E-mails: Tulsan George Kaiser Discussed Solyndra Loan With White House
WASHINGTON - E-mails released by a U.S. House committee appear to show that a major donor to President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign discussed with White House officials a federal loan to a failed California solar company backed by the donor's company.
That's despite repeated assurances by Obama administration officials that the donor, George Kaiser of Tulsa, didn't discuss the loan with the White House.
The emails are from George Kaiser and key staff members. But the Tulsa businessman and philanthropist insists he did nothing wrong.
In Tulsa, George Kaiser is known for his foundation's multi-million dollar efforts to help Tulsa's less fortunate. But on Capitol Hill, the billionaire has been put under the microscope for his dealings with the failed Solyndra.
Kaiser's foundation owns a third of Solyndra and he's a big campaign contributor to President Obama. Some say that's why the California-based solar panel company got a half-billion dollar federal loan from the Department of Energy.
A February 27th email from George Kaiser Family Foundation Executive Director Ken Levit says he met with leaders in Vice President Biden's office and they were "all big fans of Solyndra."
Steve Mitchell, who runs a venture capital firm associated with Kaiser and is on Solyndra's board, responded, "That's awesome. Get us a DOE loan."
But other emails seem to indicate Kaiser didn't believe he could influence the White House to save Solyndra, once it got into financial trouble.
An October email says "I question the assumption that the White House is the path to pursue..." Kaiser goes on to say, "I would see an appeal as only a last resort, and even then, questionable. We need to discuss."
Solyndra board member Steve Mitchell responded, "understood." He goes on to say "the White House has offered to help in the past and they do have a contact they're working with."
But Mitchell's email also states "the company is hoping that we have some unnatural relationship that can open bigger doors - I've cautioned them that no one really has those relationships anymore."
The documents contradict White House statements that Kaiser "never discussed Solyndra during any of his seventeen visits to the White House," Representative Fred Upton (R) Michigan, who is leading a congressional investigation into Solyndra's collapse, said in a letter to White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler.
Kaiser's family foundation invested in Solyndra -- the Fremont, California-based maker of solar panels that filed for bankruptcy in September 2011.
Some email excerpts released by Democratic congressional leaders show that George Kaiser was worried the media would link the Solyndra loan with his campaign contributions.
Ken Levit responded that Solyndra's name never crossed his lips with the Administration and says they've certainly never lobbied for the company.
"To reaffirm our previous public statements, George Kaiser had no discussions with the government regarding the loan to Solyndra," said Renzi Stone, spokesperson for GKFF.