Solyndra Booster Is Top Obama Fundraiser

Steve Spinner, formerly of Center for American Progress, raised more than $500k for prez

• February 6, 2012 8:36 am


The man who helped orchestrate the failed $535 million taxpayer-guaranteed loan to Solyndra remains one of President Obama’s most active campaign bundlers.

According to Obama’s campaign website, Steve Spinner, a former senior fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP) and member of the Obama-Biden Transition Team, has raised at least $500,000 for the president’s reelection effort. He has also personally contributed more than $30,000 to Democratic candidates and committees since 2005.

Spinner served in the Department of Energy as a "chief strategic operations officer" for the loans program that invested more than a half-billion dollars in Solyndra, the California solar panel firm that filed for bankruptcy in September 2011.

Emails produced by the White House reveal that Spinner played an active role in Solyndra loan, despite having a conflict of interest that was supposed to restrict his involvement with the company.

During the time that Solyndra was being considered for a DOE loan, Spinner’s wife Allison was a partner at the law firm advising the company on its loan application. He even signed an ethics agreement pledging not to participate in "any discussion" about Solyndra.

However, a series of emails shows that just days before the Solyndra loan was formally announced, Spinner was actively engaged in discussions about the company, even seeking to advise the White House with respect to the political implications of the loan’s announcement (it was the first of its kind awarded by the DOE).

The Solyndra rollout, Spinner argued, should be a "big event," with "golden shovels, bulldozers, hardhats, etc.," and either President Obama or Vice President Biden in attendance. The political benefit of such an event, Spinner suggested in an email to a DOE official, "might spur OMB [the Office of Management and Budget] a little faster to help the closing."

As the Washington Examiner reports, Spinner took part in high-level meetings between Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Matt Rogers, the DOE adviser tasked with managing the $6 billion stimulus funding allocated to the department.

Not only did Spinner participate in these discussions, he appears to have been a primary point of contact for senior administration officials, as well as top Solyndra executives. When the Office of Management and Budget angered White House officials by asking for more time to review the Solyndra loan, Spinner led the charge to speed the process along.

"Any word from OMB?" he wrote to DOE career official Kelly Colyar on Aug. 28, 2009. "I have the [office of the vice president] and [the White House] breathing down my neck on this." Later that day, Spinner emailed another DOE official in a decidedly more anxious tone. "How f[—]ing hard is this?" he wrote. "What is he waiting for? Will we have it by the end of the day?"

When administration officials began to raise concerns about Solyndra’s financial prospects, Spinner was one of the first to leap to the company’s defense. On Aug. 19, 2009, Spinner emailed an aide to then-Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel arguing that such concerns were unfounded. "I haven’t heard anything negative on my side," he wrote in one exchange. He even offered to arrange meeting with the individuals who had questioned Solyndra’s viability, writing, "I … have no idea what they’re referring [to]."

Spinner left the administration in September 2010, shortly after the Solyndra loan was approved. He then joined CAP, a liberal think tank, as a senior fellow focusing on energy policy. His contract with CAP expired recently, and Spinner now appears to have become a full-time fundraiser for the president.