Solyndra: White House Knew Obama Donors Could Be Implicated

A advisor to the 2008 Obama campaign warned at least 10 months ago that the relationship between Obama campaign donors and Solyndra would become a major issue and suggested that DOE Energy Secretary David Chu be fired as an inoculation to coming criticism over clean energy subsidies, according to a memo released by the White House to GOP investigators in Congress.

Dan Carol warned in a memo to White House policy guru Nancy DeParle that the cozy relationship between the clean energy loan program that helped finance scandal-ridden solar power company Solyndra and donors to President Obama's 2008 campaign would become a major issue. He also advised firing Energy Secretary Steven Chu because of his associations with “Silicon Valley business elite.”

Chu should be fired, “because that appointment will be caught up in the wave of GOP attacks that are surely coming over Solyndra and other inside [Department of Energy] deals that have gone to Obama donors and have underperformed,” Carol wrote in a four-page Feb. 25, 2011 email sent to DeParle. “No reason to fuel that coming storm, and believe me it will come,” he added.

The White House email communications released Friday show that firing Chu was discussed, but never seriously considered.

The email was part of the 135 pages of documents the White House recently sent to GOP investigators in the House, after a protracted battle between the administration and Congress over whether the documents would be made public. The documents were released in response to a subpoena issued by the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The subpoena gave the White House a Thursday deadline, which was ignored. The documents were sent on Friday evening.

The White House typically releases potentially damaging information, as the current administration has done with other documents related to the Solyndra scandal, on Friday evening in an attempt to minimize news coverage.

One of the Obama donors under scrutiny during the Solyndra scandal is Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser. Kaiser was a major Obama fundraiser and invested heavily in Solyndra.

One of the questions Republicans investigating the Solyndra loan guarantee want answered is whether Solyndra was given a favored position in the loan program, and the loan's restructuring, because of Kaiser's ties to President Obama.

Emails released last week by the Kaiser family foundation that invested in Solyndra reveal that the topic of Solyndra came up during at least one meeting with the White House.

“They had an orgasm in Biden's office when we mentioned Solyndra,” one foundation executive wrote in an email.

“That's awesome! Get us a [Department of Energy] loan,” another executive replied.

Other emails released from Kaiser's foundation reveal that White House officials asked the foundation to delay announcing layoffs at Solyndra until after the Nov. 3, 2010 elections.

The emails, released by the House committee, also reveal that Kaiser and others in the foundation were concerned about the appearance of impropriety due to Kaiser's status as an Obama fundraiser.

“S’pose an investigative reporter will ever make an association between an early Obama supporter and majority shareholder (through ‘his’ charity) in the entity that received one half billion (or two total billion) dollar loan guarantee(s)? Solyndra is still the only recipient through that program,” Kaiser wrote in another foundation email.

Chu is a Stanford University physicist who won a Nobel Prize for his work before joining the Obama administration. Chu, a clean energy advocate, was supposed to lead an effort to restructure the department to bring a broader clean energy focus to the agency, which has traditionally supported conventional energy sources such as coal, nuclear and petroleum. The clean energy loan guarantee program was part of that effort. Since the Solyndra scandal, Chu's leadership has come under greater scrutiny amid growing reports that many clean energy companies garnered a plethora of Obama administration perks that dramatically reduce investor risk to near zero.

Chu will testify for the first time on the Solyndra affair on Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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