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House: DOE sought federal contracts for Solyndra

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke

House investigators say that one Department of Energy (DOE) official tried to aid Solyndra in procuring government contracts that could support the then-ailing company, while President Obama's campaign bundler -- and major Solyndra investor -- suggested that military contracts might be a "win win win" for DOE.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee summarized the push to prop up Solyndra in two letters to Obama Administration officials. "Documents produced to the Committee show that Jonathan Silver, the Executive Director of  the DOE Loan Programs Office, contacted the General Services Administration (GSA) in July 2010 about scheduling a meeting with Solyndra to discuss a contract for Solyndra to provide solar panels for government buildings," Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation Chair Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., wrote to GSA Administrator Martha Johnson. The investigators asked Johnson for all GSA documents related to Solyndra.

The same month that Silver was connecting Solyndra to the GSA, George Kaiser -- a fundraiser for Obama with a massive stake in Solyndra -- and his adjuncts were game-planning how to get military contracts from the Defense Department that could solve Solyndra's financial problems. "What about DOD (and other governmental entity) sales efforts? Do the DOE people focus at all on how a Buy American plan could be a win win win for them and do they have any influence?" Kaiser emailed to some executives in his investment firm, Argonaut Private Equity, according to the House Committee.

Following that email, Steve Mitchell -- an Argonaut executive on the Solyndra board -- emailed a colleague suggesting that they push for a law that would, in effect, cause the Defense Department to buy Solyndra solar panels. "Get them to buy our panels," Mitchell wrote. "All they have to do is do some US content type of requirements for DOD procurement."

Upton and Stearns requested documents from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about Solyndra lobbying for DOD contracts. "[W]e understand that one of Solyndra's in-house lobbyists had an ongoing dialogue with an official in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs," the lawmakers wrote. They requested all DOD documents pertaining to Solyndra "in order to understand . . . whether individuals within the Obama Administration assisted in these efforts."

 

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