House Republicans investigating the Solyndra loan scandal are at odds with the Obama administration over its refusal to release requested documents and make certain witnesses available for questioning. House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R., Mich.) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee chairman Cliff Stearns (R., Fla.) sent out a series of letters today urgining the White House and the Department of Energy to put an end to their stonewalling.
“To date, the White House has refused to answer even basic questions or engage with the Committee regarding the scope of documents in the possession of the White House, turning over just 136 pages of documents in response to the subpoenas,” states a memo from the committee. ”The Committee is working to learn why every warning sign on Solyndra was ignored, leaving American taxpayers on the hook for the half billion dollar failed jobs program.”
In a letter to White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, the Republicans pressed the administration to comply with a Nov. 3, 2011 subpoena for internal communcation documents relating to the $535 million Solyndra loan guarantee. The White House initially objected to the subpoena on the grounds that it was “overly broad.” Upton and Stearns argue that the committee has plenty of evidence indicating that senior White House advisers such as Larry Summers, Carol Browner, Ron Klain and Valerie Jarrett were prominently involved in the decision-making process regarding Solyndra, and charge that the White House “cannot simply redefine the scope of the subpoena.”
“Documents already in the Committee’s possession clearly indicate that you have numerous other documents in your possession which are responsive to the subpoena, but which have not been produced,” they write. ”In order for the Committee to complete its investigation of the problems with the loan guarantee program and the related loss of taxpayer dollars, those documents must be produced to the Committee.”
Though the White House has made a “small handful” of documents available to the committee privately, Republicans claim the administration is withholding key documents, particularly those in relation to the controversial decision to restructure the Solyndra loan guarantee in a way that subordinated taxpayer to private investors. “[The] documents shown to the staff were from August 2011, not the October 2010 through February 2011 time period during which the administration restructured the Solyndra loan,” they write. ”The restructuring and subordination of the taxpayer’s money is a primary focus of the Committee’s investigation. Certain documents indicate that the White House approved the restructuring of the Solyndra loan and the subordination of the taxpayer’s money.”
Upton and Stearns have requested that the White House turn over these additional documents by close of business on Friday, December 2.
They also charge the Office of Management and Budget with refusing to make certain staff members available for interview, and allege that the White House is responsible. “As OMB is encompassed within the Executive Office of the President, it is our understanding that the White House Counsel’s office has been involved in the decision to deny the Committee access to those individuals,” they write. ”This refusal is, unfortunately, only the latest in a series of attempts to impede this Committee’s investigation into the loss of half of a billion dollars of taxpayer funds.”
“If the White House persists in stonewalling this Committee,” they conclude, “we will not hesitate to take the necessary steps to ensure that there is no further obstruction of our investigation.”
Upton and Stearns sent a seperate letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu. who recently testified before the committee. The committee first requested that Chu hand over his internal communications relating to the Solyndra loan, but he only did so two days before his testimony on Nov. 17, 2011. Even then, the documents Chu brought forward were well short of what the committee had requested. “The earliest communication made available to the Committee was dated April 6, 2009,” they write. “[The documents] did not include any communications…from the time period during which the Solyndra application was under review prior to the conditional commitment in March 2009.”
Documents already obtained the committee show that Chu was briefed on Solyndra’s loan application in Janurary and Feberuary 2009. The committee is also seeking more information about Chu and the DOE’s role in the loan restructuring. The Republicans requested that these documents be turned over to the committee by no later than December 6.