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Lawmakers Probe Solyndra Backers Over Loans

WASHINGTON, Sept 22 (Reuters) – U.S. Republican lawmakers investigating government loan guarantees to the green energy sector have turned their focus to key private investors in the failed Solyndra solar company, asking them for a huge raft of documents.

The U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce committee wants Argonaut Private Equity and Madrone Capitol to turn over documents related to Solyndra’s $535 million federal loan guarantee, its canceled initial public offering and their communications with the Obama administration.

Republicans want to know more about how the company’s debt was restructured earlier this year, “putting the venture capitalists at the front of the line, ahead of taxpayers, in the event of bankruptcy, which was in violation of the plain letter of the law,” Energy Committee chairman Fred Upton said in a statement.

The lawmakers have been probing whether politics influenced government loans to Solyndra. Argonaut is backed by Obama fundraiser George Kaiser, while Madrone is affiliated with the Walton family which founded Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

In identical letters to the firms, the lawmakers asked for material by Sept. 28. Democratic lawmakers on the committee have said they want the two firms to testify about the loans.

Solyndra was the first company to receive loan guarantee funding under the alternative energy loan program, but filed for bankruptcy last month, and is the target of an FBI investigation.

The Solyndra loan had been hailed by President Barack Obama and other top officials in the Democratic administration as a model of how the government could kick-start job growth in clean energy.

Republicans have uncovered e-mails showing concerns about the company’s finances dating back before the loans were made.

Other e-mails suggested decisions may have been rushed to accommodate the schedules of administration officials who wanted to promote them.

The committee will hold a hearing on Friday with Solyndra executives, who have said through their attorneys that they will invoke their Fifth Amendment rights to avoid self-incrimination and will not answer questions.

(Reporting by JoAnne Allen and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Vicki Allen)