Monday, February 20, 2012


Federal funds flow to clean-energy firms with Obama administration ties
Washington Post – Carol D. Leonnig and Joe Stephens – 2/14/2012

Sanjay Wagle was a venture capitalist and Barack Obama fundraiser in 2008, rallying support through a group he headed known as Clean Tech for Obama.  Shortly after Obama’s election, he left his California firm to join the Energy Department . . . to stimulate the economy with federal investments in clean-technology firms.

Following an enduring Washington tradition, Wagle shifted from the private sector, where his firm hoped to profit from federal investments, to an insider’s seat in the administration’s $80 billion clean-energy investment program.

He was one of several players in venture capital, which was providing financial backing to start-up clean-tech companies, who moved into the Energy Department at a time when the agency was seeking outside expertise in the field.  . . . their industry had a huge stake in decisions about which companies would receive government loans, grants and support.

During the next three years, the department provided $2.4 billion in public funding to clean-energy companies in which Wagle’s former firm, Vantage Point Venture Partners, had invested, a Washington Post analysis found. Overall, the Post found that $3.9 billion in federal grants and financing flowed to 21 companies backed by firms with connections to five Obama administration staffers and advisers.

. . . there’s increased likelihood that political connections will influence things.”

Known for making billions of dollars in the 1990s on Internet startups, venture firms in 2006 were rapidly switching to invest in clean tech. . . .  called the clean-energy sector the next great profit center, “the mother of all markets.”

. . . $80 billion set aside for clean energy and energy-efficiency efforts.

Suddenly flush with cash, the Energy Department was under orders to ramp up quickly and get money out to promising companies.

Thousands of agency and White House e-mails released as part of the Solyndra investigation show that venture capitalists who held advisory roles with the Energy Department were given access to Obama’s top advisers.

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this story.   The Washington Post Company

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