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White House advised early Solyndra’s light was going dim
‘Getting business from Uncle Sam’ was key for company
Question of the Day
Republicans portrayed the report as the most detailed portrait yet into the collapse of a company that once was viewed as a darling of Mr. Obama’s stimulus program only to turn into a big political headache after Solyndra’s bankruptcy.
Even when things looked most promising for the company, money was a constant concern for Solyndra executives and investors, according to the report.
Finances already were so dire in the spring of 2010 as Mr. Obama toured Solyndra that officials began viewing the government not just as a lender, but as a customer big enough to lift the company out of a growing financial hole, according to documents.
The company made its sales pitch directly to Mr. Obama, according to email correspondence unearthed during the congressional probe.
“Getting business from Uncle Sam is a principal element of Solyndra’s channel strategy,” one investor wrote in an email months after Mr. Obama’s May 2010 tour of the company.
The company’s founder, Chris Gronet, “spoke very openly to Obama about the need for installation of Solyndra’s rooftop solar panels on U.S. government buildings,” Tom Baruch, founder of CMEA Capital, an investor, wrote to another Solyndra official.
“I heard Obama actually promise Chris he would look into it when he got back to Washington,” the email said.
“The point is that the government has to pay for energy no matter what. The capital funding to deploy a lot of rooftop solar on government buildings (say $300 million) just falls off the table in Washington anyway.”
The report chronicles Solyndra’s rapid decline, noting that when discussions about a second government loan fell through, the company saw government contracts as a way to stay afloat.
Even when Solyndra closed on its more than $500 million loan with the government in September 2009, the company was scrambling to get more loan money, according to the report.
“The Bank of Washington continues to help us,” Mr. Gronet wrote in an email to a colleague after the loan deal.
But privately, at least one investor was concerned, writing in an email that while Solyndra won a loan of more than $500 million, it had revenues of less than $100 million and wasn’t profitable: “[W]hile that’s good for us, I can’t imagine it’s a good way for the government to use taxpayer money.”
All the while, officials both in the government and the company were publicly praising Solyndra’s prospects.
“This is a company that doubled their revenues and essentially doubled them again, year over year,” he said in an April 2011 interview with SNL Renewable Energy Weekly, a trade publication.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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