In 2009 the Obama administration gave $535 million to Solyndra, claiming that it would create 4,000 new jobs. However, instead of creating those 4,000 new jobs, the company went bankrupt. It was later revealed that the company’s shareholders and executives had made substantial donations to Obama’s campaign, that the company had spent a large sum of money on lobbying, and that Solyndra executives had had many meetings with White House officials.
It was also revealed that the Obama administration had already been aware of Solyndra’s financial troubles. For example, according to the company’s security filings in 2009, the company had been selling its product for less than the cost of production.
In 2010, Obama visited the Solyndra factory and cited it as a role model for his “stimulus” program, saying “It’s here that companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.”
In September 2011, federal agents visited the homes of Brian Harrison, the company’s CEO, and Chris Gronet, the company’s founder, to examine computer files and documents. Also in September 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department launched an investigation.
On September 13, 2011, the Washington Post reported on emails which showed that the Obama administration had tried to rush federal reviewers to approve the loan so Vice President Joe Biden could announce it at a September 2009 groundbreaking for the company’s factory. The company was a hallmark of President Obama’s plan to support ‘clean energy’ technologies.
The New York Times reported that government auditors and industry analysts had faulted the Obama administration for failing to properly evaluate the company’s business proposals, as well as for failing to take note of troubling signs which were already evident.
In addition, Frank Rusco, a program director at the Government Accountability Office, had found that the preliminary loan approval had been granted before officials had completed the legally mandated evaluations of the company.
The New York Times quoted Shyam Mehta, a senior analyst at GTM Research, as saying “There was just too much misplaced zeal at the Department of Energy for this company.” Among 143 companies that had expressed an interest in getting a loan guarantee, Solyndra was the first one to get approval. During the period when Solyndra’s loan guarantee was under review, the company had spent nearly $1.8 million on lobbying.
The Washington Post reported that Solyndra had used some of the loan money to purchase new equipment which it never used, and then sold that new equipment, still in its plastic wrap, for pennies on the dollar.
Former Solyndra engineer Lindsey Eastburn told the Washington Post, “After we got the loan guarantee, they were just spending money left and right… Because we were doing well, nobody cared. Because of that infusion of money, it made people sloppy.”