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Hatch requested federal funds for now-bankrupt Utah firm

Published October 30, 2011 1:43 pm

Politics • Senator requested earmarks for now-bankrupt Raser Technologies 7 times.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When controversy erupted earlier this month over Sen. Orrin Hatch's support for a green energy company in Utah that went bankrupt, the senator's office insisted he helped promote the company — including showing up at company press conferences — but never sought to steer federal funds to it.

Turns out, he did.

Hatch's office on Friday acknowledged having requested seven earmarks for Raser Technologies, a Provo-based company that was developing geothermal power as well as technology to convert vehicles to be more energy efficient. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May.



Critics had charged that Hatch was being hypocritical for slamming the administration of President Barack Obama for throwing a $535 million stimulus grant to California-based Solyndra, which also went bust, while the Utah Republican was helping a soon-to-be insolvent green company.

Hatch's spokesman Matt Harakal said Friday that the senator's office reviewed his earmark requests after initial news stories two weeks ago quoting the office as saying they had not sought money for Raser, and found that they had, in fact, tried to help secure federal funds for Raser projects.

On Friday, Hatch's office said they wanted to set the record straight and pointed out the earmark requests. Hatch's spokesman also stressed that the senator's earmark requests were for the vehicle efficiency component of Raser, and that part is operating under a new name.

"To err is human and that's what happened here," Harakal said. "This was an honest mistake that Senator Hatch insisted be set straight. He's got a long history of supporting Utah businesses and showcasing Utah's vibrant economy, and he will continue to do so."

Over a three-year span ending in 2007, Hatch submitted six requests to carve out money for Raser in the Defense Department spending bill and one requesting funds through the Interior Department appropriations bill. None of Hatch's requests were funded, though the company did receive a separate federal grant.

Hatch had called the Obama administration's funding of Solyndra a "disgrace. In an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, he said, "The president and his people have got so caught up in green matters ... but to put $535 million into a poor business plan — it would be far better for them to go out and raise money in the private marketplace."

Raser Technologies received millions in federal money even after its annual report said it was bleeding cash and raking in few revenues.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in March 2008, officials said the company had a net loss of $15.7 million for the year and revenues of only $800,000.

This year's report shows it received a $33 million grant from the Treasury Department in 2010.

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis previously said when Hatch's involvement with Raser surfaced that the senator needed to own up to his own actions before throwing stones.

"The senator is displaying an abundance of hypocrisy," Dabakis said.

Hatch's spokesman dismisses any comparisons between the senator's backing of Raser and the Obama administration's funding of Solyndra.

"That's just laughable and silly," Harakal said. "The two situations couldn't be more different, and anyone who says otherwise is just trying to score cheap political points."

tburr@sltrib.com

 

 

 

 

 

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