Solyndra execs feasted while taxpayers got roasted; Update: Committee approves subpoena power on Solyndra

Taxpayers lost $535 million in subsidies to Solyndra, a firm whose main investor was a bundler for Barack Obama and one that Department of Energy auditors warned would fail.  Did Solyndra executives share in the pain?  Not exactly, as the San Jose Mercury News and GreenTechSolar discovered while perusing the bankruptcy documents.  Solyndra execs took home big bonuses while their company collapsed and workers got the heave-ho:

Senior executives at Solyndra collected hefty bonuses — ranging from $37,000 to $60,000 apiece — as the Fremont company bled cash and careened toward bankruptcy this summer.

Bankruptcy documents filed in Delaware earlier this week reveal that more than a dozen senior executives at the defunct solar manufacturing company were awarded sizable quarterly bonuses April 15 and again July 8. Solyndra ceased operations in late August and filed for bankruptcy Sept. 6. About 1,100 employees were laid off without severance pay.

The bonuses, awarded to more than a dozen executives, came on top of what were already highly competitive salaries. Karen Alter, Solyndra’s vice president of marketing, had an annual base salary of $275,000; she was awarded a $55,000 bonus in April and again in July. Ben Bierman, Solyndra’s executive vice president of operations and engineering, had an annual base salary of $300,000; he was awarded $60,000 in April and again in July. Will Stover, the company’s chief financial officer, was also awarded a $60,000 bonus in April and again in July.

Money didn’t just flow to current executives, either.  Former CEO Chris Gronet scored a $456,000 severance package, even though he had led Solyndra to the brink of bankruptcy.  The documents also show that Gronet got tossed out almost two months earlier than Solyndra had indicated in public, leaving open the question of whether they were trying to keep the DoE from noticing the impending collapse.

Even with all of this going on, the White House apparently gave strong consideration to — what else? — a bailout:

Days before Solyndra collapsed, the Obama administration considered a bailout that would have provided an infusion of cash and a new board of directors, including two directors appointed by the Energy Department.

Officials rejected the plan, which was recommended in August by the investment banking firm Lazard. Lazard was paid $1 million for analyzing options related to the faltering Fremont company.

Well, someone had to keep the bonuses flowing to failing executives, right?  The only reason this nugget of information came to light was because of a late-afternoon document dump by the DoE, attempting to get ahead of a flurry of subpoenas that may come from the House today.

It’s not for nothing that the Inspector General at the DoE has now launched 100 criminal investigations into the use of stimulus funds for Obama’s green-tech subsidy boondoggle:

The Energy Department’s inspector general has launched more than 100 criminal investigations related to 2009 economic stimulus spending.

In written testimony prepared for delivery to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today, Inspector General Gregory Friedman said the investigations have involved “various schemes, including the submission of false information, claims for unallowable or unauthorized expenses, and other improper uses of Recovery Act funds.” …

The activity is partially due to the fact that few “shovel ready” projects existed in 2009, Feldman said. “The concept of ‘shovel ready’ projects became a Recovery Act symbol of expeditiously stimulating the economy and creating jobs. In reality, few actual ‘shovel ready’ projects existed,” he said.

The stimulus funding DOE received — more than $35 billion — was greater than previous annual budgets for the entire agency, most notably its $27 billion in funding for fiscal 2011.

To quote Michael Ledeen … faster, please.

Update: The Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigative panel voted to give chair Cliff Stearns the authority to issue subpoenas for the investigation, on a party-line vote:

Showing a growing frustration with the the Obama administration, congressional Republicans on Thursday authorized their second subpoena this week, demanding White House documents related to failed solar technology company Solyndra.

By a 14-9 party-line vote the Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigative subcommittee authorized issuing a subpoena for any White House documents related to Solyndra, which received renewable energy loan guarantees under President Obama’s stimulus program. The request for documents could include details of the president’s own travel and communications.

Democrats said it was “unprecedented” to subpoena documents from the president’s executive office like this, but Republicans said they’ve run out of patience with White House “stalling.”

“We simply cannot allow the executive branch at its highest levels to pick and choose what they will produce, or whether they will produce anything at all,” said Rep. Cliff Stearns, the Florida Republican who runs the investigative panel.

No subpoenas have yet been issued, but Stearns now has a big trump card to play.