The White House's half billion dollar loan to a now- bankrupt solar panel firm is just the first act in an emerging scandal of insider political influence over a deeply flawed, and possibly corrupt, clean energy program.
What has come to light so far as part of a congressional investigation is the administration's willful order to approve a bad loan, despite dire warnings from a number of federal officials that the Solyndra corporation, a California-based solar panel maker, was in deep financial trouble.
A steady stream of government e-mails released by a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee tell a sordid tale of a company that President Obama turned into an energy showcase for his $40 billion loan program -- until it went bankrupt in August, putting 1,100 employes out of work.
One of the people promoting Solyndra's $535 million loan, which will now have to be paid by federal taxpayers, is Steven J. Spinner, a senior Energy Department adviser, a major fundraiser for Obama, and a Silicon Valley investor who was given the job of guiding the government's clean technology investments.
He was not only one of Solyndra's unabashedly inside defenders, his wife worked for the California law firm that represented the solar company and helped it file for the government loan her husband was promoting.
While internal concerns were raised about Solyndra's shaky finances as early as the summer of 2009, Spinner e-mailed a top aide to then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that Solyndra was a financially solvent company that fully deserved the administration's support.
"I haven't heard anything negative on my side," he told Emanuel's aide in an e-mail about the warnings. "I... have no idea what they're referring [to]."
As the loan deal stalled over internal criticism of the firms' looming insolvency, Spinner grew more impatient. "How [expletive] hard is this?" he wrote to a career Energy staffer on Aug. 28, 2009 about its delayed clearance by an Office of Management and Budget official.
"What is he waiting for? Will we have it by the end of the day?"
But internal complaints from OMB and Treasury about Solyndra's dubious finances as well as the favorable terms of its loan persisted.
That sparked further internal debate over the legality of the loan's revision, though to no avail.