Taxpayers are unlikely ever to see any of the $535 million lost when solar panel firm Solyndra went bust amid accusations of fraud, Rep. Cory Gardner, a member of the House Energy Committee, tells Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview.
And Jonathan Silver, who quit on Thursday as head of the agency that approved the loan, is likely to be only the first of many heads to roll as House Republicans widen their investigation into the scandal, Gardner said.
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“Right now it’s not looking good,” the Colorado congressman when asked whether there is any chance that the money might be returned to the public coffers. “What’s so disgusting about this is to hear the president say, ‘we didn’t have a crystal ball.’ Yet his administration had warning flags all over the place about the fact the taxpayers could very well lose half a billion dollars. That’s exactly what happened.”
Many aspects of the Solyndra loan are troubling to Republicans, Gardner said. One is why the government does not appear to have first claim on any assets that the Fremont, Calif., company still has.
“There is more to find out,” he said, referring to questions about how the Department of Energy allowed the U.S. loan to be subordinated. “Clearly the 2005 law says that loan could not be subordinated,” he said.
“The taxpayers were out the money even if they should never have been put in that position.”
The FBI is investigating Solyndra, which made a revolutionary type of solar panel, for fraud. The company went bust on Aug. 31, just as one analyst had warned it eventually could at the time the government guaranteed the loan in 2009. But the Obama administration went ahead anyway, granting the money as part of its push for renewable “green” energy.
Gardner said taxpayers should be asking the president three questions:
- “Why didn’t you do something about it when you knew about it?
- "Why did you proceed when you had the warning flags?
- "Why did you subordinate the taxpayers’ dollars?"
“That’s what they need to be asking this administration, and we are going to be there with the taxpayers to make sure they get their answers,” he pledged.
“We all hope for a greater energy independence and to develop our energy resources here in our own back yard instead of overseas,” said Gardner, a champion of drilling in the Alaska wilderness.
“But the president has certainly changed his tune. Early on he was saying there are not going to be many of these problems and then, all of a sudden, on TV this week, he said maybe we will lose one loan for every one company that works.
“To gamble with the taxpayers’ money like this is unacceptable,” Gardner added. “There are a lot of questions that need to be answered.
In a first, the energy committee has asked Obama to release emails from his BlackBerry that relate to the Solyndra case.
He said he expects Obama to comply. “The president has an obligation to the public and we have an obligation in our oversight role, Congress does, to make sure that we’re getting to the bottom of these kinds of situations. That’s exactly the role of the oversight investigation committee and they shouldn’t be able to hide emails because of a new technology.”
The committee has subpoenaed other messages, although Gardner said all the Democrats on the committee had voted against the move. “This administration has not been as forthcoming as they should have been early on,” he said.
“I think they’re trying to make sure they aren’t embarrassed any further,” Gardner said. “Certainly there are embarrassing details coming out, and the fact you’ve had a very high level administration official resign over this program shows the worries that they have.”
Gardner said he has long been unhappy with Energy Secretary Steven Chu but said it is too early to ask for his resignation on the Solyndra case.
“Secretary Chu does owe a better explanation of his responsibility and involvement in the Solyndra loan dealings, whether he was participating in oversight,” he said.
“We know there were red flags at [the Office of Management and Budget and at the Department of Energy], and emails went back and forth, including to people like Valerie Jarrett at the White House,” he said, referring to the president’s senior adviser.
“Even some of the private financiers were trying to wave the president off of this thing, yet they insisted on pushing it through.
“I have had the opportunity at the Energy and Commerce Committee to question Secretary Chu directly about his concerns over energy prices, energy costs, energy policy and I remember one particular incident when I asked him what the administration’s plan was to help relieve the price at the pump over the summer and I basically got a series of hems and haws and no real answer.
“I don’t think he’s doing the job,” Gardner said. “But it’s too early to say over this particular issue that he needs to step down, but that’s why the investigation is expanding and will continue and he can certainly count on coming back before us and answering some very tough questions.”
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