Details of the plan are revealed in e-mails released this week by Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating the original loan. On Wednesday, the probe intensified as committee Republicans requested that the White House provide all documents, dating back to President Obama’s inauguration, that would show communications between staff members and other officials regarding Solyndra’s original $535 million federal loan guarantee.
Republican leaders said that documents obtained in recent weeks show that Obama’s “closest confidantes” monitored the loan, and that his campaign donors offered advice on the company.
“Documents reveal a startlingly cozy relationship between wealthy donors and the president’s confidantes, especially in matters related to Solyndra,” Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the committee’s investigations panel, said in a statement.
E-mails already made public in the eight-month investigation have kept the White House and the Energy Department on the defensive for weeks, showing in part that Valerie Jarrett and Lawrence H. Summers, top Obama advisers at the time, took part in discussions about Solyndra.
The Energy Department provided Solyndra with its first taxpayer-backed loan guarantee in September 2009. Documents released this week show that White House career staffers, who first questioned the loan that fall, by April 2010 were using gallows humor to describe the prospect of giving Solyndra a second round of help. That spring, industry analysts were publicly questioning how the Silicon Valley start-up could be spending cash so quickly from the federal loan and $933 million in private capital.
“Apparently the loan size for Phase II is $469 million,” one analyst at the Office of Management and Budget wrote. “I’ve been told we should expect [to] see that project soon for conditional commitment.”
Another joked: “Possible to close and default on one before closing on a second??? Could be a new record.”
The agency didn’t drop plans for a second loan until October 2010, an Energy Department spokesman has confirmed. That was the month Solyndra executives and investors first warned the government that the company faced the threat of liquidation without emergency cash.
Energy Department spokesman Damien LaVera said Wednesday that OMB staffers were wrong in describing the agency as actively pushing to provide the second loan.
“In fact, the career staff at the department had only barely begun to do the due diligence that would have been required for a second loan,” LaVera said. “This application would have had to undergo many more months of analysis before being approved,” but that was rendered moot when the company reported severe financial problems.