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Craig Holman, legislative representative for Public Citizen, another watchdog group, said that as a former member of Congress, Mr. Christensen is well-connected and can open important doors for the company.

“This is the revolving door,” Mr. Holman said. “Former members of Congress are the most effective lobbyists on Capitol Hill.”

Still, Mary Boyle, spokeswoman for Common Cause, said it’s not clear why the company needs a lobbyist. “While we can’t know all of the particulars, in general you can’t lobby your way out of bankruptcy,” she said.

When the USDA first announced the $267 million loan in 2008, plans called for the company to provide broadband service to more than 500 rural communities in 17 states. Out of the original $267 million loan deal, the USDA released $78 million to the company, with just $4.5 million repaid. It’s unclear how much money taxpayers will be able to recoup.

“The loan with Open Range Communications was announced in 2008 and finalized days before this administration took office,” USDA spokesman Justin DeJong said.

“In April 2011, USDA restructured the loan to reduce the government’s exposure. USDA will be working with the Department of Justice on behalf of the American people to protect the federal government’s interest in the loan,” he said.

The Open Range bankruptcy has come under sharp scrutiny in recent weeks.

Last week, House Democrats called for an expansion of the congressional probe into bankrupt solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC to include a review of Open Range. Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in September, two years after the Obama administration awarded the company more than a half-billion dollars in federal loan guarantees.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee started an investigation into Solyndra earlier this year. Documents uncovered during the probe have raised sharp questions about whether the administration ignored warnings about Solyndra’s shaky finances before awarding the loans.

In a letter to Republican colleagues on the committee, Democratic Reps. Henry A. Waxman of California, Diana DeGette of Colorado and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts last week called for similar scrutiny of Open Range’s loan deal.