Fisker Cronyism Redux

Law firm with ties to Democrats advised DOE on Fisker loan

February 28, 2012

A law firm with a history of donating to President Obama and other Democrats received lucrative stimulus grants to advise the Department of Energy on loans to automotive companies, including the struggling electric car manufacturer Fisker Automotive, the National Legal and Policy Center reports.

Fisker received a $529 million loan promise to produce two lines of plug-in hybrid cars. But the project has been plagued by delays, unmet goals, and lay-offs, as well as news that Fisker was using its federal loans to produce cars in Finland.

The National Legal and Policy Center writes:

The firm, Debevoise & Plimpton LLC, received $1,842,180 in Recovery Act funds to provide legal advice, conduct due diligence, and review documents for two loans from DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. One $529 million loan award was to Fisker Automotive to develop and produce two lines of electric vehicles, with plans to create 2,000 new jobs at a renovatedGeneral Motors plant in Delaware. After receiving $193 million under that loan, DOE halted payments to Fisker in May 2011 after it failed to reach milestones set out in the agreement. Work on renovations to the Delaware plant was suspended, and the company let go about 65 employees – "green jobs" – earlier this month. …

According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, employees of the law firm gave $199,944 to Sen. Barack Obama for his 2008 presidential campaign, compared to $9,650 for Republican nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Over the last three congressional election cycles (two cycles for the presidency, including this year), Debevoise staff members have donated $746,535 to Democrat candidates and political committees, including $284,420 to the Obama campaign. In contrast, Republican candidates and their support groups received $57,451 from employees of the law firm. Debevoise’s media relations manager, Suzanne Elio, is a former Democratic National Committee fundraiser, and top lawyer David Rivkin reportedly served on President Obama’s National Finance Committee, even hosting a fundraiser for presidential candidate Obama in his home in 2007.

Debevoise is not the first law firm whose employees donated to Democrats and received a lucrative contract to review DOE loans.

The Energy Department hired Wall Street firm Lazard Ltd. in August 2011 to investigate possible options to bailout Solyndra, the now-bankrupt solar company that received a $535 million loan from the Energy Department.

According to the Associated Press, the Energy Department paid Lazard $1 million to analyze refinancing options for Solyndra.

As originally reported by the Weekly Standard, Lazard Ltd. is a top contributor to the Democratic party and one of the 20 largest donors to the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Lazard employee Antonio Weiss is a bundler for Obama’s re-election campaign who has raised between $100,000 and $200,000 for the president. Vernon Jordan, a member of the firm’s board of directors, is a former adviser to Bill Clinton.

Lazard argued in an Aug. 17 memo that Solyndra was almost certain to fail without a new infusion of cash, likely resulting "in little recovery to the DOE."

The Energy Department ultimately rejected Lazard’s proposed refinancing plan. Solyndra declared bankruptcy on Aug. 31, 2011