House Democrats seek to shift blame to Solyndra executives

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee blasted top executives at the now-bankrupt California solar manufacturer Solyndra on Wednesday, suggesting they misled federal officials about the financial standing of the company.

The effort to shift blame to Solyndra, which went bankrupt in August after the Obama administration in 2009 approved a $535 million stimulus loan guarantee for the company to build a solar manufacturing facility, comes as Republicans have sought to pummel the White House on the issue.

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said top Solyndra executives painted a rosy picture of the company’s financial outlook during a meeting with lawmakers in July.

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“I’m perplexed how they can be in my office in July telling me things are looking better and two months later filing for bankruptcy,” DeGette said during a hearing Wednesday morning on the Solyndra loan guarantee.

Solyndra said in July that it was “growing rapidly” and said that data showing the company had fiscal problems were “outdated.”

Solyndra announced in late August that it would suspend manufacturing, lay off 1,100 employees and file for bankruptcy. Republicans have pounced on the incident, arguing that the Obama administration missed a series of red flags that hinted at the company’s financial troubles. 

Democrats on Wednesday sought to put the blame on Solyndra, which they said may have misled the administration.

“We also need to ask whether Solyndra misled federal officials,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Top Solyndra executives — President Brian Harrison and CFO W.G. Stover Jr. — were slated to testify before the panel Wednesday. The executives agreed to testify, but asked that the hearing be moved to next week.

Waxman said lawmakers “have an obligation to the taxpayers to investigate” the incident. But he warned against drawing broad conclusions about cutting back on investments in clean energy.

“I disagree vehemently, however, with the policy conclusions that my Republican colleagues have already drawn,” Waxman said.