Internal documents from the White House relating to the Solyndra scandal will be subpoenaed by House Republicans to determine what West Wing officials knew about the $500 million troubled loan to the now-bankrupt solar panel company.
The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee voted 14 to 9 along party lines to issue two subpoenas for select communication in the President’s and vice president’s offices, and between the White House and Solyndra’s investors.
“The committee needs to better understand what the White House’s involvement was with regard to Solyndra’s loan guarantee,” said Rep. Cliff Stearns (R.-Fla.), chairman of the subcommittee on oversight and investigations.
Specifically, Republicans want to know why the troubled company was awarded the money as part of President Obama’s stimulus package.
“If the White House has nothing to hide, they should cooperate with this investigation and produce the documents. I believe the President owes it to the American people to explain in detail what happened to their tax money,” Stearns said.
Since February, the panel has been investigating the guaranteed loan for more than $500 million issued by the Energy Department to the California company, which was praised by Obama during a visit to the plant as key to the country’s economic recovery.
However, the company closed its doors in August and laid off its 1,100 employees, filed for bankruptcy in September, and weeks later was raided by the FBI.
Some documents already produced by the Obama administration revealed that senior advisers in the West Wing were monitoring and discussing Solyndra, Republicans said.
Democrats objected to the subpoenas, saying the White House was making an honest effort to cooperate with the investigation, and that Republicans were wasting the Congress’ time when it should be focused on creating jobs.
“The American people want us to stop the partisanship and start focusing on their priorities: rebuilding our economy and creating jobs,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D.-Colo.). This meeting is a partisan diversion from the work we should be doing.”
Rep. John Dingell (D.-Mich), a former chairman of the full committee for 16 years, said they never issued a subpoena to the White House when he was in charge because the panel always got the information they requested.
Dingell said there is “no real basis of misbehavior on the part of the White House” and that the investigation “shows any lack of respect for the President.”
“This whole sorry business is politically motivated,” Dingell said.
Added Rep. Jan Schakowksy (D.-Ill.), “While you’re at it, why don’t you ask for more documents about his birth?”
Republicans said they were compelled to issue the subpoenas only after several failed attempts to engage the White House in the investigation.
“They failed to live up to the transparency that President Obama tried to make the hallmark of their campaign,” said Steve Scalise (R.-La.).
The White House has already provided nearly 1,000 pages of documents to the committee, and Democrats insisted that the administration was willing to turn over more documents without the subpoenas if the panel narrowed its request to focus on select questions relating to the White House’s involvement with certain decisions and the influence of campaign contributions.
Billionaire George Kaiser, a top Obama campaign fund-raiser, has been linked to investors in Solyndra.
“The target of the investigation doesn’t get to decide what parts of the investigation they’re going to comply with,” said Rep. Cory Gardner (R.-Colo.). “The White House is not above the law.
“If there is nothing to hide, why hide?” Gardner said.
A spokesman for the White House said the loan was granted based on its merits, and the decision was made by the Energy Department, not the White House.
“We’d like to see as much passion in House Republicans for creating jobs as we see in this investigation,” the White House spokesman said.