Solar Execs Gave Millions To Dems And Lobbied On Biden’s Signature Climate Bill. Now, They’re Swimming In Cash

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Executives and investors in a solar company showered Democrats with cash and lobbied on President Joe Biden’s signature climate bill before emerging as one of the law’s biggest beneficiaries, according to the Associated Press.

First Solar’s executives and investors cumulatively donated at least $2 million to Democrats in the 2020 election cycle, including $1.5 million to boost Biden’s push to win the presidency, before the company spent $2.8 million lobbying the Biden administration and Congress on key green energy policies, according to the AP. Less than two years after the the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Biden’s signature climate legislation, became law in August 2022, First Solar has emerged as one of the bill’s biggest winners, while its investors and executives have reaped a massive windfall thanks to the law’s expansive subsidies for the solar industry.

In the time since the law came into effect, First Solar’s stock has doubled in value as it is poised to take advantage of federal tax credits and subsidies that could be worth as much as $10 billion over 10 years, according to the AP. First Solar’s boost from the IRA has also been enormously profitable for the company’s small group of major investors, a list that includes Democratic donors. (RELATED:Biden Admin Approved Huge Loan To Green Company As It Was Allegedly Defrauding Investors. Now Its Stock Is Tanking)

“The Inflation Reduction Act has helped a lot of people. Just not the consumers and taxpayers who actually need help. It’s done nothing to address inflation, but it’s a handy slush fund for Biden administration insiders and favored industries,” Pete McGinnis, the communications director for the Functional Government Initiative, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “At a time when Americans are struggling to get by, they now see executives with ties to party insiders raking in huge profits off of their tax dollars. This type of behavior only sows distrust amongst the public in their government.”

First Solar executives and lobbyists had at least four meetings with high-level Biden officials in 2022 and 2023 as the administration was in the process of writing rules governing the IRA’s implementation, according to the AP.  John Podesta — a longtime Democratic insider who is now one of the most important climate advisers in the administration — was involved in at least some of these discussions, as was a First Solar contract lobbyist who is an “old friend” of John Podesta and who spent decades working for a lobbying firm helmed by Tony Podesta, John’s brother.

In December 2023, First Solar — which settled a securities fraud case against it to the tune of $350 million in 2020 — opted to sell approximately $650 million worth of IRA tax credits to a technology firm, providing the solar company with an influx of cash thanks to Biden’s signature climate bill, according to the AP.

The company’s boost from the IRA has been lucrative for its investors, according to the AP. Farhad “Fred” Ebrahimi — a software executive whose family poured $1 million into Biden’s 2020 efforts — has been added to the Forbes list of billionaires thanks in part to his 5% stake in First Solar, while Walmart heir Lukas Walton — who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to help Biden — held a 4.9% stake in the firm. (RELATED: Biden Admin Classifies Martha’s Vineyard, Elite Locales As ‘Low-Income’ To Push EV Charger Subsidies)

Meanwhile, the late Democratic megadonor Jim Simons, an enthusiast of the Democrats’ green energy agenda, also contributed $2.5 million to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s super PAC in 2022 after Schumer began negotiating with then-Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, an IRA holdout, to move the bill over the finish line, according to the AP. Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund founded by Simons, purchased 60,000 First Solar shares between July and September 2022, and ultimately upped its holdings to 1.5 million shares before cashing out in 2023 when the firm’s stock price jumped.

First Solar CEO Mark Widmar defended his company’s behind-the-scenes moves.

“Unlike others who routinely spend substantially more lobbying on behalf of Chinese companies that circumvent U.S. laws and deepen strategic vulnerabilities, our interests lie in a diverse, competitive domestic solar manufacturing base supporting American jobs, economic value, and energy security,” Widmar said in a statement to the AP.

The White House, meanwhile, did not directly address First Solar’s push to have the administration’s ear, instead defending the IRA and asserting that it is common for industry stakeholders to discuss key policies with federal officials.

“President Biden has led and delivered on the most ambitious climate agenda in history, restoring America’s climate leadership at home and abroad,” a White House spokesperson said in a statement shared with the AP. “The White House regularly engages with industry leaders across all sectors, including clean energy manufacturers and gas and oil producers.”

Neither the White House nor First Solar responded immediately to requests for comment.

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