the month that anything relevant -- including messages on President Obama’s BlackBerry -- should be turned over to his committee.

“So if there’s nothing on his BlackBerry, that’s fine,” Stearns said.  “But if there’s something on his BlackBerry, I would assume that would include that.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio