Energy

Obama Mega Donor Financially Backed Solar Company Now Seeking Trade Tariffs

One of former President Barack Obama’s wealthiest donors financially-backed a now-insolvent solar company seeking trade tariffs against foreign green energy products.

Mark Gallogly, a major Democratic donor and Wall Street insider, held significant voting shares in SolarWorld before the company became insolvent, according to documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. He was also one of Obama’s “core crew” of Manhattan donors.

Annual management report and financial statements SolarWorld released in 2013 and 2014 show that Gallogly’s private equity firm Centerbridge owned sizable voting shares in the Germany-based company leading up to its eventual dissolvement.

SolarWorld, which lost nearly 80 percent of its value after filing insolvency earlier this year, did not disclose voting shares in 2015 or 2016. Gallogly, whose firm specializes in jumpstarting troubled assets, has not responded to TheDCNF’s repeated request for comments about his role in directing SolarWorld’s business ventures.

Suniva, another cash-strapped solar company, campaigned with SolarWorld earlier this year to convince the Trump administration to block cheap solar products from China. They claimed cheap imports nearly drove them out of business, while other companies in the industry are balking at the allegation.

Suniva, for its part, claimed in April that competition from Chinese-made solar panels all but forced the company into bankruptcy, despite receiving more than $20 million in support from federal and state taxpayers. The company filed a request for tariffs with the International Trade Commission (ITC) a week after seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The ITC panel found in September that both companies suffered significant injury due to the influx of foreign solar cell and module imports from Asia. The next step will be determining whether a tariff or some other remedy should be used to address the effect cheap solar panel imports have on the industry.

They requested initial duties of $0.40 per-watt and an initial minimum price of $0.78 per-module against solar imports from anywhere in the world. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) called the rule allowing tariffs on international products a “vital tool for industries needing temporary relief from imports to become more competitive.”

Most solar companies have blasted the tariff push.

More than 10 small solar manufacturers are trying to paint Suniva and SolarWorld as the second-coming of Solyndra, a company that received more than half-a-billion-dollar in subsidies during Obama’s first term in office only to fold months later.

The coalition consisted of small companies such as RBI Solar, Nextracker, GameChange Solar. Larger companies and groups such as Tesla and the Energy Trade Action Coalition have also put their weight behind the fight against protectionist policies.

Free market groups, most of which rarely find themselves aligning with industries that receive government support, have also called out the proposed tariffs.

Washington, D.C., based think tanks R-Street Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, for instance, wrote a letter in October to the Trump administration urging the president to shy away from the push. They also argue history has not favorably on similar tariffs in the past.

Former President George W. Bush, for instance, called for similar tariffs against imported steel, which ultimately caused a spike in steel prices. Analysts found that those higher prices led to a loss of nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs in 2002 alone, and the tariffs themselves led to about $4 billion in lost wages between February and November 2002.

The tariff’s fate is now up to President Donald Trump, who is generally supportive of heavy tariffs against imports that he believes hurt American businesses. He complained to his Chief of Staff John Kelly in September about the number of advisers who refused to listen to his pleas for more tariffs.

Gallogly’s connection to SolarWorld raises questions about the role the climate change warrior had in directing the company’s business model, especially as the cash-strapped energy producer seeks tariffs that some activists believe could destroy the industry.

He made $5,400 contributions this year to the re-election campaigns of Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse, and shoveled another $33,400 in donations to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, according to campaign finance data.

Gallogly, a heavy-hitter in liberal politics and supporter of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, was one President Barack Obama’s most important moneyman and served on the former president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board and Jobs Council, both of which were instrumental to the former president’s green energy job push.

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