Solyndra saga and its key players

September 30, 2011

Here are a few of the major players in the fallout from a controversial federal loan to a solar company favored by the Obama administration, Solyndra. The Department of Energy rushed in 2009 to approve giving the Silicon Valley company the loan, and also approved giving it more installments of that taxpayer money as executives confided the company was close to bankruptcy. Solyndra closed its doors in late August 2011, putting 1,100 workers out of a job and leaving federal taxpayers on the hook to repay a half-billion dollars.

Christian Gronet — Original founder in 2004 of Solyndra, manufacturer of a unique cynlinder-shaped solar panel that was supposed to have the advantage of being cheaper to install. The magnetic chief executive complained bitterly to top Department of Energy staff when the Bush administration declined to move on a major loan guarantee to Solyndra in early 2009. He was a beaming alongside Obama administration leaders who touted his company in high-profile visits after giving his company the first stimulus-backed loan.

President Barack Obama - He campaigned on the promise of using federal dollars to help spur a new clean technology industry in the U.S. He personally visited Solyndra for a press conference in May 2010, where he called the company a model of his initative to grown clean-technology jobs and an “engine of growth.”

George Kaiser - This Tulsa billionaire is a major Democratic fundraiser and bundler for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, visited the Obama White House frequently during key times in the Solyndra loan process. Two investment funds tied to Kaiser, Argonaut Private Equity and the George Kaiser Family Foundation, were the leading investors in Solyndra and own more than 35 percent of the company.

Stephen Chu - Obama’s Secretary of Energy arrived in January and chafed at the slow pace of career staff in approving loan guarantees for big energy projects. He boasted of accelerating the pace and approving the Solyndra deal two months ahead of the target he had set. He also approved waiving loan rules when Solyndra was near collapse and couldn’t comply, so the firm could keep receiving federal money.

Jonathan Silver - Head of the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program, he was accused of failing to see the warning signs at Solyndra when in late 2010 and early 2011 he helped a nearly-broke Solyndra restructure its loan and allow the company to receive another $67 million in loan installments amid staff warnings. A top Republican lawmaker called for him to be fired.

Reps. Fred Upton and Cliff Stearns — Republican lawmakers who are leading the congressional investigation of the Solynda loan, as chair the House Energy and Commerce committee and its investigative subcommittee, respectively. They subpoenaed government e-mails that show the federal reviewers complaining they felt White House pressure to rush approval of the Solyndra loan.

Brian Harrison — Newly-installed CEO of Solyndra, whom investors backed to replace Gronet in 2010 amid cash-flow problems under Gronet. He told U.S. lawmakers in early July 2011 that the company was in good financial shape, six weeks before the company shut its door for lack of cash. Both Democrats and Republicans say Harrison misled them, and he refused to answer questions at a Sept. 23 hearing citing his right to avoid self-incrimination.

More on Solynda at PostPolitics

Chu takes responsibility for Solyndra

Energy Dept. learned of Solyndra default in 2010

Top Solyndra officials take the 5th

Solyndra employees saw trouble brewing

Carol Leonnig covers federal agencies with a focus on government accountability.
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