Judicial Watch Sue Obama Administration for Records Detailing Bailout Loan to California Solar Manufacturer Heavily in Debt
$1.2 Billion in Loan Guarantees to SunPower from Department of Energy Followed Successful Lobbying Campaign by Firm Connected to California Congressman’s Son
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on February 1, 2012, against the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of the Treasury for records regarding a controversial $1.2 billion government loan guarantee from the Obama Department of Energy to SunPower, a California solar company reportedly $820 million in debt (Judicial Watch v. Department of the Interior and Department of the Treasury (No. 12-170). A similar lawsuit was filed on the same date by Judicial Watch against the U.S. Department of Navy for related documents.
Pursuant to Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed with the Departments of Interior and Treasury on October 21, 2011, Judicial Watch seeks the following:
- Any and all records regarding, concerning or related to the issuance of a Department of Energy loan guarantee to SunPower, Inc. and/or NRG Energy, Inc. on or about September 30, 2011.
- Any and all records of communication between any official, officer, or employee of the Departments of the Interior and/or Treasury and any official, officer or employee of any other government agency, department of office regarding, concerning or related to any loan guarantees applied for, by, and/or awarded to SunPower, Inc. and/or NRG Energy.
- Any and all records of communication between any official, officer, or employee of the Department of the Interior and/or Treasury and any officer, employee or representative of Lang, Hansen, O’Malley and Miller, a government relations firm headquartered in Sacramento, California.
The FOIA request also asked for records regarding a visit to SunPower’s Richmond, California production facility on October 14, 2010, by Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar, U.S. Congressman George Miller III (D-CA), and others. The FOIA request submitted to the Department of the Navy sought access as well to “any and all records regarding, concerning or related to the $100,268,000 firm-fixed-price task order awarded to SunPower, Inc. on September 30, 2011.” Miller’s involvement in the SunPower has been the subject of several investigative pieces in Human Events magazine.
All three agencies have acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch’s FOIA requests but have failed to respond within the statutory allotted time frame. As of February 1, 2012, the date of the filing of the lawsuits, the Departments of the Interior, Treasury, and Navy have neither provided the documents nor demonstrated that the documents are exempt from the FOIA request. Nor has there been any indication of when the documents would be produced.
In light of the controversial Obama administration loan to the now bankrupt energy company Solyndra, the SunPower loan, which amounts to more than double the amount of funds dedicated to Solyndra, has come under intense scrutiny. SunPower, which is reportedly $820 million in debt and besieged by shareholder lawsuits, plans to manufacture its solar panels at a new facility of some 320,000 square feet located in Mexicali, Mexico.
Moreover, George Miller IV, a “founding partner and principal” of the lobbying firm that helped secure the loan (Lang, Hansen, O’Malley and Miller), is the son of California Democratic Congressman George Miller III. The lobbying firm reportedly charged SunPower $176,000 in fees since 2009.
As reported by Human Events, Congressman Miller has been a champion for SunPower, which has operated a solar panel manufacturing facility in his district, and pushed for the loan guarantees: “In support of the loan request, Rep. George Miller III, the co-chairman of the policy and steering committee for House Democrats, wrote a letter to the Department of Energy and led Secretary of the Interior Kenneth L. Salazar on an Oct. 14, 2010, tour of the company’s facility in Richmond, Calif.”
“SunPower may make the Solyndra scandal seem like small potatoes,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch. “And just like Solyndra, the SunPower loan is tainted by corruption, influence peddling and terrible judgment. In the wake of the public outrage over Solyndra, the Obama administration clearly intends to cover up the details of yet another risky and corrupt government bailout. We expect our lawsuits will break through the Obama administration stone wall.”