The panel’s ranking Democrat, however, has accused Republicans of trying to intimidate federal workers.
The Obama administration’s clean energy program, including the failure of its showcase firm, Solyndra, has spilled over into the presidential race. GOP challenger Mitt Romney has said that the program is rife with “crony capitalism” and invests taxpayer dollars in companies that helped Obama’s political allies but not middle-class workers.
The White House has said that all loans were awarded based on the merits of the project, not the company’s political connections.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), on Thursday issued subpoenas for 10 people at the Energy Department’s loan program.
But Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the panel’s ranking Democrat, said, “There was absolutely no reason for this type of intimidation since the department would have accepted the subpoenas by e-mail, as it has done routinely in the past, including with our committee.
“The subpoenas issued last week were particularly unnecessary and unwarranted given that the committee has identified no evidence of improper political favoritism in the department’s loan guarantee program,” Cummings said.
A marshal served five Energy Department employees at their workplace, committee staffers said, because the workers had not responded to a request that they accept the subpoenas electronically. The remaining workers, four contractors and one former employee, had agreed to do so in writing.
Committee spokesman Frederick Hill said it is ironic that Democrats are upset about the subpoenas when they expressed outrage during the Bush administration over the use of private e-mails for official public business. Former chief of staff Karl Rove was accused of trying to keep some of his official correspondence out of public reach by frequently using a private e-mail account, and the Bush White House acknowledged that it had failed to preserve thousands of internal e-mails.
“It’s clear there were widespread and intentional violations of these federal transparency laws in the process of granting controversial loan guarantees,” Hill said. “It’s really shameless that the Cummings letter doesn’t even acknowledge that these clear violations of law occurred.”
Cummings said that the Republican subpoenas appeared to be political posturing during a heated presidential campaign.
“I am deeply concerned that some may view these latest actions by the Committee as abusive, or as an effort to escalate tensions and generate press before the November election, rather than a legitimate attempt to conduct responsible oversight,” the Democrat wrote in a letter to Issa.