Published August 24, 2012
Taxpayers are about to take it on the chin again when it comes to solar-panel firm Solyndra, as the now-defunct company looks to sell off its glimmering headquarters for a fraction of the original price.
Bankruptcy court documents filed earlier this week show that Seagate Technology -- which makes hard drives and other storage products -- is offering to buy the Fremont, Calif., building for $90.3 million. The original building cost was cited in earlier documents as roughly $300 million.
The offer, though not final, became an instant political football as the Romney campaign used it to resurrect accusations that the Obama administration gambled, and lost, with taxpayer dollars. The government gave a $528 million loan to Solyndra.
"Solyndra is the ultimate symbol of President Obama's failed attempts to pick winners and losers in the free market," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. "The Obama administration's decision to put its friends and donors ahead of taxpayers was wrong, and even the sale of Solyndra's palatial headquarters won't make things right."
Solyndra, aside from trying to recover for investors what it can from the value of the building, already auctioned off much of its equipment during a two-day affair last November.
Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in September 2011, setting off a months-long investigation by Republicans in Congress. It has been a persistent campaign-year issue.
A report released earlier this month by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee concluded that "political pressure" by a White House eager to tout its stimulus spending was largely to blame for fast-tracking the loan guarantee.
"It is clear (the Department of Energy) should never have issued the loan guarantee to Solyndra," the report said.
The White House, though, said the investigation nevertheless affirmed "this was a merit based decision made by the Department of Energy" as opposed to an attempt to reward political cronies.
If the $90 million sale price is approved, it's unclear how much of that might be returned to the government. A prior restructuring deal allowed private investors to be repaid before taxpayers.
During a congressional hearing last November, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said taxpayers are not likely to get much of that money back.
Asked how much money taxpayers might see, Chu said: "Well, that remains to be seen. I'm anticipating that not very much."