According to hundreds of pages of emails obtained by Fox News, the Obama administration was considering giving an additional $5.4 million to the now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Solyndra in late August -- just days before the firm filed for Chapter 11, laying off all of its employees.
The emails allegedly reveal that Energy Secretary Steven Chu and his staff were eager to find a way to salvage the distressed company, but officials at the White House, Treasury Department and Office of Management and Budget stepped in, ultimately cutting off additional funding to the company.
After a conference call on Aug. 26 to discuss the matter, an email exchange discussing the call hints that the White House might have been much more worried about the public relations fallout than they initially indicated. According to Fox, White House aide Heather Zichal emailed budget office official Jeffrey Zients to see if he would join in on the Solyndra call. He agreed, asking, "What's the deal?" Fox adds:
"*#-@show," was Zichal's one-word response to Zients.
Another email suggested that the ensuing controversy was going to be "a mess," according to the documents obtained by Fox News.
After the August conference call, officials familiar with the discussions told Fox News that there was unanimous opinion within the administration that no more money should go to Solyndra. The company filed for bankruptcy days later.
The emails are part of about 2,000 pages of documents sent late Friday to the House Energy and Commerce Committee as part of the Obama administration's ongoing cooperation with an investigation into whether undue political influence was used by George Kaiser, an Obama fundraiser and Solyndra investor, to approve the original $535 million government loan guarantee to the company.
The newly released emails also reveal that Steve Spinner, an Obama fundraiser who later became a top Energy Department official, pushed administration officials in 2009 to make a decision on the Solyndra loan, despite having been warned that he should stay out of the negotiations.
If that were not enough:
Another big point in the new emails is that administration officials told the Energy Department in early 2011 that they should consult with the Justice Department before restructuring Solyndra's loan in a way that put private investors ahead of taxpayers in case of a bankruptcy.
But the emails show that lawyers at the Energy Department moved ahead with the restructuring in February 2011 without ever consulting with the Justice Department. Private investors put up another $150 million in capital, and half of it was put to the front of the line ahead of taxpayers receiving their money in case of a failure.
"In February, we requested in writing that DOE seek the Department of Justice's approval of any proposed restructuring," Justice official Marty Miller wrote on Aug. 17, 2011, to Zients, according to the article in Fox. "To our knowledge that never happened."
The entire report can be viewed on the Fox News website.