Inside Mann

Former Solyndra lobbyist and current Obama Super PAC donor gets government green for green projects

David H. Mann /
September 12, 2012

A lobbyist and Obama Super Pac donor who has had numerous meetings at the White House has represented green energy concerns that have secured millions of government dollars—including the failed solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra.

David H. Mann’s work focuses on "the areas of clean technology, energy and environmental policy, and transportation as well as federal funding and appropriations," putting his work squarely in the middle of the green energy businesses championed, mandated, and subsidized by Democrats and the Obama administration.

The Obama administration, which has a well-known affection for green energy, has granted Mann significant access: He met with White House officials four times in under two years between 2010 and 2012, records show. He has donated $500 to Priorities USA, the Obama-affiliated super PAC.

His lobbying ended up costing Americans millions of dollars, however.

Mann lobbied for Solyndra, Inc. from October 2008 to March 2009, when the company secured a $535 million loan from the Department of Energy despite the company’s mediocre credit rating. With this loan, Solyndra became "the first company to receive an offer for a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee under Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005," the company announced on its website.

In early 2011, with Solyndra’s finances still shaky, the Department of Energy refinanced its loan, giving the troubled solar panel company more time to repay its debt. But, later that year, Solyndra filed for bankruptcy anyway.

As a result, the government lost over $500 million.

Solyndra is the most prominent of Mann’s failed clients, but it is far from the only one.

Mann lobbied for Advanced Electron Beams between January 2010 and January 2011. This company was a "maker of electron emitter equipment for sterilization of packaging and other applications, which aim to use less energy and other resources than conventional approaches," according to the Boston Business Journal.

Advanced Electron Beams secured a nearly $300,000 grant from the Department of Energy in May of 2010, just four months after Mann started lobbying for the company. The grant was for research into the application of electron beams into fighting air pollution.

Two years after receiving the government research grant, AEB shut down operations. A board member said the "technology just proved to be too difficult to commercialize."

AEB was no longer a client of Mann’s when it closed its doors.

Other companies for whom Mann has lobbied have failed to live up to their projected results.

One example is Sapphire energy, a Mann client since July 2010. Sapphire has secured over $100 million of grants and loans from the federal government since 2009 for a biofuel refinery plant in New Mexico. In a release, Democratic Governor Bill Richardson said the project would "create 750 direct and indirect jobs."

Actual results: As of March 31, 2012, the project was less than 50 percent complete and had created fewer than 150 jobs.

Mann has also lobbied for Kemet Electronics Corporation since December 2011. In early 2010, Kemet secured a $15 million grant from the Department of Energy to make DC bus electric capacitors.

As of June 30, fewer than 5 jobs had been created at Kemet.