WASHINGTON (AP) — An Energy Department adviser and former fundraiser for President Barack Obama pushed to make sure that a California solar company got a half-billion federal loan, despite pledging to recuse himself because his wife’s law firm represented the company.
Newly released emails show that Steve Spinner, a former Obama fundraiser who helped monitor a clean energy loan guarantee program, was more actively involved in a loan for Solyndra LLC than administration officials have acknowledged.
The emails, released by the administration in response to congressional investigators, show that Spinner was actively involved in a planned September 2009 trip by Vice President Joe Biden to Solyndra’s Fremont, Calif., headquarters for a groundbreaking ceremony. Biden did not go on the trip but spoke via satellite. Solyndra declared bankruptcy last month despite receiving a $528 million federal loan.
In the emails, Spinner repeatedly pushes Energy Department and White House budget officials to ensure that the loan was finalized before Biden’s planned trip. The loan closing was announced at the groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 4, 2009.
“How — hard is this? What is he waiting for?” Spinner wrote in an Aug, 28, 2009 email to a DOE official. “I have the OVP (Office of the Vice President) and WH (the White House) breathing down my neck on this. They are getting itchy to get involved.”
Later that day, Spinner asks the same DOE official to “walk over there and force him to give you the answer.’
The emails refer to a DOE loan guarantee official who was evaluating the Solyndra loan.
A White House official declined to comment when asked if Spinner’s conduct was appropriate.
Spinner, who served as an adviser to Energy Secretary Steven Chu from April 2009 to September 2010, pledged not to have “active participation” in any solicitation, due diligence or negotiation related to the Solyndra loan, which has become an embarrassment for the White House and a rallying cry for GOP critics of Obama’s clean energy program.
Spinner’s wife, Allison Berry Spinner, is a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a Los Angeles law firm that represented Solyndra on the DOE loan. Federal records show the firm received at least $2.4 million in legal fees related to the loan.