The 1,100 full- and part-time employees who were abruptly laid off two weeks ago aren't the only ones whose paychecks have been affected by the sudden and dramatic failure of bankrupt solar energy company, Solyndra Inc.
Because for its brief lifespan, Solyndra proved to be pretty good for the lobbying community.
According to records filed with the Clerk of the House and a search of disclosure forms compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Solyndra spent nearly $1.9 million on lobbying activities over a period of 43 months from 2008 to 2011.
About $1 million of that was earned by the company's two in-house lobbyists, Joseph Pasetti and Victoria Sanville, over an 18-month period from 2010 until this year. But Solyndra has also had several big-name lobbying shops on its payroll, including established powerhouses Dutko Worldwide and Holland and Knight, which began representing the then-fledgling company in 2008.
While Holland and Knight helped the company with renewable energy tax credit issues, Dutko was brought aboard, according to its filings, to "identify decisionmakers and to assist with the client's loan application" through the Department of Energy.
It is that DOE loan that has touched off an outcry on Capitol Hill and has singed the Obama administration, just as President Obama campaigns across the country for his new jobs plan and Republicans look to scale back clean energy and environmental programs.
By 2009, Solyndra was finished with Dutko and Holland and Knight and was working with well-known energy lobbyist, McBee Strategic Consulting, whose clients have included the Applied Materials Inc., a semiconductor and solar panel equipment manufacturer; Babcock & Wilcox; BrightSource Energy Inc., a solar developer; Google Inc.; Better Place Inc., an electric-vehicle charge station developer; Honeywell International; and Tesla Motors Inc., a developer of electric cars.
McBee was brought on to monitor how the new American Reinvestment and Recovery Act would affect the solar industry. The group specifically reported on lobbying forms that its issues included the DOE loan guarantee program, through which Solyndra eventually received $527 million in funding before it went bankrupt.
Behind Solyndra's own lobbyists, McBee was the shop that made the most off the company, taking in $360,000 over a two-year period.
By 2010 Solyndra had hit its lobbying peak. Not only had the company begun paying its own in-house lobbyists but it was also working with nine other lobbyists at three different agencies including McBee and two others, the Washington Tax Group, which had been brought on board to handle the company's interest as it related to the Solar Manufacturing Jobs Creation Act that was up for consideration, and McAllister and Quinn, which was handling the company's interests on the National Defense Authorization Act.
McBee stayed on board through the first quarter of this year but filed no lobbying report for the company beyond then.
One lobbying shop that was added to Solyndra's stable this year was the Democratic-leaning Glover Park Group. Glover Park had had a communications relationship with Solyndra for about a year before filing with the Clerk of the House on July 18 to conduct lobbying.
The stated purpose on that filing was to provide an "introduction of the company to [House] Energy and Commerce Committee Members."
Glover Park only worked with the company a month but it was efficient.
Three days after it filed with the clerk's office it hosted a media event in Washington at which Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison sought to convince reporters that his company was fiscally sound. At that meeting, Harrison told reporters that he was in town to brief several members of Congress about the health of his company.
But in light of the company's subsequent downfall, those meetings have left a bad taste in some members' mouths.
At an Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee hearing this week, members said they felt misled by the meetings they participated in with Harrison.
"This July, Solyndra's CEO visited my office as well as other members and talked about the strong demand for the company's products and how 2011 revenues were projected to double from 2010. Now as we all know, less than two months later, the company announced it would file for bankruptcy," committee ranking member Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said in her opening statement at the hearing. "I'm perplexed how they could be in my office in July, telling me things were looking better and filing for bankruptcy two months later."
Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) questioned Jonathan Silver, the head of DOE's loan program, and Jeff Zients, the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, on Wednesday on whether they ignored warning signs from their staff about the company as recently as July.
"Apparently ... Solyndra was here on Capitol Hill speaking to members of Congress indicating everything was on track at the same time that your observer was telling us -- was telling you all that there was a problem," Griffith said. "I'm not saying that you all knew they were up here telling fibs, but I am concerned that they were up here telling fibs."
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