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White House wary of Solyndra re-election effects

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration was worried about the financial health of a troubled solar energy company — and the political fallout it could bring — even as officials publicly declared the company in good shape, newly released e-mails show.

An e-mail from a White House budget official to a co-worker discussed the likely effect of a default by Solyndra Inc. on President Barack Obama's re-election campaign.

"The optics of a Solyndra default will be bad," an official from the Office of Management and Budget wrote in a Jan. 31 e-mail to a senior OMB official. "The timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up."

The e-mail was released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee as part of its investigation into a half-billion dollar federal loan to the company. The e-mail says the budget official wanted White House budget director Jacob Lew to warn Energy Secretary Steven Chu about the risk posed by Solyndra, which was once the poster child for the Obama administration's clean energy program. It has since laid off 1,100 people and filed for bankruptcy.

At the time of the e-mail, the Energy Department was pushing to release an additional $67 million to Fremont, Calif.-based Solyndra to help the company through a cash-flow crisis.

"Questions will be asked as to why the administration made a bad investment, not just once (which could hopefully be explained as part of the challenge of supporting innovative technologies), but twice (which could easily be portrayed as bad judgment, or worse)," the e-mail says.

The FBI raided Solyndra's headquarters last week and interviewed company executives at their homes.

The company received $528 million in federal loans and was the first renewable-energy company to receive a loan guarantee under the stimulus law. The Obama administration frequently touted Solyndra as a model for its clean energy program.

White House wary of Solyndra re-election effects 09/16/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 16, 2011 10:04pm]
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