Out of the hundreds of out-of-work employees, vendors, investors and other creditors in the bankruptcy of government-backed solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC, one name stands out: the California Democratic Party.
Why California Democrats would be creditor to a company that received more than a half-billion dollars in federal loans to build a solar-panel plant isn’t clear. Even party officials say they’re not sure.
The California Democratic Party’s communications director, Tenoch Flores, said the organization was not owed “any funds in any form” by the California-based company. He said he was unclear why the party would be listed as a creditor in Solyndra’s bankruptcy filing.
According to campaign-finance records, Solyndra donated $7,500 to the California Democratic Party in October 2010. It’s legal in California for corporations to make donations. But that doesn’t explain why the company would identify the Democratic Party as a creditor in its bankruptcy filing a year later.
A Solyndra spokesman did not respond to messages seeking more details about the filing.
Solyndra’s spending habits are under sharp scrutiny after it fired more than 1,000 employees, filed for bankruptcy this month and had its offices raided by the FBI.
Just two years ago, the company received federal loan guarantees of more than $500 million, money it burned through but hasn’t repaid. Because of a subsequent loan restructuring, taxpayers won’t be repaid before the private investors who poured $75 million into the company earlier this year as it tried to stay afloat.
The Washington Times reported last week that law firms that took credit for helping to push through the federal loan package were paid millions of dollars reported through the federal Recovery Act.
The same month Solyndra donated to the California Democrats, the company also contributed $1,000 each to three California state Assembly candidates, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
The state Democratic organization was identified in a document called a “creditor matrix.” It’s a standard filing in bankruptcy cases, where the debtor provides an alphabetical list of the names and addresses of all creditors. In the Solyndra case, the list runs more than 100 pages.
In an affidavit along with the court filing, the company’s chief executive, W.G. Stover Jr., swore under penalty of perjury that that creditor list was true and accurate to the best of his knowledge and that the information came from a review of the company’s books and records.
Beyond being listed as a creditor, the state Democratic Party’s ties to Solyndra aren’t clear, but a fuller picture could emerge as the bankruptcy case unfolds. What is clear, based on public records, is that despite its well-known business failings, Solyndra was no novice when it came to politics.
Company officials visited the White House on numerous occasions, hired an expensive team of Washington lobbyists and, in the months before its bankruptcy, walked the halls of Congress to personally assure lawmakers that “business was booming,” as one lawmaker later recalled.
In the wake of the company’s collapse and subsequent raid by the FBI this month, Solyndra’s top two executives, citing their Fifth Amendment rights, refused to testify last week before the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee, which has been looking at the Solyndra loan deal for months. In bankruptcy records, the company blamed stiff foreign competition and an oversupply of solar panels for its fast downfall.