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House committee subpoenas White House for more Solyndra documents

November 03, 2011|By Neela Banerjee, Washington Bureau
(Chip Somodevilla/Getty…)

The Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to issue a broad subpoena demanding more documents from the White House as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into a government loan guarantee to the failed solar equipment maker Solyndra.

In a vote along party lines, the committee's subcommittee on oversight approved a draft subpoena that calls for all "internal communications" among top White House staff during the period in 2009 when Solyndra sought a $535-million loan guarantee from the government through its financial troubles in 2010 and, ultimately, during its move toward bankruptcy protection two months ago.

"The committee still hopes to work with the White House to obtain relevant communications from key personnel such as former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, former National Economic Council Director Larry Summers, and Ron Klain, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Biden," the Energy and Commerce Republicans said in a statement in preparation for the vote.

Republicans have suggested that Solyndra got the loan guarantee because its biggest investor was a large donor to the Obama campaign. So far, the tens of thousands of pages from the Energy Department and the White House that the months-long investigation has generated have yet to reveal political favoritism.

Instead, they have shown a divided administration in which some officials sought to fund new, clean-energy projects to generate jobs and push the president’s environmental agenda while others questioned if Solyndra and its pricey products were the best investment for the government. In the end, Solyndra could not compete with far cheaper Chinese competitors heavily subsidized by their own government.

White House officials met with Republicans and Democrats from the committee on Wednesday and released 20,000 pages of documents which the Republicans dismissed as redundant. The various sides failed to strike a compromise regarding the Republicans’ request.

"All of the materials that have been disclosed affirm what we said on day one: this was a merit based decision made by the Department of Energy," said White House spokesman Eric Schultz in an emailed statement. "The White House has been clear with the Committee that we are willing to cooperate with legitimate oversight requests that are tailored to balance the important institutional interests of both branches.  We are disappointed that the Committee has refused to discuss their requests with us in good faith, and has instead chosen a partisan route."

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce committee, said he would finalize a subpoena that he would issue and would take into account White House offers to cooperate. But committee Democrats decried the sweeping nature of the subpoena and insisted that a vote occur when the language and scope of the subpoena are finalized.

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