The Obama administration urged officers of the struggling solar company Solyndra to postpone announcing planned layoffs until after the November 2010 midterm elections, newly released e-mails show.
Solyndra, the now-shuttered California company, had been a poster child of President Obama’s initiative to invest in clean energies and received the administration’s first energy loan of $535 million. But a year ago, in October 2010, the solar panel manufacturer was quickly running out of money and had warned the Energy Department it would need emergency cash to avoid having to shut down.
The new e-mails about the layoff announcement were released Tuesday morning as part of a House Energy and Commerce committee memo, provided in advance of Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s scheduled testimony before the investigative committee Thursday.
Solyndra’s chief executive warned the Energy Department on Oct. 25, 2010, that he intended to announce worker layoffs Oct. 28. He said he was spurred by numerous calls from reporters and potential investors about rumors the firm was in financial trouble and was planning to lay off workers and close one of its two plants.
But in an Oct. 30, 2010, e-mail, advisers to Solyndra’s primary investor, Argonaut Equity, explain that the Energy Department had strongly urged the company to put off the layoff announcement until Nov. 3. The midterm elections were held Nov. 2, and led to Republicans taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“DOE continues to be cooperative and have indicated that they will fund the November draw on our loan (app. $40 million) but have not committed to December yet,” a Solyndra investor adviser wrote Oct. 30. “They did push very hard for us to hold our announcement of the consolidation to employees and vendors to Nov. 3rd – oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date.”