White House: GOP probing Solyndra for 'political advantage'

The White House is ramping up allegations that the GOP’s Solyndra probe is a political ploy, following a top Republican's threat to hold the administration in contempt over a subpoena for documents about the failed solar company.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz linked the probe’s escalation to this month’s House GOP retreat in Baltimore, where Republicans leaders pledged to make 2012 a “referendum” on President Obama’s policies.

“It is difficult to believe that it is only a coincidence that within days of that directive, House Republicans are escalating this investigation,” Schultz said. “It is troubling that House members would use their investigative authority and taxpayer resources to seek a political advantage.”

Schultz connected the Solyndra probe to the GOP’s campaign against Obama a day after Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) said Republicans will discuss a contempt of Congress charge against the White House.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans in November subpoenaed the White House for internal communications about Solyndra and say the response has been inadequate.

Stearns, on the Fox Business Network Monday night, accused the White House of “slow walking” the issue. The Florida Republican, the head of the energy committee's investigations panel, is the GOP's point man on Solyndra.

Schultz on Tuesday reiterated claims that the White House has been responsive to the GOP probe, noting scores of documents delivered during the investigation that began early last year when Solyndra was facing financial troubles.

Solyndra went bankrupt in early September 2011, laying off 1,100 workers.

Republicans have used the company’s collapse to raise questions about the White House’s green agenda and have alleged that the administration approved the Energy Department’s $535 million loan guarantee in 2009 to please Obama’s campaign donors.

The probe has revealed that the White House was highly sensitive to the political optics around Solyndra, a company that Obama personally visited in 2009. 

Solyndra was the first company to receive a loan guarantee under DOE program that was authorized in 2005 and expanded in the 2009 stimulus law, which ultimately provided backing for the company.

The probe has not yielded evidence that the administration approved the loan for political reasons.

“We are now approaching the one-year mark of this Congressional investigation and everything disclosed in the 185,000 pages of documents, nine committee staff briefings, five Congressional hearings, 72,000 pages from Solyndra investors, and Committee interview with George Kaiser, affirms what we said since day one: this was a merit based decision made by the Department of Energy,” Schultz said.

Kaiser is a major Democratic fundraiser whose foundation was a key investor in Solyndra.

“We only wish that some of the Commerce Committee’s zeal to investigate was replicated in efforts to generate commerce,” Schultz said.

— This post was updated at 12:20 p.m.