The White House has agreed to give congressional investigators documents relating to the Solyndra scandal despite the Obama administration’s initial objection that subpoenas demanding the internal communications were partisan and unnecessary.
Although the White House missed the noon deadline Thursday to turn over the requested documents, Rep. Fred Upton (R.-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R.-Fla.), chairman of the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said the administration informed them it plans to provide the materials to their panels.
“As we have said before, we stand ready to work with the White House on its document production and believe it is entirely possible for the White House to produce information for an investigation that the White House counsel herself has acknowledged is both legitimate and necessary,” the lawmakers said.
“We remain hopeful that the White House will demonstrate some good-faith efforts of compliance and provide the internal Solyndra-related communications we have been seeking,” the lawmakers said.
Specifically, House Republicans are looking for documents that show significant interest in and monitoring of the $500 million Solyndra loan guarantee by senior West Wing staff. Lawmakers say they want to determine the extent of the West Wing’s involvement as critical decisions were being made about whether to proceed with the loan, and that it is essential to consider White House staff’s communications with one another.
Documents already obtained by the committee show that billionaire and Obama fund-raiser George Kaiser discussed Solyndra, which his family foundation had invested in heavily, during one of his 17 visits to the White House.
“They about had an orgasm in Biden’s office when we mentioned Solyndra,” said one e-mail from Ken Levit, executive director of Kaiser’s foundation.
“That’s awesome!” said the response from Steve Mitchell, an official with Kaiser’s venture capital firm Argonaut. “Get us a DOE [Department of Energy] loan.”
Another e-mail from Kaiser to Mitchell dated March 5, 2010, said that just weeks prior, he and Levit “were visiting with a group of administration folks in D.C. who are in charge of the stimulus process, (White House, not DOE) and Solyndra came up, every one of them responded simultaneously about their thorough knowledge of the Solyndra story, suggesting it was one of their prime poster children.”
Jay Carney, White House press secretary, said that while they will cooperate with the subpoena, the order is overbroad, unnecessary and a “political football in a partisan effort.”
“In this case, when we hear the speaker of the House saying that he will, they will, the Republicans, be, quote, ‘relentless’ in pursuing this oversight investigation, I think most American people wish they would be as relentless in taking measures to help the economy and create jobs as they are in trying to, you know, create a political issue out of something that is simply a policy decision, and policy decisions that were made on—you know, merit-based decisions out of the Department of Energy,” Carney said.
“They cherry-picked some documents and tried to make hay out of something that, when looked at in its entirety, only reinforces what we’ve said, which is that there was no political influence in the decision-making process that led to the loan guarantee for Solyndra. In fact, the meeting that they’re referring to, as I’m sure you’re aware, took place almost a year after the loan was approved, okay?” Carney said during a White House briefing with reporters.
When the loan was restructured before the company recently filed for bankruptcy, the Kaiser Family Foundation was given priority over taxpayers to claim its 35% stake. Kaiser’s history with Obama goes back to the presidential campaign when the Oklahoma businessman acted as a bundler for the Democrat nominee, raising $50,000 to $100,000.
Republican lawmakers say they also have documents that demonstrate involvement by White House advisers Valerie Jarrett, Ron Klain, Rahm Emanuel and Larry Summers. Rep. Joe Barton (R.-Tex.), a member of the investigating committee, said the panel has “voluminous reports” showing the technology should not have been funded, despite the Obama administration’s insistence the approval was granted on the project’s merit.
“Apparently, [Kaiser] would have [committee] staff believe that, while he was in the White House 17 times and everyone and his dog knew his foundation was a major owner of Solyndra, it never came up,” Barton told Fox News on Thursday.
“I think the Obama administration, for whatever reason, decided to push the Solyndra loan guarantee, and those discussions occurred in the White House,” Barton said. “We will get the answers. The American people deserve it.”