Wilson Sonsini’s clean-tech clients reaped $2.75 billion in Department of Energy grants and financing, the Post analysis found.
One of the firm’s clients was Solyndra. Republicans have accused the Obama administration of favoring the risky company because its leading investor was tied to a major Obama donor.
Wilson Sonsini had its own connection to the White House: the firm’s chief executive, John Roos, was a top bundler for Obama’s 2008 campaign.
Before joining the administration, Spinner, a venture investor and start-up adviser, also helped raise $500,000 for Obama as a member of his national campaign finance committee. He has pledged to raise a half-million dollars or more for Obama’s reelection effort.
Once inside the agency, Spinner agreed not to discuss loan matters involving Wilson Sonsini clients. But e-mails show he urged career officials to resolve delays in the Solyndra loan, and also defended the financial prospects of Solyndra to a White House deputy before its federal loan was approved.
Spinner left the Energy Department in the fall of 2010. He did not respond to requests for comment. The department said Spinner was not involved in the company’s application review or loan approval.
A Wilson Sonsini spokesman said the firm does not believe its employment of Spinner’s wife influenced Energy Department decisions.
nvestors as advisers
Thousands of agency and White House e-mails released as part of the Solyndra investigation show that venture capitalists who held advisory roles with the Energy Department were given access to Obama’s top advisers.
Steve Westly, an Obama fundraising bundler for both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, is a founder of the venture firm Westly Group and served part time on Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s advisory board.
The e-mails show that Westly communicated with senior White House officials, including Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, voicing concerns about the president’s planned appearance at Solyndra.
Westly’s firm also fared well in the agency’s distribution of loans and grants. Its portfolio companies received $600 million in funding. LaVera said Westly had no role in the funding decisions.
David Prend also surfaces in the e-mails as a venture capital investor who had White House access.
His firm, Rockport Capital Partners in Boston, was among the investors in Solyndra, with a 7.5 percent stake. The e-mails show him asking a White House aide to “help get the word out” about Solyndra and asking for help on another Rockport portfolio company. They show he and a group of venture capital investors met with new White House climate czar Carol Browner before Solyndra’s loan was tenatively approved, and the White House confirmed that the subject of the company came up briefly.
Prend had worked closely with the Energy Department since the Bush administration, when he was first appointed to an advisory panel for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. He continued to advise the Obama administration, while also chairing a panel that helps advise the department on solar technologies.
The agency provided $550 million to several firms in which Rockport had invested at the time. The department gave an additional $118 million grant to an electric-car battery company, Ener1, that was partnered with Rockport portfolio car company Think. (Rockport soon after invested in Ener1.) Ener1 filed for bankruptcy protection last month.
LaVera and Chad Kolton, a Rockport spokesman, said that Prend’s advisory role was separate from stimulus programs and had no bearing on agency decisions about companies backed by Rockport.
Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this story.