House Solyndra Probe Nears Completion

The Republican-led investigation into Solyndra LLC, the solar-panel maker that received a $535 million U.S. loan guarantee only to go bankrupt two years later, is drawing to an end.

Representative Cliff Stearns, the chairman of the House Energy Committee’s oversight panel, told reporters yesterday that he was awaiting certification from the White House that it had turned over all requested documents relating to Solyndra.

He also wants testimony from Heather Zichal, President Barack Obama’s climate-change and energy adviser, and Aditya Kumar, a White House aide when the solar company’s loan application was being reviewed.

“Now that supposedly we’ve gotten all the documents, Solyndra could be moved toward closing if the two witnesses were to testify and we could get the White House counsel to certify,” said Stearns, a Florida Republican.

Energy Committee Chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, said the final interviews might come within a week, to be followed by a report from the committee. He wouldn’t comment about what the investigation has shown.

He and Stearns have suggested the company got its loan from the Energy Department because of political connections to the White House.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz didn’t respond to an e-mail yesterday seeking comment.

Obama Fundraiser

Congressional Democrats and the White House have repeatedly said the loan was made on its merits and not as a political favor to Obama fundraiser George Kaiser, an Oklahoma billionaire whose foundation was the leading investor in the company. Kaiser told the committee he didn’t lobby for the loan.

The House investigation has been under way since before Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in September. Upton and Stearns sent a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu about the company’s financial health in February 2011, seeking documents from the company and Energy officials in charge of the loan program.

The company’s closing in September marked the start of a more intensive examination, and more document requests. Republicans eventually collected tens of thousands of pages of e-mails and other materials from the White House and Energy Department and other agencies related to the loan.

Investors also turned over a trove of their own e-mails relating to Solyndra.

Aides Interviewed

Investigators also have interviewed at least nine administration officials, all of whom denied White House influence, and held at least five congressional hearings.

“They’ve shown that these loans are risky,” Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado, the top-ranking Democrat on the energy committee’s oversight panel, said of the Republicans in an interview. “They’ve shown that sometimes they work and sometimes they fail, and that’s about it. I know they had hoped to find some smoking gun here, but I don’t think they did.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has spotlighted Solyndra’s failure, saying the company symbolized Obama’s broader shortcomings to revive the economy.

He visited Solyndra’s shuttered factory last month to make that point. Obama campaign has noted that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney also backed clean-energy companies that have since failed.

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