WASHINGTON — A major donor to President Barack Obama discussed with White House officials a solar energy company that received a half-billion dollar federal loan and later went bankrupt, newly released emails show.
The emails released by a House committee appear to contradict repeated assurances by the Obama administration that the donor, George Kaiser, never talked about Solyndra Inc. with the White House.
Solyndra's name came up at a White House meeting with Kaiser last year at a time when the California company was seeking a second federal loan, after it had already received a $528 million loan in 2009, the emails show.
The second loan was not approved. Instead, an investment venture controlled by Kaiser made a loan that resulted in the firm and other investors moving ahead of taxpayers in line for repayment in case of a default by Solyndra.
Solyndra, the first renewable energy company to receive a federal loan under the 2009 stimulus law, declared bankruptcy in September and laid off its 1,100 workers, leaving taxpayers on the hook for more than a half-billion dollars.
The company's implosion and revelations that administration officials rushed to complete the loan in time for a September 2009 groundbreaking have become an embarrassment for Obama and a rallying cry for GOP critics of his green energy program.
Kaiser, an Oklahoma billionaire, was a "bundler" for Obama's 2008 campaign, raising between $50,000 and $100,000 for the president, records show. He also was a frequent White House visitor in 2009 and 2010. White House officials for months have denied that Kaiser talked about Solyndra during those visits. One the nation's richest men, Kaiser owns an oil company and other energy interests and is chief donor to the George Kaiser Family Foundation, which invests in early childhood education and community health.
In one email released Wednesday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Kaiser said that when he and a foundation official visited the White House last year, officials showed "thorough knowledge of the Solyndra story, suggesting it was one of their prime poster children" for renewable energy.
The emails released Wednesday were obtained through a request to major investors for Solyndra-related documents, said Sean Bonyun, a spokesman for the Energy Committee.
They were released as the White House faces a deadline today to respond to a committee subpoena for White House documents related to Solyndra.
White House officials accused the GOP-led committee of misleading the public by making it appear that Kaiser pushed for the original 2009 loan rather than the emergency loan last year, which was never approved.
"Even the documents cherry-picked by House Republicans today affirm what we have said all along: This loan was a decision made on the merits at the Department of Energy," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in an email Wednesday. "Nothing in the 85,000 pages of documents produced thus far by the administration or in these four (pages) indicate any favoritism to political supporters."