Red Carpet for Solyndra Figure at Democratic Convention
DOE official who pushed for loan is top Obama fundraiser.
Sept. 4, 2012 — -- The Obama campaign rolled out the red carpet this week for a former top Energy Department official who was at the center of the ill-fated government loan to Solyndra, a California solar panel firm that wound up in bankruptcy.
Steven J. Spinner joined other top fundraisers for a VIP tour of the Democratic National Convention floor in Charlotte Monday evening, posing and waving for a photographer while standing behind the podium. When he saw ABC News cameras, however, he ran for the exit.
WATCH World News with Diane Sawyer Tonight for More on Spinner and the DNC.
Spinner was last in the headlines in October, when emails surfaced showing he had pushed for the Solyndra loan from his post in the Energy Department, apparently in an effort to score the loan as a political victory for President Obama.
"How hard is this? What is he waiting for?" Spinner wrote in one of them. "I have OVP [the Office of the Vice President] and WH [the White House] breathing down my neck on this."
The fast-tracked Solyndra loan became the showpiece of the Obama administration's Green Energy loan program -- a plan to give a jolt of federal aid to firms developing new forms of alternative energy. Solyndra, the program's inaugural loan recipient, received $535 million.
But it fast became a symbol for Obama's Republican opponents, who have characterized the loan as a boondoggle. The company's bankruptcy led to a lengthy investigation by the Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee, which argued that the administration failed to heed warnings from budget analysts who believed the company was a bad bet.
White House officials have called the House investigation a waste of taxpayer money, noting that Republicans never uncovered any evidence to suggest the loan was granted as a result of political influence.
After taking the job, Spinner had to sign a waiver saying he would not get involved in deliberations involving Solyndra, because his wife's law firm represented the company in certain legal matters. Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Spinner "had no connection to overseeing the loan guarantee program."Spinner's wife also pledged not to take proceeds from her firm's work with companies that had applied for loans, and a spokesperson for Allison Spinner's firm said she had not been involved in any Solyndra business.
But when the White House turned over internal emails to Congress, the records showed that Steve Spinner figured prominently into the Energy Department's efforts to promote the loan politically. When the loan was set to be announced, he pushed for a "big event" with "golden shovels, bulldozers, hardhats, etc.," according to one email he wrote.
He also corresponded with career Department of Energy loan officials who were making the final decisions on the Solyndra loan. In one instance, he wrote, "Hopefully, this might spur [the Office of Management and Budget] a little faster to help the closing."
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