Bloomberg News

Solar-Panel Maker Solyndra Lobbied as Its Cash Was About Out

October 20, 2011

(Updates with comment from Glover Park lobbyist in third paragraph.)

Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- A Washington lobbying firm reported it did $20,000 of work for Solyndra LLC as the company approached bankruptcy, according to federal documents.

The Glover Park Group LLC registered as Solyndra’s lobbyist in July, a little more than a month before the Fremont, California-based maker of solar panels closed its doors, firing 1,100 workers.

Joel Johnson, a managing director at Glover Park, said it wasn’t paid by Solyndra and isn’t seeking compensation. Public- disclosure rules require the firm to report its expenses, represented by the $20,000, he said in an interview. Solyndra, which received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Energy Department in 2009, filed for bankruptcy protection on Sept. 6.

“They were struggling to stay alive,” said Craig Holman, who tracks lobbying for Public Citizen, a non-profit advocacy group based in Washington. “This is where lobbyists come into play.”

Catharine Cyr Ransom, a former climate and environment aide to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, and Gregg Rothschild, a former Democratic counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, helped to introduce Solyndra executives to members of the House energy panel, which had been investigating the company’s $535 million U.S. loan guarantee since February, according to the filing with the Senate.

Harrison Faulted

Records show Solyndra terminated the contract with Glover Park on Aug. 19, 12 days before the company shut its doors.

Republicans and Democrats on the energy committee have criticized Solyndra Chief Executive Officer Brian Harrison for presenting an optimistic picture of the company’s financial health in meetings with them in July.

Glover Park helped Harrison convey a similar message to the public, hosting a press conference for him at its Washington offices on July 21. “We’re growing, doubling in size year-over- year, and on track,” Harrison told reporters.

Harrison invoked his Fifth Amendment rights under the Constitution not to make self-incriminating statements and refused to answer questions about the loan guarantee at a Sept. 23 House hearing. He resigned as chief this month.

Companies and interest groups are required to report their lobbying expenses each quarter.

$480,000 Spending

Solyndra had previously reported spending $480,000 in the first half of the year to lobby Congress, according to records filed with the Senate.

Besides Glover Park, the company had hired five firms to lobby on its behalf since 2009, spending at least $1.3 million on issues relating to its loan guarantee and other policies promoting solar power, according to the disclosure records.

Solyndra received the loan guarantee in September 2009. It filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 6 and is the subject of an FBI investigation into whether the company misrepresented its finances to the Energy Department as part of its loan application.

The company has denied any wrongdoing.

In its final month, Solyndra also sought to restructure loan terms with the Energy Department. The department, which had approved new terms in February that put taxpayer debt behind $75 million in private investment in the case of liquidation, denied the second restructuring request the day before Solyndra closed its doors on Aug. 31.

While Glover Park registered as the company’s lobbyist in July, the firm also had done public relations work for Solyndra previously.

A Glover Park representative sent an e-mail on Aug. 3, 2010, to a White House official in response to a negative press report about Solyndra, according to documents released by President Barack Obama’s administration.

“Solyndra is on solid ground and well beyond the startup phase,” Ryan Cunningham, senior vice president at Glover Park, said in the e-mail.

--Editors: Steve Geimann, Judy Pasternak

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Snyder in Washington at jsnyder24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net


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