Emails released today give a fuller understanding of the depth of the interactions between the Obama administration and a top fundraiser whose foundation invested in Solyndra, including an October 2010 fundraising dinner where he shared a table with the president.
“OK, I’ll admit it. It was pretty intoxicating. Two hours at dinner. They sat me right next to Him,” fundraiser George Kaiser wrote about President Barack Obama to Ken Levit, the executive director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation. “Charming and incisive as always. Casual conversation; not speechifying.”
The email was revealed in a letter released by House Energy and Commerce Democrats in response to a document release earlier today by Republicans on the committee. House Republicans are investigating whether the White House used improper political pressure to facilitate several matters that the solar-panel company had before the Energy Department, including a $525 million loan guarantee awarded in September 2009 under the economic stimulus law.
The emails indicate that Kaiser and his associates interacted with top White House officials about Solyndra and policy issues relevant to the now-bankrupt company, which was raided by the FBI in early September.
But they also paint a nuanced picture of a man conflicted about using his political influence at the White House for Solyndra. For example, Kaiser said he resisted exhortations by Solyndra representatives to intervene more directly with the White House on the company’s applications for loan guarantees at the Energy Department.
“I never mentioned Solyndra directly” to the president at the fundraiser, Kaiser wrote in the email to Levit. But he did ask associates to brief him on “sound bytes” for the occasion. According to another Kaiser email, he talked during the fundraiser with Jim Messina, who then was deputy chief of staff to Obama and now runs the president’s re-election campaign, about a policy that might have directly benefited Solyndra.
“I said that I understood that the Buy American Act was being bypassed by ‘agencies of government’ (I didn’t say specifically DOD),” Kaiser told Messina, according to the email to Steve Mitchell, a member of Solyndra’s board. “He seemed quite aware of that problem and said they were preparing a directive to deal with it.”
Around the time of the fundraiser, Solyndra was seeking procurement commitments from the Defense Department, according to an Oct. 6 email from Mitchell.
Around 2 p.m. today, Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee released a small set of emails showing Kaiser and his associates discussing whether and how to leverage their political influence at the White House on two Solyndra matters before the Energy Department. The emails also document interactions between Kaiser and his associates and White House officials about Solyndra.
Facing financial difficulties, Solyndra began pushing for a second loan guarantee in early 2010. The emails document a Feb. 24, 2010, meeting between Levit and Vice President Joseph Biden’s office.
“They about had an orgasm in Biden’s office when we mentioned Solyndra,” Levit wrote in a Feb. 27, 2010, email.
“That’s awesome! Get us a DOE loan,” Mitchell responded.
In March 2010, then-Solyndra CEO Chris Gronet told Mitchell he had a “very positive” discussion with Jonathan Silver, a loan officer at the Department of Energy.
Mitchell then described Gronet’s call with Silver in an email to Kaiser and Levit.