House Oversight Committee Launches Probe Into Biden-Backed Solar Company

Watchdogs say First Solar a beneficiary of political favoritism

President Biden in front of solar panels /
January 18, 2022

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are investigating the Biden administration's decision to approve a $500 million federal loan to a solar energy company co-owned by a Biden megadonor, according to a letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

After watchdog groups told the Free Beacon that First Solar was a beneficiary of political favoritism, House Oversight Committee ranking member Rep. James Comer (R., Ky.) and Rep. Ralph Norman (R., S.C.), ranking member on the environmental subcommittee, are asking the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to turn over records related to the loan decision.

"The loan, which is DFC's 'largest single debt financing transaction,' raises questions about the involvement of political considerations in the analysis and decision-making processes at the DFC," the congressmen wrote in a letter on Tuesday to acting DFC head Dev Jagadesan.

The probe also follows a shareholder lawsuit that accuses First Solar's executives of misleading investors and artificially inflating its stock price.

The legislators requested records of any communications between the DFC and the White House regarding First Solar and any communications related to First Solar co-owner Lukas Walton or his representatives by Feb. 1. They also asked Jagadesan to brief Republican committee staffers on the issue on Jan. 25.

Walton, a billionaire Walmart heir and one of First Solar's largest shareholders, contributed $300,000 to President Joe Biden's campaign and $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 2020, according to Federal Election Commission records.

"Given Mr. Walton's extensive history [of] fundraising for Democrats, this loan raises questions about what role his political contributions may have played in DFC's decision to grant this loan," the congressmen wrote.

When asked about the House Oversight Committee letter, a spokesman for First Solar told the Free Beacon that the company "would defer to DFC on this."

"DFC has approved debt finance for the new manufacturing facility and the transaction has yet to close," the spokesman said.

DFC did not respond to a request for comment.

The $500 million loan is intended to finance First Solar's planned manufacturing facility in India. First Solar, which is based in the United States, said the offshore factory was not "a case of outsourcing jobs and investment" but rather "a case of enabling the energy security of a major U.S. ally in the Indo-Pacific with American innovation and ingenuity. We are helping counter China's dominance of solar manufacturing, even as we bolster America's energy security."

A spokesman for First Solar previously told the Free Beacon that the DFC reached out to the company about the loan and touted its position as a top U.S. solar manufacturer in an industry dominated by China.

"DFC approached First Solar to see how it could help when it recognized the potential to create a repeatable blueprint for countering China's dominance of supply chains elsewhere," said the spokesman.