Did Obama Administration Cut Corners For a Green Energy Company?


Obama Bundler George Kaiser

Kaiser's Argonaut Private Equity and its affiliates were the largest shareholder of Solyndra as it pushed for the IPO. Kaiser's firm remains a "significant financial backer of Solyndra," Solyndra spokesman David Miller confirmed. The Oklahoma oil magnate hosted a 2007 Tulsa fundraiser for Obama and regularly visits White House staff, visitor logs show.

Kaiser did not respond to interview requests made through Solyndra, and his Kaiser-Francis Oil Company in Tulsa said he declined comment. Solyndra's Miller said political ties had no bearing.

"We do not believe there was any connection at all," said Miller. "We have created a substantial number of jobs with Solyndra and we're very proud of that. I think people are missing a lot of the story getting into the politics."

He said the company first applied for funding under the Bush administration, though it won it under Obama at a time the commercial financing market was dry.

"I don't think anybody said we didn't go through the full process. After the conditional commitment we still went through extensive due diligence. It was still a competitive process," Miller said. "We applied for the loan guarantee in 2006. It was awarded three years later. It was not like something was done to make this thing really fast. It was a long, arduous process."

Miller said Solyndra's outlook remains bright, and predicted the company would be cash positive by the end of the year. He said Solyndra has 321 more jobs today than at the time of the loan, has already met the 3,000-force construction goal and aims to attain the long-term hiring benchmark. "As we go cash positive, if you were to get that auditor's opinion today, it would tell a different story," he said.

Some analysts are far from convinced.

"If anything, they're still swimming upstream in a very competitive market," said Shyam Mehta , senior solar analyst at Greentech Media Research.

Mehta has long raised questions about the company's manufacturing costs in a world market where China offers stiff competition. He said Solyndra has focused on cutting those costs, but that there's no assurance the company -- or the government loan guarantee -- will prove successful.

"There's a lot at stake here, not just for Solyndra," Mehta said. "This is going to be held up as a cautionary tale if things don't work out for Solyndra. People are watching very closely from all angles."

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, investigative reporting outlet in Washington, D.C.

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