The ongoing congressional investigation into a failed California solar panel maker that garnered more than a half-billion dollars in federal loans from the Obama administration could lead to criminal indictments, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, tells Newsmax.TV.
Barton, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, also expressed incredulity over the fact that a federal bankruptcy judge would approve $400,000 in bonuses for executives at Solyndra, which declared bankruptcy in 2011.
“I cannot believe that the bankruptcy judge allowed that — given that they fleeced the American taxpayers for over a half a billion dollars,” Barton said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV. “I don’t see any reason to be giving the executives that remain with Solyndra any kind of a bonus at all. It’s possible that after the investigation there could be criminal indictments brought so why in the world you’d give a bonus is beyond me.”
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The Solyndra affair has become a major embarrassment for the Obama administration, widely denounced as an example of crony capitalism. Various documents that have come to light in the investigation show White House officials pushing for quick approval of a $535 million loan guarantee so Vice President Joe Biden could announce the loan at an opening ceremony for the company’s factory in September 2009.
One of the company’s investors was the family foundation of Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser, who has raised funds for President Barack Obama.
At the one-year mark of the beginning of the congressional investigation, Barton described it as “ongoing.”
“This week was the deadline for the White House to provide all, a-l-l, all documents relating to Solyndra that are in the possession of senior officials at the White House, and the White House has not complied with that,” he said. “We will continue to do the investigation and we will also consider what steps are necessary to get the White House to comply with the document request that they’ve stonewalled so far.”
Barton bemoaned the fact that collapse of Solyndra will have a negative effect on solar energy.
“Unfortunately, and it is not the solar industry’s fault, but it’s going to taint the industry to some extent and make it more difficult for additional support at the federal level,” Barton said. “Of course, at some point in time the solar industry has to be able to stand on its own feet without all of the research grants and the subsidies that they have benefited from so far. But in the short term, this will have a negative effect on the industry.”
On other environmental and energy issues, Barton said:
Obama must open up as much land and offshore areas as possible to leases to get domestic energy for the American people and “instruct the EPA to back down on some of the regulations that they’ve been proposing that have the impact of shutting down coal plants and refineries or making it much more expensive for them to operate.”
If gasoline prices go above $4 a gallon, “it will be a major issue in the upcoming presidential campaign.”
The refusal of the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline has “been very disappointing because that’s a shovel-ready project” that could be under construction now. Barton noted that as a result, the Canadians are in “negotiations with the Chinese to build an alternate pipeline to the Pacific, and to ship the oil over to the Asian area. When you’ve got 800,000 barrels a day of oil that could come into the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana and be refined into product that could be shipped to anywhere in the United States, it’s very disappointing to have the Obama administration basically say no to that because of political pressure from the radical environmentalists.”
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