Republican leaders are firing back at Democrats who say the 700 pages of Solyndra documents that the White House released on Friday exonerate the Obama administration from allegations that it rushed through a $535 loan guarantee for political reasons to the benefit of its well-heeled West Coast donors.
The documents indicate that top White House officials received warnings as early as December 2009 that the now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer might be headed for trouble.
That was more than a year before Department of Energy officials put taxpayers’ money “second in line” behind private investors, in order to attract another $75 million in private capital for the struggling firm. Republicans on the oversight panel reviewing the Solyndra deal say subordinating the public’s money behind private investors’ funds clearly appears to be illegal.
Democrats on the panel say the information that the White House released shows no evidence that politics played a role, despite the fact that Obama campaign fundraiser Steve Westly warned the administration that Solyndra was shaky and could prove a political liability.
"Committee Democrats seem to put a greater premium on damage control rather than fact-finding,” said Cliff Stearns, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee. “But these latest documents from a snapshot in May 2010 raise significant concerns.
“Documents gathered during the committee's investigation reveal those closest to the president in the West Wing, advisers like [Valerie] Jarrett, [Larry] Summers, [Ron] Klain, and [Rahm] Emanuel had direct involvement in the Solyndra mess, and that the Administration was fully aware of numerous red flags about Solyndra's viability, but pressed ahead anyway in an effort to secure a policy or political victory.
“The Democrats deny that any political influence was involved, yet in their own memo they highlight the role of Obama fundraiser Steve Westly in the discussions," Stearns added.
OMB officials who reviewed Solyndra’s financial information warned that “bad days are coming” because of the Solyndra loan.
Before the president’s May 25, 2010, visit to Solyndra to tout his green-jobs agenda, one official wrote: “I am increasingly worried that this visit could prove embarrassing to the administration in the not-too-distant future, given 1) what we just heard today from DOE that Solyndra is delaying their initial public offering at least until the end of the year, and 2) what the auditors said about Solyndra making it through the year absent new financing.”
News of the president’s impending visit to Solyndra prompted another DOE aide to write: “Hope [Solyndra] doesn’t default before then.”
For the White House, perhaps the most ominous email came from an OMB official who wrote: “What’s terrifying is that after looking at some of the ones that came next, this one [Solyndra] started to look better.”
That would imply more bad deals could yet lie ahead.
President Obama said Monday that, although hindsight is 20-20, taxpayer subsidies to encourage growth in the green-energy sector are necessary if the United States to keep abreast of global competition.
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