Solyndra Lobbied White House for Solar Panels on U.S. Buildings

Solyndra Lobbied White House for Solar Panels
An FBI agent stands guard at the entrance to the parking lot of the Solyndra LLC headquarters in Fremont, California, on Sept. 8, 2011. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Solyndra LLC, the failed company that House Republicans said may have benefited from White House political connections, unsuccessfully sought a meeting with environment chief Carol Browner to argue for the use of solar panels on government buildings, e-mails show.

Chris Fish, a lobbyist with McAllister & Quinn LLC in Washington, wrote the White House Energy and Climate Change office on July 12, 2010, to request a meeting between Solyndra executives and Browner, who was director of the office, according to e-mails the White House turned over to House investigators for the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Solyndra executives sought to “increase U.S. government installation deployment of U.S.-made solar panels,” according to the e-mail from Fish.

The solar-panel maker, whose $535 million U.S. loan guarantee awarded in September 2009 is being investigated by the Republican-led energy committee, filed for bankruptcy protection on Sept. 6. Two days later, its offices were raided by the FBI.

According to Fish’s e-mail, the company was seeking to supply Solyndra’s lightweight, thin-film solar panels to governmental agencies to install on the rooftops of government buildings and to extend “buy American” procurement provisions that favor U.S.-based suppliers.

“Solyndra is one of the very few solar panel manufacturers reaching large-scale production in the U.S.,” Fish said in the e-mail.

$187,000 for Lobbying

The Fremont, California-based solar-panel maker paid McAllister & Quinn more than $187,000 in 2010 and 2011 to lobby on its behalf, according to Senate records.

McAllister lobbyist Stephen Ham said in a follow-up e-mail on July 16, “Apparently there is an issue with the government buying Chinese panels over U.S. manufactured ones.”

Ham said yesterday the firm doesn’t comment on its clients.

While White House officials initially suggested a meeting with Browner’s deputies, climate-office official Stephen Moilanen wrote back on July 20, rejecting the request.

“Unfortunately, we will be unable to accommodate this request at this time, as we feel this request would be better directed to the Department of Energy itself,” Moilanen wrote Fish.

In June 2010, Solyndra withdrew a planned initial public offering for as much as $300 million. On July 6, a report in Greenwire, an online news outlet that covers the environment, said the company was hemorrhaging cash.

Solyndra spokesman David Miller called the report “total crap,” in a July 6 e-mail to Gregory Nelson, deputy director of the White House office of public engagement, according to the batch of documents, which the White House also released to the press.

‘Troubling Questions’

A report released by the House Energy committee on Sept. 14 said e-mails obtained from its seven-month investigation “raise troubling questions” about whether budget officials weighing the risk of granting Solyndra the loan guarantee were rushed by Obama aides to reach a decision.

Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, described the review as thorough during testimony to the committee.

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