FBI agents are executing search warrants at the headquarters of California solar firm Solyndra that received a $535 million loan from the U.S. government. The solar-panel manufacturer was once touted by President Barack Obama as a beneficiary of his administration’s economic policies. The firm announced last week that it was laying off 1,100 workers and filing for bankruptcy.

FBI spokesman Peter Lee says agents executed multiple search warrants on Thursday morning at the company’s headquarters in Fremont as part of an investigation with the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General. He says he could not provide details about the investigation.

House Republicans have been investigating a Department of Energy loan guarantee program, created as part of the 2009 stimulus bill, from which Solyndra received its loan guarantees. In July, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight and investigations subcommittee issued a subpoena for White House documents related to the Solyndra loan.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative and research arm of congress, also expressed concerns over the loan program in a 2010 report. (Read the report (pdf) here.)

Conservative web sites have made much of Solyndra’s ties to the Obama administration. From the The Daily Caller last week.

Shareholders and executives of Solyndra, a green energy company producing solar panels, fundraised for and donated to the Obama administration to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser, a key Obama backer who raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for the president’s election campaign, is one of Solyndra’s primary investors. Kaiser himself donated $53,500 to Obama’s 2008 election campaign, split between the DSCC and Obama For America. Kaiser also made several visits to the White House and appeared at some White House events next to Obama officials.

Campaign finance records show Kaiser and Solyndra executives and board members donated $87,050 total to Obama’s election campaign.

As reported in the Washington Post the next day, the George Kaiser Family Foundation said in a statement on the matter: “”George Kaiser is not an investor in Solyndra and did not participate in any discussions with the U.S. government regarding the loan.”

More on possible favorable treatment of Solyndra, from the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News yesterday:

The $535 million loan to Solyndra Inc., issued by the Treasury Department’s Federal Financing Bank as part of the Obama administration’s stimulus to create jobs and spur development of green energy, included a quarterly interest rate of 1.025 percent, the government bank reported in July. Of 18 Energy Department stimulus loans cited in the bank’s report, Solyndra’s rate was lowest. Eight other Energy Department projects, each also backed by the Federal Financing Bank, came with rates three or four times higher, the report shows.

That treatment is in keeping with the history of the loan to the California solar panel maker, an arrangement inked in September 2009 with great fanfare – and touted, not long after, during a factory visit from the president. Monthly government bank reports filed since then reveal Solyndra’s rate as the lowest for any energy-related project in nearly every report; in every case its rate was well below most energy projects, ranging from cutting edge electric car makers to wind and solar ventures. Solyndra’s rate fluctuated from 1 to 2 percent, hovering at 1 percent of late.

FBI Agents Search Solyndra 8 September,2011KQED News Staff and Wires

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor