The White House agreed to let four officials speak with congressional investigators about Solyndra LLC’s $535 million U.S. loan guarantee, averting a Republican attempt to compel their testimony by subpoena.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee today said President Barack Obama’s administration has “agreed to cooperate” with its investigation of the Fremont, California-based solar-panel maker that filed for bankruptcy protection in September, about two years after receiving U.S. backing. The committee’s investigations panel postponed a meeting tomorrow to authorize the subpoenas.
The committee is seeking information from officials who worked on the Solyndra loan guarantee including Office of Management and Budget employees Kevin Carroll, Kelly Colyar and Fouad Saad, and Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to Obama on energy and climate-change matters.
“Speaking to these key players is critical to learning the lessons of Solyndra as we work to ensure taxpayers are never again paying the price for the administration’s risky bets,” Representatives Fred Upton of Michigan, the committee’s chairman, and Cliff Stearns of Florida, who leads the investigations panel, said in a joint statement.
The OMB officials have already scheduled sessions with the committee, the panel said in a statement on its website. In addition, “the White House has pledged to make the relevant personnel available,” it said.
Republicans had also threatened to subpoena Aditya Kumar, former deputy assistant to Vice President Joe Biden, who recently left the federal government. The committee is “still looking to speak to him,” the panel said on its website. The committee has also given the White House until Feb. 21 to comply with a November subpoena for all Solyndra-related documents.
Republicans have questioned whether Obama campaign fundraiser George Kaiser, whose family foundation was Solyndra’s biggest investor, pressed for the guarantee. Kaiser has said he didn’t lobby for the loan backing.
Congress has been investigating Solyndra for a year, and “they’ve turned up no wrongdoing,” Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, said in an e-mail. The Obama administration has released 187,000 pages of documents, participated in nine congressional committee staff briefings and five committee hearings, and Solyndra investors have provided 72,000 pages of documents, according to Schultz.
“No evidence has emerged” to support Republican claims that the company received its loan guarantee due to political favoritism, and “all materials disclosed show this was a merit-based decision,” Schultz said.