Shortly after Obama’s election, he left his California firm to join the Energy Department, just as the administration embarked on a massive program to stimulate the economy with federal investments in clean-technology firms.
Following an enduring Washington tradition, Wagle shifted from the private sector, where his firm hoped to profit from federal investments, to an insider’s seat in the administration’s $80 billion clean-energy investment program.
He was one of several players in venture capital, which was providing financial backing to start-up clean-tech companies, who moved into the Energy Department at a time when the agency was seeking outside expertise in the field. At the same time, their industry had a huge stake in decisions about which companies would receive government loans, grants and support.
During the next three years, the department provided $2.4 billion in public funding to clean-energy companies in which Wagle’s former firm, Vantage Point Venture Partners, had invested, a Washington Post analysis found. Overall, the Post found that $3.9 billion in federal grants and financing flowed to 21 companies backed by firms with connections to five Obama administration staffers and advisers.
Obama’s program to invest federal funds in start-up companies — and the failure of some of those companies — is becoming a rallying cry for opponents in the presidential race. Mitt Romney has promised to focus on Obama’s “record” as a “venture capitalist.” And in ads and speeches, conservative groups and the Republican candidates are zeroing in on the administration’s decision to extend $535 million to the now-shutteredsolar firm Solyndra and billions of dollars more to clean-tech start-ups backed by the president’s political allies.
CONTINUED at the Washington Post.