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First Solar’s Political Strategy: Influence and Gains in Biden’s Administration

Joe Biden
Joe Biden

First Solar, the largest U.S. solar panel manufacturer, strategically aligned itself with the Democratic Party during Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, contributing $2 million to Democrats, including $1.5 million to Biden.

This move paid off after Biden’s election, as First Solar intensified its lobbying efforts, spending $2.8 million to influence the administration and Congress. Their efforts centered on securing favorable terms in the Inflation Reduction Act, a $1 trillion environmental spending bill signed into law by Biden in 2022.

Under Trump, First Solar had criticized the administration’s stance on renewable energy. However, their approach shifted dramatically under Biden, leading to substantial gains. The company’s stock price doubled and it stands to receive up to $10 billion in federal subsidies over a decade.

These gains have disproportionately benefited a group of Democratic donors, including Farhad Ebrahimi and Lukas T. Walton, whose investments in First Solar have seen substantial returns amid the legislative windfall.

The legislative success of the Inflation Reduction Act, touted by Democrats as pivotal for climate action and economic growth, illustrates how policy can be shaped by lobbying and campaign contributions.

First Solar’s lobbying efforts were underscored by high-profile meetings with top administration officials, including John Podesta, who oversaw environmental provisions of the legislation. Such interactions highlight the company’s influence over policy decisions aimed at bolstering domestic clean energy manufacturing.

Critics argue that while subsidies aimed at fostering clean energy competitiveness with China are essential, they also highlight potential pitfalls. For instance, the legislative history includes controversies like the bankruptcy of Solyndra, a cautionary tale of government-backed investments gone awry.

First Solar's Political Strategy: Influence and Gains in Biden's Administration

First Solar’s Political Strategy: Influence and Gains in Biden’s Administration

Similarly, First Solar faced scrutiny over past dealings and legal challenges, including a recent $350 million settlement in a securities fraud lawsuit.

Despite these challenges, First Solar remains pivotal in Biden’s climate agenda, given its status as the largest U.S.-based solar manufacturer. Advocates argue that supporting such companies is crucial to achieving ambitious climate goals and enhancing national energy security, despite concerns about past controversies and financial dealings.

In conclusion, First Solar’s strategic alignment with Democratic politics underscores the complex interplay between business interests, lobbying, and legislative outcomes in the pursuit of climate policy. As Biden and Democrats champion the Inflation Reduction Act as a landmark achievement, it also serves as a stark reminder of the influence exerted by corporate donors and the potential benefits and risks associated with such legislation.

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