Kaiser Foundation Aims to Steer Clear of Brewing Solyndra Controversy

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September 2, 2011; Source: Tulsa World | The Tulsa, Oklahoma-based George Kaiser Family Foundation issued a statement last Thursday saying that the collapse of Solyndra LLC, a solar-panel manufacturer in which it held a 35.7-percent stake, was due to poor market conditions:

George Kaiser Family Foundation, an independent charitable foundation, is among many investors in Solyndra and has suffered a loss as a result of the company’s inability to overcome serious challenges in the marketplace, especially the drastic decline in solar panel prices during the past two years caused in part by subsidies provided by the government of China to Chinese solar panel manufacturers.

The reason that this is not a run-of-the-mill foundation announcement is twofold: Solyndra received hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S.-government backed loan guarantees, and foundation benefactor George B. Kaiser is a major Obama donor. House Republicans are questioning whether Solyndra received favorable treatment from the government as a result of the Obama-Kaiser connection. A letter from Republican leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee to White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler states:

We have learned from our investigation that White House officials monitored Solyndra’s application, and communicated with [the Energy Department] and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials during the course of their review in 2009 and when those officials were restructuring the Solyndra deal this year. Documents received by the Committee also show that DOE and OMB officials were aware of the White House’s interest in the Solyndra loan guarantee. In addition, we are also aware that a major investor in Solyndra, George Kaiser, was a bundler for President Obama’s 2008 campaign.

According to the Washington Post, the foundation’s statement went on to say that Kaiser himself is not invested in Solyndra and “did not participate in any discussions with the U.S. Government regarding the loan.”

Kaiser inherited a small oil company from his father in the 1960s and eventually moved into banking as well. He is one of the top 100 richest people in the nation, a top-50 U.S. philanthropist, and a signer of the Giving Pledge. Kaiser bundled donations totalling between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Somewhat distressingly, the latest entry on the Kaiser Foundation’s “In the News” page on its website dates from May, 2010. We will stay on top of this story.—Chris Hartman