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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 9:27 AM 
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Full UPI story here
Quote:
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- The White House deflected criticism that it put pressure on officials to get major stimulus funding through for bankrupt solar panel maker Solyndra.

The FBI and officials from the U.S. Department of Energy last week raided Solyndra's offices in San Francisco. The raid was apparently in connection with $535 million in loan guarantees from the U.S. Energy Department, though the FBI didn't offer details about the raid.


Quote:
Solyndra was set up to make solar cells. The investors included the George Kaiser Family Foundation, set up by an Oklahoma billionaire who was an Obama fundraiser, the Post said.


Solyndra is the third U.S. solar company to have collapsed last month, following Evergreen Solar of Massachusetts and New York-based SpectraWatt, a spin-off from Intel. And last spring, BP Solar stopped manufacturing at its Frederick, Md., complex.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 12:03 PM 
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If it's one thing I've learned over reading stories like this, it's not difficult to tie a billionaire(or other important worldly person) to something. This guy probably invests in hundreds if not thousands of projects like this.

I'd also be curious how directly involved Obama was in approving these loan guarantees. Was it in the tiny fine print of broad-based legislation to cut back on our dependence on oil, as I suspect?


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 12:24 PM 
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They are reporting that the "White House" sent several e-mail messages to the budget office to approve the funding. There are not any direct ties to Obama right now, but it was in his administration.

Also interesting is that the "loan" for Solyandra was started prior to GWB leaving office and it was denied due to "risky revenue streams" for the company. The report, done while Bush was still in office, said "current projections show that unless something drastic changes, they will be out of money by Sept 2011"

President Obama has visited the company, at least once, and there are reports that White House staffers have participated in Solyandra board meetings. Plus Obama used Solyandra as the backdrop to his "investing in green jobs" speech.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 12:34 PM 
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There is another report about the four-star Air Force general who oversees U.S. Space Command that gave a classified briefing to lawmakers and staff in regards to LightSquared's request to implement a nationwide wireless network that could interrupt GPS and military signals. Pressed by members, Gen. William Shelton said the White House tried to pressure him to change his testimony to make it more favorable to a company tied to a large Democratic donor.

LightSquared, whose majority owner is an investment fund run by Democrat donor Philip Falcone.

According to officials familiar with the situation, Shelton’s prepared testimony was leaked in advance to the company. And the White House asked the general to alter the testimony to add two points: that the general supported the White House policy to add more broadband for commercial use; and that the Pentagon would try to resolve the questions around LightSquared with testing in just 90 days. Shelton chafed at the intervention, which seemed to soften the Pentagon’s position and might be viewed as helping the company as it tries to get the project launched, the officials said.

The White House confirmed Wednesday that its Office of Management and Budget suggested changes to the general’s testimony but insisted such reviews are routine and not influenced by politics. And it said Shelton will be permitted to give the testimony he wants, without any pressure.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 12:54 PM 
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more on this from iwatchnews.org:
Full story
Quote:
newly disclosed emails shed light on intriguing exchanges behind the scenes, some between powerful, seemingly impatient officials in the West Wing and bureaucrats trying to follow usual procedures at the Energy Department.

The Energy Department staffer’s prescient warning, unearthed as part of a House investigation into the government’s failed half-billion dollar investment in the fledgling firm, underscores a theme running through a batch of emails obtained by news organizations and described at the hearing: Again and again, the Obama administration pressed forth in support of Solyndra in the face of glaring warning signs sent up from even its own staffers.


Quote:
The trove of emails excerpted by congressional investigators open a window on recurring attempts by top Obama administration officials to question Energy Department officials and push approvals for the loan to Solyndra – despite frequent red flags about Solyndra’s ailing financial condition arising within other federal agencies early in the process of considering whether to put tax dollars on the line.

“The issue of working capital remains unresolved,” the Energy Department staffer noted that August, according to a summary provided as part of Wednesday’s congressional hearing. “The issue is cash balances, not cost. [Solyndra] seems to agree that the model runs out of cash in Sept. 2011 even in the base case without any stress. This is a liquidity issue.”

The employee then asked, “How can we advance a project that hasn’t funded working capital requirements and that generates a working capital shortfall of $50 [million] when working capital assumptions are entered into the model?”

Other flags went up from inside government – each one raised at the two most crucial stages of the government financing, first in March 2009 when Chu announced the Energy Department’s intention to issue a loan guarantee to Solyndra, and then in the closing six months later.

On March 10, 2009, an employee with the Office of Management and Budget sent a pointed missive: “This deal is NOT ready for prime time,” the OMB employee wrote, according to the investigative summary.

Ten days later, the DOE announced Solyndra was in line to be the first company to secure a green energy loan guarantee. In the press release, Chu boasted of the speed at which the office moved. “Secretary Chu initially set a target to have the first conditional commitments out by May - three months into his tenure - but today's announcement significantly outpaces that aggressive timeline,” the release said.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 15, 2011 4:54 PM 
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From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solyndra

Quote:
Solyndra was a manufacturer of cylindrical panels of CIGS thin-film solar cells based in Fremont, California. The company has since suspended all of its operations as of August 2011 leaving behind the United States government as its largest creditor of uncollected debt obligations.


I was raised in Fremont as a child, and was there till 1980, when I joined the Navy.

Small World.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 8:56 AM 
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it looks like they came back to the administration a few months ago to get more money when it looked like the company would default.

Story from Washington Post
Quote:
At the time, the Energy Department was trying to pump taxpayer money into the California company to save it from imminent failure. The firm had received a $535 million federal loan from the agency in 2009, but early this year confided to the Obama administration that without a rapid infusion of cash it was in danger of defaulting.

“The optics of a Solyndra default will be bad,” the Office of Management and Budget staff member wrote Jan. 31 in an e-mail to a co-worker. “If Solyndra defaults down the road, the optics will be arguably worse later than they would be today. . . . In addition, the timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up.”

The e-mail suggests that, as the Energy Department pushed to release an additional $67 million in installments of the loan to Solyndra, the OMB was not participating in the decision about whether to help the company. OMB staff had been in charge of assessing the default risk of firms that received Energy Department loan guarantees.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 6:51 PM 
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I don't know exactly what was expected from the level of investment. It certainly couldn't have been job creation. Solar is a pretty long term technology. It seems like the fed went in expecting some industry explosion.

It would be interesting to see specifically why the solar industry can not compete with China, despite the value of US intellectual property. Maybe the folks buying the equipment are in China and Africa (which China basically owns)?


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 8:21 PM 
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Sarissa wrote:
I don't know exactly what was expected from the level of investment. It certainly couldn't have been job creation. Solar is a pretty long term technology. It seems like the fed went in expecting some industry explosion.

It would be interesting to see specifically why the solar industry can not compete with China, despite the value of US intellectual property. Maybe the folks buying the equipment are in China and Africa (which China basically owns)?

Well, I expect domestic PV manufacturing firms can't compete with China for the same reasons that come to play in other industries: cheap labor, loose environmental regulations, etc. And the PV market these days is largely in China, Japan and the EU. This is mostly due to subsidies and other government incentives. We still do a lot of the longer range R&D at government labs and in academia, but the industry is mostly elsewhere.

It doesn't have to be that way, of course. But for that to change, the federal government would have to send some pretty clear market signals about its long-term commitment to low-carbon power sources.

/shrug


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 16, 2011 8:37 PM 
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Scratch that; actually China exports 95% of the cells they manufacture. The demand is mostly in Japan and the EU, particularly Germany and Spain.

Here's the IEA 2010 report on the PV industry. Page 7 has some graphs on current installed capacity (check out the explosion in Spain from '04-'08, heh), and a blurb about Chinese manufacturing capacity.

Quote:
China’s solar PV industry has been growing rapidly and the country now ranks first in the world in exports of PV cells. Domestic output of PV cells expanded from less than 100 MW in 2005 to 2 GW in 2008, experiencing a 20-fold increase in just four years (Sicheng Wang, 2008). This is the result of a strong demand from the international PV market, especially from Germany and Japan. However, the PV market demand in China remains small, with more than 95% of the country’s PV-cell products exported. In 2008, China’s cumulative PV installed capacity was 150 MW (National Energy Administration, 2009). Some 40% of this demand is met by independent PV power systems that supply electricity to remote districts not covered by the national grid. Market shares of solar PV for communications, industrial, and commercial uses have also increased. BIPV systems, as well as large-scale PV installations in desert areas, are being encouraged by the Chinese government, which began providing a subsidy of RMB 20 (USD 2.93) per watt for BIPV projects in early 2009. It is likely that the 2010 and 2020 national targets for solar PV
(400 MW and 1 800 MW, respectively) announced in 2007 will be significantly increased. Experts predict that Chinese installed capacity could reach 1 GW in 2010 and 20 GW in 2020 (CREIA, 2009).


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 8:51 AM 
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more bad news for the administration:

Full Story
Quote:
Obama admin reworked Solyndra loan to favor donor
The Obama administration restructured a half-billion dollar federal loan to a troubled solar energy company in such a way that private investors — including a fundraiser for President Barack Obama — moved ahead of taxpayers for repayment in case of a default, government records show.
Under terms of the February loan restructuring, two private investors — Argonaut Ventures I LLC and Madrone Partners LP — stand to be repaid before the U.S. government if the solar company is liquidated. The two firms gave the company a total of $69 million in emergency loans. The loans are the only portion of their investments that have repayment priority above the U.S. government.

Argonaut is an investment vehicle of the George Kaiser Family Foundation of Tulsa, Okla. The foundation is headed by billionaire George Kaiser, a major Obama campaign contributor and a frequent visitor to the White House. Kaiser raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama's 2008 campaign, federal election records show. Kaiser has made at least 16 visits to the president's aides since 2009, according to White House visitor logs.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 8:57 AM 
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and a story from The Chicago Tribune
Quote:
The White House faced mounting political complications as a second top fundraiser for President Obama was linked to a federal loan guarantee program that backed a now-bankrupt Silicon Valley solar energy company, and as two California lawmakers called for investigations of a state tax break granted to the firm.

Steve Spinner, who helped monitor the Energy Department's issuance of $25 billion in government loan guarantees to renewable energy projects, was one of Obama's top fundraisers in 2008 and is raising money for the president's 2012 reelection campaign.

Spinner did not have any role in the selection of applicants for the loan program and, in fact, was recused from the decision to grant a $535-million loan guarantee to Solyndra Inc. because his wife's law firm represented the company, administration officials said Friday.

But Spinner's role as a top official in the Energy Department program, which had not been previously revealed, is likely to spur new inquiries into whether political influence played a role in the handling of the "green" energy fund. Solyndra faces a congressional probe, a criminal investigation and separate internal inquiries at the Energy and Treasury departments.

Spinner, who raised at least $500,000 for Obama in 2008, is leading efforts to raise money from the technology industry for the president's reelection campaign. He did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

Last week, he invited Obama fundraisers who were in Chicago for a national finance committee meeting to the launch of the Technology for Obama fundraising program. In July, the Obama campaign credited Spinner with raising between $200,000 and $500,000 so far this year.

Spinner was a Silicon Valley investor who founded a sports and wellness company before he joined the administration in April 2009 after serving on Obama's transition team. He was named an advisor to Energy Secretary Steven Chu and was charged with helping oversee a loan guarantee program authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the economic stimulus program.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:09 AM 
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You've quoted a lot of articles now, Ghaani, so it looks like you're fairly well informed. Do you have any opinions on the issue?


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 10:58 AM 
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I like this part:

Quote:
Spinner did not have any role in the selection of applicants for the loan program and, in fact, was recused from the decision to grant a $535-million loan guarantee to Solyndra Inc. because his wife's law firm represented the company, administration officials said Friday.


So basically, "He doesn't actually have anything to do with this story, but we had to write something..."


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 20, 2011 11:18 AM 
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noojens wrote:
You've quoted a lot of articles now, Ghaani, so it looks like you're fairly well informed. Do you have any opinions on the issue?


I don't think that there is any hard proof that the President himself authorized any funds as a quid pro quo, but I think that due to their want to get "green jobs" funding through the pipeline the administration pushed to get any that were in the system approved, regardless of the faulty financials.

It is my opinion that many of the "green jobs" company financiers and democrat fundraisers are highly cross-pollinated to the point that they are a lot of the same people.

I also think that this is a case of an inexperienced administration getting into power and steering things to reward those that put them in power. And this happens across all political parties. What is bad in this situation is that the money was spent on companies that had weak financial outlooks and the loan structure was established to protect the private investor before the taxpayer.

As for Spinner, if you think that he didn't have any influence in what was selected for funding and what wasn't because he was recused or he had no "official" role you are blind. When a major fundraiser talks "off the record" as to things he wants, it usually happens. Or if people see a company that a major financier is attached too and they have an opportunity to "say thanks" it is usually pushed through.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2011 6:15 PM 
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krby71 wrote:
I don't think that there is any hard proof that the President himself authorized any funds as a quid pro quo, but I think that due to their want to get "green jobs" funding through the pipeline the administration pushed to get any that were in the system approved, regardless of the faulty financials.

Well, having worked for the DOE, I can say that they have taken heat in the past couple of decades for slow disbursement of funds. Due to that reputation, there was significant pressure on the Department to get ARRA funds flowing in a timely manner. Stimulus money was intended, after all, as a short-term spike to combat the economic downturn.

Now, that pressure (which came from both sides of the aisle, incidentally) certainly doesn't justify fiscal sloppiness or -- should this be proven to be the case, which to date it has not -- corruption. But it might help you understand some of the context of the issue, which is conspicuously absent from the articles you've linked.

Quote:
It is my opinion that many of the "green jobs" company financiers and democrat fundraisers are highly cross-pollinated to the point that they are a lot of the same people.

This could certainly be the case; I haven't seen any facts about it in this thread, so I'll just add my opinion to yours. Since part of the justification that green energy companies typically use to levy funds requires caring about environmental issues, I think it's safe to say that many firms in the industry tend to support leftward-leaning candidates. However, a lot of action in the space also comes from conventional energy giants like BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and so on. While these corporations often hedge their bets by supporting candidates in both parties, their interests tend to the right. That's the direction that their money mostly flows, too. So the "cross-pollination" you mention is not unique to the Democrats.

(As an aside, oil companies have some very interesting motivations for branching out into clean tech. We could talk more about that, if you like.)

Now, that said, I'm of the opinion that campaign finance needs to be radically reworked - a position I think you agree with. That's an interesting discussion we could have another time, but I think it's beyond the scope of this thread.

Quote:
What is bad in this situation is that the money was spent on companies that had weak financial outlooks and the loan structure was established to protect the private investor before the taxpayer.

I agree.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 3:23 PM 
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Bovinity Divinity wrote:
I like this part:

Quote:
Spinner did not have any role in the selection of applicants for the loan program and, in fact, was recused from the decision to grant a $535-million loan guarantee to Solyndra Inc. because his wife's law firm represented the company, administration officials said Friday.


So basically, "He doesn't actually have anything to do with this story, but we had to write something..."


It is looking like his signing of an agreement to recuse himself, really didn't mean that he couldn't push for this loan to be approved.
[url=http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/obama-fundraiser-pushed-solyndra-deal-inside/story?id=14691618]from ABC News:[/quote]
Quote:
An elite Obama fundraiser hired to help oversee the administration's energy loan program pushed and prodded career Department of Energy officials to move faster in approving a loan guarantee for Solyndra, even as his wife's law firm was representing the California solar company, according to internal emails made public late Friday.

"How hard is this? What is he waiting for?" wrote Steven J. Spinner, a high-tech consultant and energy investor who raised at least $500,000 for the candidate before being appointed to a key job helping oversee the energy loan guarantee program. "I have OVP [the Office of the Vice President] and WH [the White House] breathing down my neck on this."

Many of the emails were written just days after Spinner accepted a three-page ethics agreement in which he pledged he would "not participate in any discussion regarding any application involving [his wife's law firm] Wilson [Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati]."


it continues...
Quote:
When ABC News and iWatch News reported on Spinner's role in the loan deal Sept. 29, administration officials attempted to minimize Spinner's role at the Department of Energy, saying he worked generally as a liaison, but not directly on the loans themselves.

After that report, Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked to respond "to the ABC report that people who were involved in fundraising in the President's campaign were also involved in decision-making on some of these loans inside the Energy Department… Three prominent fundraisers -- Steve Spinner –"

Carney replied: "It's my understanding, at least with regard to the gentleman you just mentioned [Steve Spinner], that he had no connection to overseeing the loan guarantee program."

Emails obtained Friday, however, show Spinner corresponded directly with Solyndra's vice president of marketing and business development. In one, the Solyndra executive sends talking points about the loan and jots a quick note: "Steve, Solyndra's official position on jobs for your speechwriting."

All the emails were turned over to Congressional investigators Friday afternoon. In addition to the Spinner emails, the documents show more episodes where the administration was advised that investing in Solyndra may be a bad bet.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 3:24 PM 
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bah, failed preview... inserted a /quote instead of /url


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