The Obama administration is facing a new round of scrutiny over the Department of Energy's approval of a $535 million loan guarantee for Solyndra, the now-bankrupt Fremont-based solar panel company, after emails released Monday showed prominent supporters warned the president not to visit the company because of its financial problems.
An examination by The Bay Citizen of how the loan money was spent shows nearly half was paid to a Redwood City construction company that was not vetted as part of Solyndra's loan application, according to information reported by Solyndra as part of the federal stimulus program.
Beginning in September 2009, Solyndra paid about $262 million to Rudolph & Sletten to build its Fremont factory — which Solyndra shut down just two years later, days before declaring bankruptcy.
Solyndra’s expenditures on the plant, which cost an estimated $733 million to build, according to Bloomberg, have been a focal point of inquiries into how the company went through so much money in such a short time.
Note: The payments in this pie chart add up to more than 100 percent, because the amount spent on vendors is also included in the totals received by Solyndra and Rudolph & Sletten.
More than $2.4 million in legal fees went to Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, the law firm where Allison Spinner is a partner. Spinner is married to Steven J. Spinner, a former Obama campaign fundraiser and a key advisor to Energy Secretary Steven Chu on the department's loan program, ABC News reported. Allison Spinner promised not to take any of the money and did not work on the loan applications, according to ABC.
Under the federal loan program, Solyndra had the freedom to spend its money as it pleased. The Department of Energy does not screen the subcontractors and vendors hired by loan recipients.
Solyndra and Rudolph & Sletten paid a total of nearly $42 million to 87 vendors for goods and services ranging from furniture to legal fees (scroll down to see details of the payments).
Rudolph & Sletten declined to comment.
Solyndra declared bankruptcy on Sept. 6, days after laying off most of its 1,100 employees. If Solydra is unable to pay back its federal loans, as expected, taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.
A week after Solyndra shut down, the FBI raided the Fremont plant and visited the homes of three current and former Solyndra executives.
The company's CEO, Brian Harrison, and chief financial officer, W.G. Stover, were called to a House subcommittee hearing last month, but both invoked their Fifth Amendment rights and did not answer any questions.
This chart shows details of how the loan money was spent. See anything surprising? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with "Solyndra" in the subject line, or send us a tweet @thebaycitizen with the hashtag #solyndra.