Before Solyndra won the Energy Department’s preliminary approval for a $535 million loan, Prend and a lobbyist for a trade group he helped lead suggested that the White House, and perhaps President Obama, should showcase the company.
“I thought the White House might want to take advantage of this event to highlight a highly successful public/private partnership,” Prend wrote on March 13, 2009.
“Would the President be able to visit Solyndra,” Emily Baker, a lobbyist at the trade group, wrote a few days later, after Prend copied her on his White House request. “Wow, that would be fantastic!”
Solyndra has since shut down. This week, the company disclosed that its chief executive, Brian Harrison, stepped down on Oct. 7. Solyndra filed for bankruptcy protection in early September. Days later, federal investigators raided its plant in Fremont, Calif.
Harrison declined to answer questions from a congressional investigative committee, citing his right not to incriminate himself. He has been accused by Democratic and Republican lawmakers of misleading them this summer about the company’s rosy prospects.
Meanwhile, Prend’s correspondence with the White House, released last week by a government source, shows him suggesting that the White House could help the company meet the requirements for winning the Energy Department-guaranteed loan. Prend did not respond to calls for comment for this story, and a company representative did not respond to e-mails seeking the firm’s comment.
“Solyndra must still raise over $200 million in matching private equity according to the terms of the loan guarantee program,” Prend wrote on March 13 to Greg Nelson, a White House business liaison. “In the current economic environment, they could use all the positive publicity they can get.”
Energy Secretary Steven Chu ended up announcing the preliminary loan agreement, and the company raised the capital without Obama’s personal support.
The e-mails give a glimpse of both an investor’s welcome reception at the White House and the multiple roles Prend had as he pushed for Solyndra. An administration official said Nelson was properly interacting with a business investor seeking attention.
At the time he requested White House support, Prend was co-founder of Rockport Capital, an early investor in Solyndra, starting in 2007. He also chaired a renewable energy panel that advised Obama’s Energy Department on solar technologies and investments.