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Pressure on Solyndra Backers Intensifies

(Reuters) – Congress should seek testimony from two venture capital firms that poured money into Solyndra, the bankrupt solar panel maker being probed by the FBI and other agencies, top House Democrats said on Monday.

Republican lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce are investigating a $533 million federal loan guarantee given to Solyndra, and will hear from company executives at a hearing slated for Friday.

Democrats on the panel said they also want to hear from Steve Mitchell, managing director of Argonaut Private Equity, and Jameson McJunkin, founder and general partner of Madrone Capital Partners.

Mitchell and McJunkin “could provide the Committee with perspective on why Solyndra attracted so much private capital, Solyndra’s representations about its economic prospects, and the external factors that have been affecting the U.S. solar industry,” Henry Waxman and Diana DeGette said in a letter. Waxman and DeGette are the top Democrats on the committee.

Mitchell and McJunkin served on the board of Solyndra, and the firms together invested more than $1 billion in Solyndra, the two Democrats said in the letter to the Republicans leading the probe.

One matter under investigation by the committee is why the government agreed, during the course of negotiations over a financial restructuring plan late last year, to allow Solyndra’s private investors to have legal priority over the government with regard to the first $75 million recovered in the event Solyndra were to go into liquidation.

Argonaut is backed by Obama fundraiser George Kaiser, while Madrone is affiliated with the Walton family, which founded Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Solyndra’s offices were raided by the FBI two days after the company filed for bankruptcy, although the FBI did not say what prompted the raid.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)