Pending bankruptcy didn’t keep Solyndra from sending cash to lobbyists

posted at 2:45 pm on September 16, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

The collapse of Solyndra looks inevitable in retrospect — and for auditors who reviewed their loan application that the Obama White House expedited and to the employees who worked there, it looked inevitable before it happened, too.  This has many wondering just what business model Solyndra used to keep the company going as long as it did.  The New York Times figures out that Solyndra’s execs used a tested-and-true business method called Lobby For Dollars — and that they kept using this model even as the company disintegrated:

According to records filed with the Clerk of the House and a search of disclosure forms compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Solyndra spent nearly $1.9 million on lobbying activities over a period of 43 months from 2008 to 2011.

About $1 million of that was earned by the company’s two in-house lobbyists, Joseph Pasetti and Victoria Sanville, over an 18-month period from 2010 until this year. But Solyndra has also had several big-name lobbying shops on its payroll, including established powerhouses Dutko Worldwide and Holland and Knight, which began representing the then-fledgling company in 2008. …

By 2009, Solyndra was finished with Dutko and Holland and Knight and was working with well-known energy lobbyist, McBee Strategic Consulting, whose clients have included the Applied Materials Inc., a semiconductor and solar panel equipment manufacturer; Babcock & Wilcox; BrightSource Energy Inc., a solar developer; Google Inc.; Better Place Inc., an electric-vehicle charge station developer; Honeywell International; and Tesla Motors Inc., a developer of electric cars.

They scored big in 2009, getting the $535 million Porkulus loan-guarantee package at the center of this scandal.  At that point, one might imagine that Solyndra might have looked for a business model that would actually have produced green technology at a profit rather than continue to seek public support for a failing private venture.  Instead, it looks like the infusion of capital fueled even more lobbying:

By 2010 Solyndra had hit its lobbying peak. Not only had the company begun paying its own in-house lobbyists but it was also working with nine other lobbyists at three different agencies including McBee and two others, the Washington Tax Group, which had been brought on board to handle the company’s interest as it related to the Solar Manufacturing Jobs Creation Act that was up for consideration, and McAllister and Quinn, which was handling the company’s interests on the National Defense Authorization Act. …

One lobbying shop that was added to Solyndra’s stable this year was the Democratic-leaning Glover Park Group. Glover Park had had a communications relationship with Solyndra for about a year before filing with the Clerk of the House on July 18 to conduct lobbying.

They climbed aboard the Solyndra trainwreck just weeks before the collapse, but they had plenty of time to work.  The firm staged a media event for Solyndra’s CEO to publicly proclaim the firm’s fiscal stability.  Glover apparently also arranged a series of meetings with Congressmen, including Henry Waxman, to make the same pitch.

One has to imagine that these lobbyists did not come free of charge or on the cheap.  At the time that Solyndra was shoveling money out the door to lobbyists while their balance sheet went downhill fast, the Department of Energy had observer status at Solyndra’s board meetings.  So far, there is no indication that the DoE flagged these expenses at all, nor did they report to Congress on the lobbying push Solyndra conducted in its last months.  The DoE knew for months that the firm was near collapse, and ended up subordinating taxpayers to George Kaiser’s late cash infusion of $75 million, all but guaranteeing that taxpayers won’t recover most or all of our half-billion dollars destroyed in the collapse.  They made that deal while Solyndra pumped up the lobbying volume to keep Congress in the dark.

Who kept this information quiet from Congress?  More importantly, how many more Solyndras is the Obama administration and its DoE hiding from Congress, watching taxpayer money being risked while politically-connected firms spend millions to pretend that they’re in perfectly good shape?

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