Solyndra investor's foundation status called into question

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George Kaiser speaks in Tulsa, Okla.

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Fallout over the collapse of Solyndra, whose bankruptcy may cost taxpayers $535 million in federal loan guarantees, has called into question the tax status of the foundation of a major investor in the solar company.

Named for George B. Kaiser, a wealthy Oklahoma oilman and generous donor to Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, the non-profit George Kaiser Family Foundation describes itself as “a charitable organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty.” This week, iWatch News reported that over the past five years the foundation has averaged more than $194 million in income annually, but it has issued grants equaling only about 1.7 percent of its net assets. Gifts to private foundations yield tax deductions for donors.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, raised questions Tuesday about Kaiser’s involvement.

“With Solyndra, the government didn’t just lose out on its investment through the $535 million loan guarantee,” Grassley said in a statement during a Senate Finance Committee hearing. “It also lost out on the tremendous subsidy it provided the George Kaiser Family Foundation through the charitable contribution deduction.”

The foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Solyndra’s implosion has launched three separate government investigations and raised questions about the government’s rushed handling of the half-billion-dollar loan guarantees.