Daily Caller News Foundation

Close ties leave Center for American Progress, First Solar seeing green

The Center for American Progress supports green energy. First Solar makes green from such energy. Could there be a connection?

This is the second part of a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation into the intersection of CAP’s policy positions with its corporate donors’ financial interests. (RELATED: Center for American Progress — or corporate donors’ progress?)

CAP has been a major proponent of green energy, backing numerous policies and proposals to subsidize and mandate the use of renewable energy sources.

First Solar has been a large beneficiary of federal government largess, receiving billions of taxpayer dollars to build solar installations and sell panels abroad. It is not only listed as a CAP donor, but has also been listed as a client of the Albright Stonebridge Group (ASG) in 2011 — a lobbying firm founded by former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. ASG is also listed as a CAP donor.

The solar company was listed as a member of CAP’s Business Alliance in 2012. As a CAP Business Alliance member, First Solar would have gotten several perks like invitations to “VIP events with leaders from government, business, and academia.”

Coincidentally, Export-Import Bank President Fred Hochberg has spoken annually at CAP since 2011 — the same year First Solar got its loan. It is unknown whether the solar company was also a CAP donor at the time.

When Hochberg spoke at the progressive think tank in 2012, he mentioned that Alice Albright was in attendance — Madeleine Albright’s daughter and the Ex-Im’s chief operating officer from 2009 to 2013. Hochberg spoke on June 25 and First Solar was awarded $57.3 million in financing on July 18.

In 2011, Hochberg spoke on June 15 and, just over a week later on June 23, Ex-Im awarded First Solar millions more in financing. That year the taxpayer-backed export bank awarded First Solar nearly $573 million to make their products more competitive abroad and boost their sales — most of that financing came after Hochberg gave his speech. First Solar Vice President Frank de Rosa was likely bundling donations for Obama’s reelection campaign around this time.

When Hochberg spoke at CAP in 2011, he praised the progressive think tank. The Ex-Im head also hailed CAP founder John Podesta.

Podesta was White House chief of staff under President Clinton. More notably, Podesta was the chair of President Obama’s transition team in 2008 where he and Hochberg would have worked together.

“Well, John, thank you and thank the CAP for the work you do,” Hochberg said in 2011. “And I worked most recently with John at the transition, and I like to think as a part of it, to put together a top notch team that’s moving the country forward and moving in a number of these areas. I’ve now been at Ex-Im Bank for two years and I can think of no better place to have this conversation about priorities and issues than CAP.”

As chair of the Obama transition team, Podesta would have reviewed top level personnel decisions, like who would run Ex-Im, a position which requires Senate approval.

“John Podesta who co-chaired the Obama-Biden transition team, so in some way each and every one of us have to say thank you,” Hochberg added, heaping more praise on Podesta. “And John Podesta particularly as chief of staff to President Clinton I think understands the intersection of politics and policy, which obviously is a critical part in understanding trade and exports, so he was the ideal person to moderate today’s panel.”