New e-mails released Tuesday prior to Energy Secretary Steven Chu's testimony before a congressional investigative committee on Solyndra, reveal that the Obama administration urged their failing clean energy poster child to keep firm layoffs quiet until after the 2010 midterm elections.
First reported by the Washington Post, the October 2010 emails reveal that, despite having received an energy loan from administration of $535 million, the solar panel manufacturer's chief executive had told the Energy Department he intended to announce worker layoffs on October 28. However in an October 30 email, advisers to Solyndra’s primary investor, Argonaut Equity, explain that the Energy Department had strongly urged the company to put off the announcement until November 3. The day after midterm elections where Republicans trounced the administration's party.
A Solyndra investor adviser wrote on October 30: “They did push very hard for us to hold our announcement of the consolidation to employees and vendors to Nov. 3rd – oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date.”
On Nov. 3, 2010, Solyndra announced it would lay off 40 workers and 150 contractors and shut down its Fab 1 factory. The Post notes that the DOE "agreed to continue giving Solyndra installments of its federal loan despite the company’s failure to meet key terms of the loan, and in February restructured its loan to give investors a chance to recover $75 million in new money they put into the company before taxpayers would be repaid."
Emails released earlier this month revealed that a major donor to the President had discussed Solyndra with White House officials, directly contradicting repeated assurances by the Obama administration that the donor, George Kaiser, had never spoken with the White House about the company. The emails reveal that Solyndra came up during a meeting at the White House with Kaiser at the same time Solyndra was seeking a second federal loan. The second loan was not approved and AP reports that an investment venture controlled by Kaiser made a private loan that resulted in the firm and other investors moving ahead of taxpayers in line for repayment in case of a default by Solyndra.
Solyndra declared bankruptcy in September and laid off its 1,100 workers, leaving taxpayers on the hook for more than a half-billion dollars.