The White House wanted President Obama's jobs bill to take center stage this week. Instead, many eyes are now squarely focused on the solar-panel manufacturing company, Solyndra, which recently declared bankruptcy.
At issue: Did the Obama administration influence and rush a federal review of a $500-million-dollar loan to the company so that Vice President Joe Biden could announce its 2009 groundbreaking? Some Republicans in the House say the answer is “yes,” but White House officials dispute the allegations.
Yesterday, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee released documents and emails that are now at the center of the debate. “Our investigation raises several questions about where the administration did everything it could to protect taxpayer dollars,” said GOP Rep. Fred Upton, the chairman of the full committee.
Emails first reported in the Washington Post show OMB officials acutely aware of time pressures. According to the Post, “One e-mail from an OMB official referred to ‘the time pressure we are under to sign-off on Solyndra.’ Another complained, “there isn’t time to negotiate.’"
During Wednesday’s hearing, officials with the Energy Department’s loan office and the OMB insisted their actions were not politically motivated. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also pushed back, telling reporters that the emails are being misinterpreted. “What the emails, I believe, made clear is that there was urgency to make a decision about a scheduling matter. As you know ... it is a big proposition to move the president or to put on an event ... so people were simply looking for answers about whether or not we could move forward.”
Carney also pointed out that the company was initially put under review for a loan during the Bush administration.
The Obama administration gave the Silicon Valley-based company stimulus money as a part of its push to invest in green energy programs. The president visited the company last year and hailed it a stimulus success.
Solyndra, however, was forced to declare bankruptcy and lay-off 1,100 employees last month, when competition from foreign companies made it impossible for the company to stay in business. The subcommittee hearings continue into next week when two executives with Solyndra are expected to testify.