Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Race To Top honcho involved in the Solyndra "green energy" scandal

George Kaiser
I'm following a brewing Enron-type scandal involving the White House and Solyndra, one of the many corporations getting in on the so-called green-energy (new meaning for that word green) gold rush and the recipient of more than $500 million in Dept. of Energy taxpayer supported, loan guarantees. Solyndra was touted by President Obama as the model for government investment in green technology.

An FBI raid on solar-panel maker Solyndra Inc. may signal the escalation of a probe into the Obama administration’s entire clean- energy program. Solyndra recently shut its factory and fired 1,100 people and said in its filing for bankruptcy protection that it had liabilities of $783.8 million.

I'm particularly interested in the Solyndra scandal, not only because of the ease in which a politically connected, but obviously failing corporation has easy access to federal dollars,  but because of the names cropping up around the investigation. Among them, Oklahoma oil billionaire George Kaiser whose Kaiser Family Foundation was a principal investor in the company and owns 35.7 % of Solyndra (Yes Virginia, big "non-profit" foundations are also big corporate investors). Kaiser was also a bundler for the  Obama campaign in 2008 and raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama during the 2008 election through GBK Corp. Kaiser’s firm, Argonaut Ventures, is the single largest shareholder of Solyndra. 

Kaiser is also a big player in the world of school reform and in Arne Duncan's Race To The Top initiative. In May, he joined two Cabinet officials in announcing the $500 million RTTT competition on early learning and suggested Oklahoma's record in that area should give it a boost.

According to the L.A. Examiner, the company’s founder and CEO, Dr. Christian M. Gronet received $13.9 million in stock options on the same day the stimulus loan was announced. Vice President Joe Biden spoke to a group of Solyndra employees and investors, publicly announcing that the company “closed” the deal on the government’s $535 million loan guarantee. Biden boasted that Solyndra exemplified how well the stimulus is working by immediately creating thousands of well-paying permanent jobs. Gronet publicly thanked President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary Chu, the Governor and the U.S. Congress for the support and loan. 

Kaiser reportedly made at least 16 White House Visits on behalf of Solyndra. In June, he met with senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, policy adviser David Pope and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (who as mayor of Chicago, now runs the city's school system),

George Kaiser insists that he is not directly an investor in Solyndra and denies any discussions with the U.S. government regarding the loan. The foundation however, says it “invests in a globally diversified portfolio across many different asset classes.” In its PR releases, the Kaiser Foundation claims that it is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty. It certainly has helped break George Kaiser's.

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