In March, The Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News, in partnership with ABC News, began exposing questions about the role political influence may have played in Department of Energy loan projects, including Solyndra's selection as the Obama administration's first loan guarantee recipient. DOE said its recipients won awards on merit, and that it backs innovative and potentially risky projects as environmental game changers. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has sought information from Solyndra's prime investors, including Oklahoma oil billionaire Kaiser, a "bundler" of campaign contributions to the president in 2008.
Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman, said politics never entered the decision to grant the loan or restructure it earlier this year. LaVera said the department decided it was worth trying to salvage the government's initial investment. "[P]olitical or optical considerations took a backseat to putting the company and its workers in a better position to succeed and repay the loan," he said.
Last week, Jonathan Silver, executive director of DOE's Loans Programs Office, resigned. Silver was not on board when the Solyndra loan was issued, but he was when it was refinanced earlier this year. Before his resignation, Silver staunchly defended the loan refinancing and had predicted Solyndra would succeed.
Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison also resigned last week. In papers filed with a bankruptcy court Wednesday, Solyndra said Harrison left his post on Friday, Oct. 7, "as contemplated even before these cases were commenced."
Solyndra filed the papers in a Delaware court in response to a motion by the Department of Justice to appoint a trustee to oversee the company's bankruptcy case. The Justice Department filed its motion after Harrison and Solyndra's CFO, W.G. Stover, invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions from the House Energy and Commerce Committee during a Sept. 23 hearing. The company also refused to answer key questions in the bankruptcy proceeding.
A Solyndra attorney told U.S. officials the reason he would not identify the company's customers or talk about its contracts was because "the topic would likely be the subject of investigation and possibly litigation," according to a court filing.