By Ronnie Greene and Matthew Mosk, iWatch News
A politically connected solar company that pocketed a half billion dollar government loan, only to shutter its doors, fire workers and file for bankruptcy, secured an interest rate lower than other green energy projects, iWatch News and ABC News found -- one in a string of benefits the Obama administration doled out in bankrolling the project.
Now, the government's agreement with the company compels taxpayers to take a back seat to a venture fund associated with a key Obama fundraiser in trying to collect on the debt. Investors who put in $75 million would be repaid first; some $150 million of the government's $535 million would be next in line, according to the Energy Department's agreement with the company.
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.
Energy Department officials said the rates for all its green energy loans were set by the bank using a formula, and Solyndra's favorable terms were not the result of special treatment.
"All borrowers under the [government loan guarantee] program receive the same treatment," Energy Department spokesman Damien LaVera wrote to iWatch News and ABC News in response to questions.