Kaiser Family Foundation 2009 grant to Michelle Obama’s ‘Urban Health Initiative’ sparks more Solyndra ‘crony capitalism’ questions
A Daily Caller review of the George Kaiser Family Foundation’s income tax returns found that during the same year billionaire investor George Kaiser successfully secured $535 million in government loan guarantees for the now-failed solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, his private philanthropy donated to a political cause close to the hearts of several high-ranking Obama administration officials.
Kaiser, a major Obama donor, was a frequent White House visitor during the week before the Obama administration approved that taxpayer-underwritten financial deal.
A $10,000 donation to the Urban Health Initiative at the University of Chicago Medical Center appears on the group’s 2009 tax forms. It was also in 2009 that Kaiser successfully sought to lock down a loan guarantee for the green-energy company Solyndra through his two investment vehicles: Argonaut Ventures and the GKFF Investment Company.
While this donation seems small compared to the far larger numbers involved in the Solyndra scandal, it adds to the pattern of possible connections between the Obama administration and the growing Solyndra scandal.
Several of President Barack Obama’s senior inner-circle advisers worked with or for now-first lady Michelle Obama when she held a leadership post at the University of Chicago Medical Center and helped create the Urban Health Initiative program. The Washington Post reported in 2008 that Valerie Jarrett was the medical center’s chairwoman, and David Axelrod provided community support-building services.
“One of Barack’s best friends, Eric Whitaker, is executive vice president at the center and is now in charge of the Urban Health Initiative,” the Post added in the year Obama was elected to the presidency. Whitaker is still in that role today.
George Kaiser’s four White House visits during the week before Solyndra secured its $535 million loan guarantee — and his $53,500 in donations to the president’s 2008 presidential campaign — have drawn scrutiny from critics questioning whether the Obama administration engaged in political favoritism. Now Kaiser’s philanthropic gift to one of Michelle Obama’s public health projects is another indication of what may amount to a White House fully engaged in crony capitalism.
“This tax document clearly shows that George Kaiser greased the wheels to gain favor with the Obama Administration for the purpose of receiving a half-billion dollar taxpayer-funded loan for Solyndra,” Citizens United president David Bossie told The Daily Caller. “It is evident that this was a pay-to-play scheme that reaches all the way up to the highest levels of the White House.”
Bossie, a former special investigator during the Clinton administration, told TheDC that a bold and aggressive congressional investigation is necessary.
“The American people deserve to know the facts of this case,” he said. “Congressional investigators need to dig into this scandal, as we know the politicized Department of Justice cannot be trusted.”
As TheDC reported last week, Solyndra applied for $469 million in additional loan guarantees in 2009. It is unclear whether that second application was approved, and it’s also unclear at what point point during 2009 the Kaiser Family Foundation made the grant in question.
The foundation rarely donates to organizations or causes outside its home state of Oklahoma.
Kaiser Family Foundation officials did not respond to requests from TheDC for more information about the reasons for making the one-time grant. The White House also did not respond to TheDC’s request for comment.