If GKFF were organized as a private foundation, it probably would be barred from owning a large percentage of any single business, as it did in Solyndra, tax experts said.
“The numbers are troublesome,” Grassley said in his letter. “GKFF’s low pay-out . . . raises serious questions about GKFF’s status as a supporting organization and thus its status as a public charity.”
In 2009, the last year for which records are available, GKFF reported paying out grants of about $46 million, not including management costs. That represents slightly more than 1 percent of its assets. If GKFF had paid out 5 percent of its assets, as most foundations do, it would have spent nearly $200 million that year on charitable grants.
GKFF makes direct payments to some charitable projects that are not reflected in the grant total. Even with those payments included, however, GKFF’s outlays do not add up to 5 percent of its assets.
GKFF says in financial filings that it exists to support the programs of the Tulsa Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization that Kaiser co-founded and formerly headed as chairman. Like GKFF, the Tulsa Community Foundation is not a private foundation under tax law and is not subject to penalties if it annually gives away less than 5 percent of its assets. Two of GKFF’s trustees are current and former board members at the Tulsa Community Foundation; the third trustee is its executive director. The two groups share the same street address.
Solyndra, a Silicon Valley solar panel maker, was a centerpiece of Obama’s initiative to develop clean energy technologies and received the program’s first loan guarantee, for $535 million. Solyndra reported accelerating sales until Aug. 31, when it collapsed and filed for bankruptcy protection.
The collapse has become a political liability for the White House because of ties to Kaiser. At the White House, records show Kaiser has met with presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emanuel, who was then Obama’s chief of staff.
Kaiser has said he did not lobby on behalf of Solyndra or help it win its loan guarantee.