White House counsel: No evidence that Solyndra aid was gift to donors

The White House’s top lawyer said in writing Friday that more than 70,000 pages of administration documents released through the GOP-led probe of the failed solar company Solyndra show no evidence of White House intervention in the company’s loan guarantee to benefit a campaign donor.

But White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler’s letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee also rebuffs an effort by committee Republicans for access to internal White House communications, including President Obama’s emails.

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Ruemmler’s letter nonetheless amplifies the administration's rebuttal of GOP claims of improper White House influence in the Energy Department’s 2009 decision to grant the company a $535 million loan guarantee, and the deal’s early 2011 revamp that put private investors ahead of taxpayers for repayment if the company liquidated.

The letter notes that the White House Office of Management and Budget, and the Treasury and Energy Departments, have provided over 70,000 pages of documents. The letter, obtained from a government source Friday evening, adds that over 900 pages of communications between the White House and Solyndra (and its investors and representatives) have been released in response to the GOP-led probe. 

“There is nothing in the documents produced by DOE, OMB, Treasury, or the White House that the White House intervened in the Solyndra loan guarantee to benefit a campaign contributor,” states the letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders Friday.

Republicans probing federal aid to the California solar panel company, which collapsed six weeks ago, have sought to show that President Obama’s donors and fundraisers influenced the loan guarantee.

House Republicans have questioned whether the administration gave preferential treatment to Solyndra because of its ties to a venture capital fund associated with George Kaiser, a fundraising bundler for the Obama campaign. 

More broadly, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who is spearheading the GOP probe, this week alleged there is a “disturbing prevalence of wealthy donors and bundlers littered throughout the loan guarantee process.” 

The White House took an interest in the Solyndra loan guarantee and President Obama visited the company in 2010 to tout administration efforts to jumpstart a green energy economy.

But administration officials have pushed back hard against the claims of improper influence in the decision to grant or restructure the guarantee, maintaining that loan guarantee decisions are merit-based and follow careful vetting by career Energy Department officials.

Ruemmler’s letter is unlikely to satisfy committee Republicans, who wrote to Ruemmler Oct. 5 seeking “all” White House communications dating back to the very beginning of the Obama administration.

Ruemmler’s makes the case against such disclosure.

“Your most recent request for internal White House communications from the first day of the current Administration to the present implicates longstanding and institutional Executive Branch confidentiality interests,” the letter states. 

It adds:

Encroaching upon these important interests is not necessary, however, because the agency documents the committee has requested, which include communications with the White House, should satisfy the Committee’s stated objective – to “understand the involvement of the White House in the review of the Solyndra loan guarantee and the Administration’s support of this guarantee.”