The Washington Post reports that new e-mails uncovered by a probe into the Solyndra loan scandal suggest that the White House was a lot more intimately involved than they are letting on regarding the approval process for a $535 million loan guarantee to the now bankrupt solar company:
White House staff discussed in emails that either President Obama or his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel were eager to help spotlight a solar company in early 2009, despite numerous internal warnings that the company could be financially unstable, according to new e-mails.
The administration was working to arrange a way for Obama to headline a press conference in early September to announce that Solyndra of Fremont, Ca. had won a $535 million government loan to spur clean energy firms — the first his administration had provided.
The correspondence suggests that, at the most senior levels and down the chain, the fledgling Obama administration had signficant interest in using the loan to highlight progress under the Recovery Act. The e-mails were produced as part of a congressional probe and provided by a government source Friday.
“Any word from OMB?” Department of Energy stimulus adviser Steve Spinner wrote to a department staffer about final terms of the Solyndra loan to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget. “I have the OVP [Office of the Vice President] and WH [White House] breathing down my neck on this.”
The e-mails also show that the Department of Energy was told by the Treasury Deparment its refinancing arrangement for the Solyndra loan in early 2011 might be improper and should be cleared with the Department of Justice.
And it appears as though Mr. Spinner played an intriguing role throughout the Solyndra loan process:
Steve Spinner, a DOE loan program adviser who had served as an Obama fundraiser in 2008, was married to a partner at the law firm of Wilson Sonsini, which was representing Solyndra in its loan application. He had signed an ethics agreement in which he said he would not engage in negotiations about the loan or loan terms for the company.
Yet throughout Solyndra’s loan process, Spinner worked hard to defend the company from criticisms inside the government, including questions from climate czar Carol Browner’s office. He pushed to get a final decision on approving the loan in August.
“How f***ing hard is this?” Spinner wrote on Aug. 28 an another department official. “What is he waiting for” Will we have it by the end of the day?”