With embattled Solyndra executives refusing to answer questions at a congressional hearing on Friday, House Republicans are turning their investigation back to the Obama administration.
In a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Thursday, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked for all e-mails between Chu’s department and three other executive branches that had a hand in approving the $535 million federal loan guarantee for Solyndra, the bankrupt solar manufacturer facing a FBI investigation.
The lawmakers want by next Wednesday all relevant e-mails between the Energy Department and the White House, Office of Management and Budget, and the Treasury Department. Committee Republicans have already received thousands of pages of documents from the White House and OMB related to the loan guarantee.
The request came ahead of what had been a highly anticipated Friday hearing, where Solyndra’s top executives--CEO Brian Harrison and chief financial officer W.G. Stover--were scheduled to testify. But on Tuesday, attorneys for Harrison and Stover told the committee that both would invoke their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Harrison and Stover are still scheduled to appear before the panel at 9 a.m.
The House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing--“From DOE Loan Guarantee to Bankruptcy to FBI Raid: What Solyndra’s Executives Knew”--is now expected to serve largely as a way for members of both parties to discuss aspects of the congressional investigation. Solyndra executives had assured Congress as recently as July that the Freemont, Calif.-based maker of solar photovoltaic systems was in good financial standing.
On Aug. 11, Solyndra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, laying off 1,100 workers. It was the third U.S. solar company in a matter of weeks to declare bankruptcy, but it had been a poster child for the nascent solar industry. In May 2009 the Energy Department awarded the $535 million loan guarantee, and President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Chu all visited the company to tout renewable energy’s potential—and its potential to generate jobs. Some Republicans have questioned whether Solyndra got special treatment because an Obama fundraiser was a private investor in the start-up.
Democratic staff on the committee circulated a memo to the panel’s Democrats on Thursday seeking to debunk several Republican claims, including that the George W. Bush administration rejected the Solyndra loan guarantee and that the Obama administration rushed the approval process.