Abound Solar Inc., a failed U.S. solar manufacturer that borrowed $70 million guaranteed by the Obama administration, received financial support from investors with connections to both Democrats and Republicans.
Pat Stryker, the billionaire heiress of a medical devices company, founded Bohemian Cos., one of six groups that invested $300 million into Abound. She is also a cash bundler for President Barack Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Loveland, Colorado-based company plans to file for bankruptcy next week.
The solar company is also backed by Invus Public Equities Advisors LLC, which was co-founded by Raymond Debbane, who has donated to Republican candidates including Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican who led an investigation of the U.S. Energy Department loan guarantee program.
Abound’s failure renews Republican criticism of the program, which became a political lightning rod after the August failure of Solyndra LLC, a solar manufacturer that received a $535 million loan guarantee and was backed by Obama fund-raiser George Kaiser.
“Neither party’s hands are clean in this one,” said Paul Chesser, an associate fellow at the National Legal & Policy Center based in Falls Church, Virginia. “Solyndra will be hard to top because they got $535 million versus the $70 million Abound got.”
Abound, formerly known as AVA Solar, received praise from Republicans in Congress expecting jobs in their states, and won part of a $60 million grant that provided early funding under George W. Bush’s Energy Department.
“These are the kinds of people who can open doors and get a little more access,” Bill Allison, editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based group that promotes transparency in government, said in an interview. ’’We’re seeing it with Abound just like we saw it with Solyndra.’’
Republican members of the Indiana delegation, including Senator Richard Lugar and Representative Dan Burton, wrote Energy Secretary Steven Chu an Oct. 30, 2009, letter indicating their “strong support and encouragement” for the solar company’s loan application.
Abound had planned to build a manufacturing facility in Tipton County, Indiana, at a closed automotive plant.
“Abound Solar plans to create almost a thousand full-time jobs that the company and state officials estimate will generate several hundred million dollars in revenue, in addition to increased levels of economic activity in the region,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was also signed by then- Senator Evan Bayh and Representative Pete Visclosky, both Democrats, among others.
Another Abound investor, DCM Venture Capital, has two Republican donors on its payroll -- Bob Hawk, who hosted a fund raiser for Senator John McCain, and Dixon Doll, who contributed to Representative Paul Ryan’s Prosperity political action committee.
The solar company borrowed $70 million against its $400 million Energy Department guarantee to complete a factory in Colorado. It announced yesterday that it’s suspending operations, as House Republicans aim to close an investigation into the government’s support for Solyndra.
Abound said its thin-film panels couldn’t compete against Chinese products, the same reason cited by Solyndra. It plans to file for bankruptcy in Wilmington, Delaware, next week and will fire about 125 employees, according to a statement yesterday.
Cliff Stearns, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight panel that has held hearings related to Solyndra’s guarantee, said yesterday he didn’t think Abound’s closure warranted its own investigation.