Obama Fundraisers Tied to Green Firms That Got Federal Cash


Spinner's Wife's Firm Worked for Solyndra

Courtney Dorman, a spokeswoman for Allison Spinner's law firm, Wilson Sonsini, said the firm also took strides to avoid conflicts, establishing a wall between her and client matters involving the Energy Department while Spinner was in office.

One of those law-firm clients, SEC records show, was Solyndra -- the California solar panel firm whose collapse put half a billion dollars of taxpayer money at risk and prompted an investigation by the FBI and other agencies.

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The law firm worked on the solar company's failed public offering, the records show. And it also provided Solyndra with outside counsel on the DOE loan guarantee transaction. The company was paid $2.44 million for its Solyndra work, records show -- money generated by the Energy Department's stimulus loan guarantee to the solar panel firm.

Allison Spinner "was not involved with that transaction, nor has she ever worked with Solyndra in any capacity," Dorman said.

The law firm's website cites Allison Spinner's work with other clean-tech firms -- including Amyris Inc. and HCL CleanTech. Both companies had engaged in the time-consuming process of applying for green energy grants. Amyris Biotechnologies won $25 million from DOE in late 2009 to develop a diesel substitute and went public the next year -- with Spinner's wife helping handle the IPO. After Spinner left the department, HCL CleanTech landed a $9 million Energy Department grant to convert biomass feedstocks into fuel and chemical products.

Dorman, the firm spokeswoman, said in an email that Wilson Sonsini "established an ethical wall around Allison with respect to [Wilson Sonsini] representation of clients in matters involving DOE loan programs." Dorman added that Allison Spinner represented "clients who had DOE loans or grants that fell outside of Steve's jurisdiction."

Steven Spinner was not with the department when Solyndra won a conditional commitment for the loan guarantee in March 2009. But he was on board when the loan closed that September. A few days later, at a clean-tech forum in Boston in September 2009, Spinner spoke of the virtue of the DOE's support.

"We liked the taste of it," he said, telling the Boston group the company would bring thousands of jobs.

After leaving the department last September, Spinner has continued to cheerlead for its mission. This July, he co-authored an article for the Center for American Progress titled "Don't Let Clean Energy Funding Die on the Vine." The House committee's investigation of the Solyndra financing was just heating up.

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"This 'embattled' program has by all business metrics proven an outright success," he wrote. "Even the most controversial loan guarantee recipient -- Solyndra, a solar manufacturer -- is seeing an operational turnaround."

Little more than a month later, Solyndra fired 1,100 workers and filed for bankruptcy.

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