Back to previous page

E-mails show skepticism on Solyndra

On Monday, Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released excerpts from more than 700 pages of internal White House e-mail messages and other documents regarding Solyndra, a solar company that failed in August after receiving a $535 million federal government loan guarantee.

Some examples:

●Lawrence Summers, then-director of the White House National Economic Council, sent an e-mail to Brad Jones of Redpoint Ventures, a private firm that had invested in Solyndra, on Dec. 24, 2009. Summers wrote that he was “interested in left coast perspectives on economy markets and econ policy and especially advice.”

Jones replied: “The allocation of spending to clean energy is haphazard; the government is just not well equipped to decide which companies should get the money and how much. . . . One of our solar companies with revenues of less than $100 million (and not yet profitable) received a government loan of $580 million; while that is good for us, I can’t imagine it’s a good way for the government to use taxpayer money.”

Summers responded: “I relate well to your view that gov is a crappy vc [venture capitalist] and if u were closer to it you’d feel more strongly. ”

●White House officials were organizing a trip for President Obama to Solyndra’s California factory in May 2010. The planning process generated a number of e-mail messages between unidentified staffers:

— “Rahm [Emanuel, the White House chief of staff] was very pleased, and everyone agrees we should keep on with the Main Street tour.”

— “Hope [Solyndra] doesn’t default before then.”

— “I am increasingly worried that this visit could prove embarrassing to the Administration in the not too distant future . . . ”

●Steve Westly, an Obama fundraiser and adviser who is managing partner of the venture capital firm The Westly Group, wrote to Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama, in May 2010:

“A number of us are concerned that the president is visiting Solyndra. . . . [T]here is an increasing concern about the company because their auditors, Coopers and Lybrand, have issued a ‘going concern’ letter. . . . Many of us believe the company’s cost structure will make it difficult for them to survive long term. . . .

“Could you perhaps check with DOE to make sure they’re comfortable with the company? I just want to help protect the president from anything that could result in negative or unfair press. If it’s too late to change/postpone the meeting, the president should be careful about unrealistic/optimistic forecasts that could haunt him in the next 18 months if Solyndra hits the wall, files for bankruptcy, etc.”

●Ron Klain, chief of staff to Vice President Biden, looked into concerns about Solyndra and then wrote to Jarrett on May 24, 2010:

“Sounds like there are some risk factors here — but that’s true of any innovative company that POTUS would visit. It looks like it is OK to me, but if you feel otherwise, let me know.”

Jarrett responded: “I’m comfortable if you’re comfortable.”

Klain wrote: “The reality is that if POTUS visited 10 such places over the next 10 months, probably a few will be belly-up by election day 2012 — but that to me is the reality of saying that we want to help promote cutting edge, new economy industries.”

●An independent audit by PriceWaterhouseCoopers in March 2010 questioned whether Solyndra could survive, spawning these comments between OMB officials:

— “Interesting in light of DOE’s recent statement to OMB staff that Solyndra project was on schedule and on budget. I eager await DOE’s monitoring system.”

— “(Is it) possible to close and default on one [loan guarantee] before closing on a second??? Could be a new record.”

— “DOE . . . has one loan to monitor and they seem completely oblivious to this issue — and to make it worse it was the key thing I said they needed to watch.”

© The Washington Post Company