George B. Kaiser, whose family foundation owns the biggest stake in failed solar panel maker Solyndra LLC, may have been angling to bring jobs to his hometown of Tulsa, Bloomberg.com reports.
The George Kaiser Family Foundation, a supporting organization of the Tulsa Community Foundation, owns almost 36 percent of Solyndra, mostly through its Argonaut Ventures I investment fund. According to a Solyndra regulatory filing, the $340 million that the foundation invested in the company in 2009 included an agreement by the company to give preference to Tulsa for a new factory. Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett told Bloomberg that Kaiser wanted Solyndra to build a plant in the city's economically depressed north side.
After the company, which received $535 million in loan guarantees from the federal government, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Republicans in Congress inquired about whether the White House rushed to support the company due to its relationship with Kaiser, a donor to Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign who visited the White House on multiple occasions after Obama took office to discuss various nonprofit initiatives.
Despite the controversy over the loan guarantees, many Oklahomans believe Kaiser's dealings with the White House were aimed at helping the people of Tulsa and the state. "The implication that George is somehow benefitting personally from [the Solyndra] transaction is incomprehensible to people like me who know him," said Steven Dow, executive director of Community Action Program of Tulsa. "He's the most powerful person in the state, yet what is at the top of his agenda is the interest of the least powerful people in Oklahoma."