Emails: Obama White House Monitored Huge Loan to 'Connected' Firm

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Emails: Obama White House Monitored Huge Loan to 'Connected' Firm

Post by Desperado on Tue Sep 13, 2011 7:29 pm

Emails: Obama White House Monitored Huge Loan to 'Connected' Firm

By MATTHEW MOSK, BRIAN ROSS (@brianross) , and RONNIE GREENE
ABC NEWS and iWATCH NEWS
Sept. 13, 2011

Newly uncovered emails show the White House closely monitored the Energy Department's deliberations over a $535 million government loan to Solyndra, the politically-connected solar energy firm that recently went bankrupt and is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

The company's solar panel factory was heralded as a centerpiece of the president's green energy plan -- billed as a way to jump start a promising new industry. And internal emails uncovered by investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee that were shared exclusively with ABC News show the Obama administration was keenly monitoring the progress of the loan, even as analysts were voicing serious concerns about the risk involved. "This deal is NOT ready for prime time," one White House budget analyst wrote in a March 10, 2009 email, nine days before the administration formally announced the loan.

"If you guys think this is a bad idea, I need to unwind the W[est] W[ing] QUICKLY," wrote Ronald A. Klain, who was chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, in another email sent March 7, 2009. The "West Wing" is the portion of the White House complex that holds the offices of the president and his top staffers. Klain declined comment to ABC News.

Beginning in March, ABC News, in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News, was first to report on simmering questions about the role political influence may have played in Solyndra's selection as the Obama administration's first loan guarantee recipient. Federal auditors had flagged the loan, saying some applicants had benefitted from special treatment.

The emails were uncovered by investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will hold hearings on the Solyndra loan Wednesday. The Republican-led House has been investigating the Obama administration's green energy loan program for months. That probe took on new urgency two weeks ago, when Solyndra abruptly shut its doors and laid off 1,100 employees. Last week, the FBI raided the factory as part of a joint investigation with the Energy Department's inspector general.

"This is not right. This is not good," said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who chairs the House committee that is examining the loan. "It makes you sick to your stomach. This is taxpayer money."

As federal authorities examine whether Solyndra misled the government about its true financial state, the Obama White House is fielding fresh questions over why it pushed so hard for Solyndra. Officials with DOE and the Office of Management and Budget are expected to testify Wednesday. Executives with Solyndra, invited to appear as witnesses, will not attend Wednesday's hearing but have told the House committee they will voluntarily appear next week.

Obama's DOE has said it backed Solyndra as a potential game changer in the clean tech movement, but the company's collapse came after clear warning signs the venture was a high risk from the start.

The White House has argued that any effort to finance start-up businesses in a relatively new field like solar energy is bound to include risky ventures that could fail. They reject the notion being pushed by Republicans that Solyndra was chosen for political reasons. One of the largest private investors in the deal, Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser, was also a prominent fundraiser for Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

White House Says Emails Do Show Interest in Solyndra

White House officials said the emails shared with ABC News Tuesday do show White House interest in the timing of the Solyndra decision -- only because the president was considering announcing the decision himself while on a trip to California.

"I think that it is clear that folks understood at DOE that they were supposed to make their decision on the merits and do whatever they were supposed to do to kick the tires on the decision," an administration official told ABC News. "Folks were interested in being updated as to whether the decision-making process was completed."

The White House also noted to ABC News that the Bush administration was the first to consider Solyndra's application and that some executives at the company have a history of donating to Republicans. The results of the Congressional probe shared Tuesday with ABC News show that less than two weeks before President Bush left office, on January 9, 2009, the Energy Department's credit committee had voted against offering a loan commitment to Solyndra.

Even after Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, analysts in the Energy Department and in the Office of Management and Budget were repeatedly questioning the wisdom of the loan. In one exchange, an Energy official wrote of "a major outstanding issue" -- namely, that Solyndra's numbers showed it would run out of cash in September 2011.

There was also concern about the high-risk nature of the project. Internally, the Office of Management and Budget wrote that "the risk rating for the project sponsor [Solyndra] … seems high." Outside analysts had warned for months that the company might not be a sound investment.

Peter Lynch, a New York-based solar energy analyst, told ABC News it took only a cursory glance through Solyndra's prospectus to see there was a problem with their numbers.

"It's very difficult to perceive a company with a model that says, well, I can build something for six dollars and sell it for three dollars," Lynch said. "Those numbers don't generally work. You don't want to lose three dollars for every unit you make."

In 2008, Solyndra, then just three years old, pushed ahead with its application for government backing to build a new plant to produce its unique solar panels. An outside rating agency, Fitch, gave Solyndra a B+ credit rating that August. Two months earlier, in June 2008, Dun & Bradstreet issued a credit appraisal of the company. Its assessment: "Fair."

Those are not top-of-the-line scores, Fitch Ratings spokeswoman Cindy Stoller told the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News, which has been investigating the deal in partnership with ABC News since March. She could not discuss the Solyndra review specifically, but said of a B+ rating: "It's a non-investment grade rating." She provided a company ratings definition, showing that B+ falls between a "highly speculative" B and "speculative" BB.

Asked about those ratings, and how significantly the department viewed the risk, energy officials said Monday the department conducted "extensive due diligence" on the application, which included consideration of the Fitch rating.

"We believed the rating, which is used to inform our analysis of potential risks associated with the loan, was appropriate for the size, scale and innovative nature of the project and was consistent with the ratings of other innovative start-up companies," said Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman.

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"The Department conducted exhaustive reviews of Solyndra's technology and business model prior to approving their loan guarantee application," LaVera said. "Sophisticated, professional private investors, who put more than $1 billion of their own money behind Solyndra, came to the same conclusion as the Department: that Solyndra was an extremely promising company with innovative technology and a very good investment."

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Re: Emails: Obama White House Monitored Huge Loan to 'Connected' Firm

Post by Desperado on Tue Sep 13, 2011 7:33 pm

Feds Visit Homes of Solyndra CEO, Execs

By RONNIE GREENE and MATTHEW MOSK
iWATCH NEWS and ABC NEWS
Sept. 9, 2011

This story has been updated.

Federal agents have expanded their examination of the now-bankrupt California solar power company Solyndra, visiting the homes of the company's CEO and two of its executives, examining computer files and documents, iWatch News and ABC News have learned.

Agents visited the homes of CEO Brian Harrison and company founder Chris Gronet and a former executive, according to a source who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because of the legal sensitivity of the situation.

Gronet, reached at his home Friday morning, did not dispute that his home was visited by federal agents a day earlier.

"I'm sorry," Gronet said, "you probably understand full well that I cannot comment." The third executive could not be immediately reached.

Solyndra spokesman David Miller confirmed agents visited Harrison's home on the same day the FBI and Energy Department Inspector General seized boxes of records from the company's headquarters.

"Yeah, they did go to his house and speak to him briefly," Miller said. "I don't know what they may have taken. I believe they took a look at his computer."

Julie Sohn, a spokeswoman with the FBI in San Francisco, declined to discuss details of the government's investigation. "Unfortunately, our affidavits are still sealed so we can't go into any details," Sohn said.

The raid and visits come amid increasing evidence the Justice Department and Inspector General are exploring whether Solyndra mislead the government in securing its $535 million loan in 2009 -- and landing a vital refinancing of that loan earlier this year. Beginning in March, ABC News, in partnership with iWatch News/the Center for Public Integrity, was first to report on simmering questions about the role political influence may have played Solyndra's selection as the Obama administration's first loan guarantee recipient. One of the lead private investors in Solyndra was an Oklahoma billionaire who served as an Obama "bundler," raising money during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Members of Congress leading a House investigation of the DOE loan have focused specifically on visits Solyndra CEO Harrison made to Washington in July, when he said the company was on sound footing and expanding.

Less than two months after that visit, Solyndra fired 1,100 workers and filed for bankruptcy – a stinging collapse for the Obama administration, which made the Solyndra loan a showpiece as its first investment in green energy technology.

Democrats Now Questioning Solyndra Deal

Republican members of the House have said that bankruptcy indicates the deal was doomed from the start. Now, even Democratic leaders are questioning whether Solyndra misled the government.

"Less than two months ago, Mr. Harrison met with us and other Committee members to assure us that Solyndra was in a strong financial position and in no danger of failing," Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Colorado, and Henry Waxman, D-California, wrote to Republicans leading the investigation. "These assurances appear to contrast starkly with his company's decision to file for bankruptcy last week."

Those questions reveal a significant turn, as DeGette and Waxman were among members to vote against subpoenaing the White House budget office for records on the loan. Now, they are among those posing questions -- as the House has called Harrison to testify next week.

Miller, the Solyndra spokesman, noted that Harrison was not with the company when it secured the loan in 2009. He was, however, the chief executive when Solyndra landed a government refinancing that extended its payment period.

When Harrison came to Washington in July, he said, the company was hoping to land more financing to stay afloat. "When we were there, the circumstances of the company, business was good, we had record shipments. We had momentum in the marketplace," Miller said.

The Energy Department was keeping a close eye on Solyndra during those crucial months – sitting in on board meetings as an observer as part of the loan restructuring, iWatch News and ABC reported Thursday. That raises key questions: Did DOE miss obvious warning signs of the company's troubles in the final months before its collapse?

Obama Bundler Backed Solyndra

In 2009, the Energy Department put Solyndra's application on a fast-track for approval, and announced the award with great fanfare. The generous terms of the government loan included the lowest interest of all the green projects benefitting from Energy Department help, iWatch News and ABC News found.

And as part of the deal, the Energy Department agreed that if the company went bust, private investors could recoup their losses before the government. Republicans in Congress called the investment "a bad bet" and said it "put taxpayers at unnecessary risk."

One of the lead private investors in Solyndra was an Oklahoma billionaire who served as an Obama "bundler," raising money during the 2008 presidential campaign.

The bundler, George Kaiser, has declined to comment. His firm, Argonaut Ventures and its affiliates have been the single largest shareholder of Solyndra, according to SEC filings and other records. The company holds 39 percent of Solyndra's parent company, bankruptcy records filed Tuesday show.

Energy officials have repeatedly denied allegations that Solyndra received special treatment, saying the selection process was even handed. Until two weeks ago, the Obama administration held out Solyndra as a model for its green energy program, which was devised to create jobs and spur investment in cleaner sources of energy. President Obama personally visited the Solyndra plant last year, and his Energy Department made it the first to win approval of a federal loan guarantee. The $535 million federal investment enabled the company to build a sprawling manufacturing facility.

Under terms of the bankruptcy filing, investors including Argonaut -- which led a $75 million round of financing for Solyndra earlier this year -- will stand in line before the federal government and other creditors to recoup losses. Energy officials confirmed this arrangement, saying that after private investors including Kaiser recover $75 million, the U.S. government would have a chance to seek $150 million of its investment. Private investors will not be made whole, however, and stand to lose almost a billion dollars.

Kaiser has declined interview requests for months from iWatch News and ABC News. Calls went unreturned again on Thursday. HisTulsa-based George Kaiser Family Foundation, which in 2009 cited a $342 million investment value in Solyndra, issued a statement after Solyndra's collapse, citing "serious challenges in the marketplace, especially the drastic decline in solar panel prices during the past two years caused in part by subsidies provided by the government of China to Chinese solar panel manufacturers."

Energy officials have said they viewed the Solyndra venture as a possible "game changer" in the green energy movement.

"Sophisticated, professional private investors, who put more than $1 billion of their own money behind Solyndra, came to the same conclusion as the Department: that Solyndra was an extremely promising company with innovative technology and a very good investment," a spokesman said this week.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story stated that the homes of Solyndra executives had been searched. Solyndra officials say that while agents visited homes of key executives, they did not search them.

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Re: Emails: Obama White House Monitored Huge Loan to 'Connected' Firm

Post by ToddS on Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:44 pm

Solyndra Loan: Now Treasury Dept. Is Launching Investigation

By RONNIE GREENE and MATTHEW MOSK
iWATCH NEWS and ABC NEWS
Sept. 14, 2011

The Treasury Department's inspector general has opened a new front in the investigation of the government loan to Solyndra, the now bankrupt company that had been touted as a model of President Obama's ambitious green energy program, ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity/iWatch News have learned.

The new probe involves the $535 million loan, arranged by the Energy Department, but actually processed by the Federal Financing Bank, a government lending institution that falls under Treasury's control. Already, the FBI and the Energy Department's inspector general have executed search warrants at Solyndra's headquarters and questioned company executives.

"We're going to look at everything the FFB had to do with its role in this thing," Rich Delmar, a spokesman for the Treasury Department's inspector general, told ABC News and iWatch News.

Earlier this month, iWatch News and ABC News disclosed that Solyndra received a rock-bottom interest rate of 1 to 2 percent -- lower than those affixed to other Energy Department green energy projects. The low rate was set even as an outside agency, Fitch Rating, scored Solyndra as a B+ -- "speculative" -- investment. Energy Department officials said the bank set the rate, based on formulas including the payout length, and that Solyndra did not receive special treatment.

Word of the broadening probe came as the head of the Energy Department's loan program came before Congress at a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

After spending months touting the Obama administration's decision to loan $535 million to Solyndra, top officials took a new tack Wednesday while testifying about the company's abrupt shut-down and bankruptcy: the loan, they said, was actually the Bush administration's idea.

The Energy Department's top lending officer told Congress that the Solyndra loan application was not only filed during President Bush's term, but it surged towards completion before Obama took office in January 2009.

"By the time the Obama administration took office in late January 2009, the loan programs' staff had already established a goal of, and timeline for, issuing the company a conditional loan guarantee commitment in March 2009," said Jonathan Silver, who heads the Energy loan program.

Even after the loan was restructured in 2011, the Energy Department and other administration officials continued to tout Solyndra's prospects.

In May, Silver told ABC News and iWatch News that questions about the loan guarantee were unfounded, and that Solyndra's canceled public offering and restructuring were hiccups that are typical for start-up companies.

"I have never seen a company go straight up without a bump along the way," Silver said. "I have no doubt they will continue to hire more people."

Republicans Push Back

Republicans pushed back hard against this version of events, unearthing internal Energy Department emails that indicate the panel evaluating the loans had made the unanimous decision to shelve Solyndra's application two weeks before Obama took office.

Blaming the failed loan on the Bush administration marked an abrupt turn for the Energy Department, which had championed the Solyndra loan as a model for its efforts to build a so-called "green energy" industry that creates jobs and safeguards the environment. The Solyndra loan was so central to this strategy that the administration initially planned to have Obama personally announce it, and later sent the president to the company's solar panel manufacturing facility in Fremont, California to celebrate its work.

The $535 million loan to Solyndra included a quarterly interest rate that is now at 1.025 percent, the government bank reported in July. Of 18 Energy Department loans cited in the bank's report, Solyndra's rate was lowest. Eight other Energy Department projects, each also backed by the Federal Financing Bank, came with rates three or four times higher, the report shows.

That treatment is in keeping with the history of the loan to the California solar panel maker, an arrangement inked in September 2009 with great fanfare. Monthly government bank reports filed since then reveal Solyndra's rate as the lowest for any energy-related project in nearly every report; in every case its rate was well below that of most energy projects, which ranged from cutting-edge electric car makers to wind and solar ventures.

Department of Energy officials said the rates for all of its green energy loans were set by the bank using a formula, and Solyndra's favorable terms were not the result of special treatment.

"All borrowers under the [government loan guarantee] program receive the same treatment," Energy Department spokesman Damien LaVera wrote to iWatch and ABC News in response to questions.

Solyndra spokesman David Miller agreed, saying that the interest rate was based on hard data -- such as when the loan was granted and the length of the repayment period. Solyndra's loan was for seven years, he noted, while other energy loans would have longer repayment periods. Miller pointed to a Treasury spreadsheet showing rates for 20- and 30-year loans are higher than those that are to be repaid in seven.

"It depends on the terms you negotiated," Miller said. "You'd have to look at each one of those other companies and see what their term was and that would probably explain to you what the difference would be."

But records show the advantageous terms came in spite of red flags about the risks of investing in Solyndra. In 2008, as the loan agreement was moving forward, an outside rating agency gave the deal with a B+ grade, a less than optimum score, according to records obtained by iWatch and ABC under the Freedom of Information Act. That same year, the records show, Dun & Bradstreet assigned the company's credit appraisal as "fair."

The path taken by Solyndra's application for a massive government loan was just one of several questions explored by members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's investigative subcommittee Wednesday. Members grilled Silver and Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, as to why the initial loan was approved, and why the Solyndra deal was restructured earlier this year. The restructuring came at a time when the company was already showing signs of financial stress, with Chinese competitors offering similar products for less money.

The House investigation into the matter had been underway well before the company collapsed. Federal auditors had already questioned the methods the energy department was using to analyze the loans. And beginning in March, ABC News, in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News, began reporting on simmering questions about the role political influence may have played in Solyndra's selection as the Obama administration's first loan guarantee recipient.

On Tuesday, some of the fruits of that investigation began to surface in anticipation of the hearing.

Emails uncovered by investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee showed that the Obama White House closely monitored the Energy Department's deliberations over the $535 million government loan, which was backed by an Obama fundraiser. The internal emails uncovered by investigators showed the administration was keenly monitoring the progress of the loan, even as analysts were voicing serious concerns about the risk involved.

"This deal is NOT ready for prime time," one White House budget analyst wrote in a March 10, 2009 email, nine days before the administration formally announced the loan.

"If you guys think this is a bad idea, I need to unwind the W[est] W[ing] QUICKLY," wrote Ronald A. Klain, who was chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, in another email sent March 7, 2009. The "West Wing" is the portion of the White House complex that holds the offices of the president and his top staffers. Klain declined comment to ABC News.

Solyndra Was Central to Obama Green Strategy

Both administration officials and Energy Department officials pushed back on suggestions from Republican critics that politics could have influenced the process. They said emails released Tuesday only show that the White House was eager to have the president make the Solyndra announcement, and that a great deal of advanced planning work was underway to try and accomplish that. They said Kaiser made no effort to influence the process, and noted that several Solyndra executives were Republicans -- including its chief executive.

Democrats in Congress spent much of the Wednesday hearing voicing those key points.

"The documents and briefings that I've reviewed show that the Department of Energy in both the Bush and Obama administrations supported Solyndra's loan guarantee application," said Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat.

But with the company in bankruptcy and FBI agents investigating elements of the deal, some Democrats in the House were still raising doubts about the wisdom of the investment.

"We need to understand what happened, who should be held accountable, and how we can avoid future losses," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D.-Calif.

In April, after ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity aired the first in a series of reports on the Solyndra deal, Waxman was an early critic of the decision by House investigators to pursue the matter. He wrote a letter saying his own review had not uncovered "any information or documents that suggest any impropriety, wrongdoing, or favoritism in the award of the Solyndra loan guarantee."

But Wednesday, Waxman expressed displeasure with the sudden collapse of the company, especially after the company's CEO had just weeks earlier visited his office and personally vouched for the promise of the company.

"Well, these rosy scenarios were not realized," Waxman said. "Today we'll ask why. Is the reason unforeseen developments in the global marketplace, as Solyndra and DOE argue? Or is the reason sloppy or inadequate vetting, or worse yet, corporate malfeasance?"

As the hearing was underway, the Department of Energy was sending out emails to the press intended to convey that Solyndra was a bipartisan problem.

"At several points in the hearing, folks have pointed out the party affiliation of the private investors who lost a billion dollars of their own private capital on this deal," wrote Dan Leistikow, the department's director of public affairs. "Of the two major investment firms who risked and lost the most, one happens to be associated with a Democratic donor and one with a Republican donor. I frankly can't understand what that has to do with anything, but I suppose it's always good to see a little bipartisanship."

But Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, made note during the hearing that "the administration officials held out the company as a shining example of how the stimulus was creating jobs and invigorating the economy."

Indeed, when the loan was announced in March of 2009, Energy Secretary Chu issued his own press release, identifying Solyndra as "part of President Obama's aggressive strategy to put Americans back to work and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

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Re: Emails: Obama White House Monitored Huge Loan to 'Connected' Firm

Post by John Chisum on Fri Sep 16, 2011 10:38 am

Obama admin ignored warnings about Solyndra

AP By MATTHEW DALY - Associated Press | AP – 11 hrs ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House officials discussed the political ramifications of a possible default by a troubled solar energy company that received more than $500 million in federal loans, newly released emails show.

Emails released Thursday night show that Obama administration privately worried about the effect of a default by Solyndra Inc. on the president'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 email to a senior OMB official. "The timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up."

The email, released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee as part of its investigation into the Solyndra loan, showed that Obama administration officials were concerned about Solyndra's financial health even as they publicly declared the solar panel maker in good shape.

Solyndra, which received $528 million in federal loans under the stimulus law, declared bankruptcy late last month and laid off 1,100 workers.

The Silicon Valley company was the first renewable-energy company to receive a loan guarantee under the 2009 stimulus law, and the Obama administration frequently touted Solyndra as a model for its clean energy program. President Barack Obama visited the company's Fremont, Calif., headquarters last year.

Even as Obama praised the company's plans to hire more than 1,000 workers, warning signs were being sent from within the government and from outside analysts who questioned Solyndra's viability as a "going concern."

At least three reports by federal watchdogs over the past two years warned that the Energy Department had not fully developed the controls needed to manage the multibillion-dollar loan program that provided more the loan to Solyndra Inc., a now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press show that a White House official dismissed reports about Solyndra's gloomy future. An email from Greg Nelson, a White House official who had been involved in the planning of Obama's May 2010 trip to Solyndra's headquarters, to a Solyndra executive downplayed a July 2010 news story in a trade publication that criticized the company's financial health.

"Seems B.S.," Nelson wrote.

A 2009 report by the Energy Department's inspector general warned that the DOE lacked the necessary quality control for the loan guarantee program, which was created in 2005 to support clean-energy projects that could not obtain conventional bank loans due to high risks.

In July 2010, the Government Accountability Office said the Energy Department had bypassed required steps for funding awards to five of 10 applicants that received conditional loan guarantees.

The report did not publicly identify the companies that were not properly vetted, but congressional investigators say one of them was Solyndra. The company was the first to receive a loan guarantee after the program was expanded under the 2009 stimulus law.

In March, DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman again faulted the loan program for poor record keeping. A report by Friedman said the program "could not always readily demonstrate, through systematically organized records ... how it resolved or mitigated relevant risks prior to granting loan guarantees." According to the report, the department kept limited or no electronic data on 15 of 18 loan guarantees examined.

Documentation for the remaining three projects was more robust, the report said, "but did not include all of the information necessary ... to evaluate the applicant's credit worthiness and/or the risks associated with the projects."

Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the Energy Department, said all reviews were completed before any taxpayer money was obligated.

Even so, warnings about the company persisted. A report last year by auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers said Solyndra had suffered recurring losses from operations and negative cash flows, raising "substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern."

But last May, a Solyndra email informed the White House that "things are going well" at the company and that it had "good market momentum, the factory is ramping up and our plan puts at cash positive later this year. Hopefully, we'll have a great story to tell toward the end of the year."

Nelson, the White House official, replied: "Fantastic to hear that business is doing well — keep up the good work! We're cheering for you."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the White House did not influence the Solyndra loan, which he said was made on "a merit-based process" by DOE.

"There's no evidence that the White House was involved in the loan," Carney said Thursday. Emails that show White House officials pressuring the administration's budget office about the loan were about scheduling, he said.

"The White House was involved in trying to find out when a decision would be made, so ... staff here could make a decision about the vice president's having an event" at Solyndra headquarters in September 2009, Carney said.

The FBI recently raided Solyndra's headquarters, shortly after Solyndra filed for bankruptcy and laid off 1,100 workers.

A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case under seal, said the search was related to a fraud investigation into whether Solyndra filed inaccurate documents with the government.

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department's inspector general said Thursday it has opened an investigation into the Solyndra loan.

Spokesman Richard Delmar said the inspector general is reviewing the role and actions of the Federal Financing Bank, a government corporation supervised by the Treasury Department. The bank provided the low-interest loan to Solyndra. The loan is one at least 15 loans totaling more than $6 billion made by the financing bank as part of the stimulus program

The FBI has executed search warrants at Solyndra's headquarters and talked to top executives. The Energy Department's inspector general and the House Energy and Commerce Committee also are investigating Solyndra and the DOE's loan guarantee program, which has provided billions in loan guarantees to renewable energy companies.

The loan guarantees essentially make it easier for the companies to get financing, because the government guarantees repayment in the event of default. In Solyndra's case, the loan came from the government itself, but private banks often provide the financing.

The Obama administration is moving to finalize as many as 15 loan guarantees for renewable-energy companies before the stimulus program ends on Sept. 30. Republicans question whether that could lead to more loans to companies that fail like Solyndra.

LaVera said the department won't take any shortcuts during the approval process.

"We will only close the deals that are ready to close on Sept. 30," he said.

___

Associated Press writers Jack Gillum, Jim Kuhnhenn and Larry Margasak contributed to this report.

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