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Issa Sought U.S. Clean Energy Aid Before Faulting Solyndra Loan

Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Republican Representative Darrell Issa, who said government subsidies to specific companies can encourage corruption, sought U.S. help in the past for clean-energy projects in his home state of California.

Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote Energy Secretary Steven Chu to support an Energy Department loan for Aptera Motors Inc., a Carlsbad, California, electric-car maker, according to a letter received by the department Jan. 14, 2010.

“Awarding this opportunity to Aptera Motors will greatly assist a leading developer of electric vehicles in my district,” Issa wrote in letters obtained yesterday.

Issa’s committee has been investigating regulations proposed by the Obama administration and now is examining the system of federal support, including loan guarantees for companies such as Fremont, California-based Solyndra LLC. The solar-panel manufacturer filed for bankruptcy protection on Sept. 6 after receiving $535 million in U.S. loan guarantees since 2009.

“There’s been this attitude that somehow the government can weigh-in with loan guarantees and money and pick specific company winners and losers,” Issa said yesterday on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” program. “We see that as a backdoor, easy way to end up with corruption in government.”

Frederick Hill, a spokesman for Issa, said Aptera has been awaiting an Energy Department decision for three years.

“In the entire time that Aptera’s application has been pending, Solyndra was able to obtain taxpayer backing and go bankrupt leaving taxpayers on the hook,” Hill said in an e-mail. “Most applicants for federal programs don’t, in fact, receive the VIP treatment Solyndra did.”

Backing Quallion

Issa also signed a June 22, 2009, letter to Chu promoting battery maker Quallion LLC, based in Sylmar, California. An Energy Department clean-energy grant might create more than 2,300 jobs nationwide, according to the letter, which was signed by Issa and 16 members of California’s delegation.

The grant program is a “huge step forward” to improving the environment, eliminating dependence on foreign oil and creating a modern “green collar” U.S. workforce, according to the letter.

In the C-SPAN interview, Issa said government support for specific companies can be dangerous because politicians might favor companies out of ideology or because executives are campaign contributors.

Issa’s committee will hold a hearing tomorrow titled, “How Obama’s Green-Energy Agenda is Killing Jobs.”

Energy committee Republicans released a report on Solyndra Sept. 14 that said Obama’s aides pressed loan officials to accelerate their review in time to let U.S. officials announce the deal.

White House and Energy Department officials have said political considerations didn’t affect the review of Solyndra’s loan application.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Snyder in Washington at jsnyder24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net

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