House Republicans are hungry for more information about the $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra despite the more than 185,000 pages of documents turned over by the Obama administration so far.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans balked Friday at the White House’s latest attempt to sate their appetite for behind-the-scenes communications about Solyndra.
The White House turned over 313 pages of internal emails Friday afternoon in response to committee Republicans’ November subpoena for all internal communications related to the Solyndra loan guarantee. The emails added to the 200 pages of documents the White House previously provided the panel in response to the subpoena, as well as more than 1,000 pages sent before the subpoena was issued.
“In the three months since the committee issued subpoenas due to the West Wing’s refusal to cooperate, the White House has released just 515 pages of Solyndra documents,” Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), the head of the panel’s investigative subcommittee, said in a statement.
“Handing over five or six pages a day is not an acceptable level of compliance in a situation where taxpayers are out over half a billion dollars. It is astonishing that an administration that held itself up to be the most open and transparent in history continues to stonewall, refusing any accountability.”
Stearns, who is heading up the committee’s Solyndra investigation, has floated the idea of contempt charges against the White House for not fully complying with the subpoena. He said last week that he had not yet determined whether to move forward with the charges, but noted that Friday’s document production would inform his decision.
“We have been reasonable and deliberate every step of the way in this investigation, but the public is growing restless with the administration’s continued stonewall,” Stearns and Upton said Friday night. “If the White House has nothing to hide, they should just hand over the documents.”
Republicans have long alleged that the Obama administration approved the Solyndra loan guarantee in 2009 as a sop to Obama’s campaign donors. The White House strongly denies those allegations, and the GOP investigation has not uncovered evidence to substantiate the claim.
By suggesting that the White House is hiding key Solyndra documents, Republicans are hoping to keep those allegations alive.
“Was it crony capitalism or just plain gross incompetence? Our investigation continues. The White House documents are critical to fully understanding the lessons of Solyndra,” Stearns and Upton said.
“We have a responsibility to taxpayers to find the right prescription to cure the Solyndra syndrome and ensure the public is never again left holding the bag on the administration’s risky bets.”
The GOP probe has uncovered a number of details that could be uncomfortable for the White House, including administration officials questioning the wisdom of issuing the loan guarantee.
The White House says it has cooperated with House Republicans at every step of the Solyndra probe. In providing the 313 pages of emails Friday, the White House said it has now given all relevant internal Solyndra communications to the committee.
In a letter to the committee Friday, the White House’s top lawyers said they excluded documents that have already been provided to the committee by other federal agencies and emails from media organizations and press releases, among other things.
The White House also said it did not provide “a small number of internal White House documents that contain only incidental references to the Solyndra conditional commitment, but implicate long-standing Executive Branch institutional interests.”
The lawyers said the White House is willing to consider providing additional documents, but added, “in light of this production and the minimal yield it demonstrates in terms of information relevant to the Committee’s oversight and legislative functions, we suggest that the Committee reconsider its broad requests.”
The White House has long argued that the scope of the GOP subpoena is too broad, calling the Republican investigation a “fishing expedition.”
Stearns vowed last week to press forward with the probe, which has so far included five high-profile hearings. He said the committee will continue to examine the Energy Department’s February 2011 decision to restructure the Solyndra loan. The restructuring agreement ensured that private investors who agreed to inject more capitol into Solyndra would be repaid before the taxpayer if the company collapsed.
Republicans allege that the agreement to “subordinate” the taxpayer’s interest violates a 2005 energy law that established the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program.