Solyndra: House Republicans release new emails from Tulsa billionaire

November 9, 2011

x

1215 embargo.

x

x

Will include 3 emails, all kaiser related, with kaiser in the loop on 2 of them

x

Tulsa billionaire and Obama fundraiser George Kaiser XXXXXXXXXXXXXX in email with his staff, according to records released on Wednesday.

House Republicans released the records as part of an escalating battle with the White House , who they suspect may have influenced financial transactions with the solar panel maker Solyndra. The California company collaped in August, leaving taxpayer liable for a half-billion dollar loan.

House Republicans last week subpoenaed all White House documents related to a $535 million loan guarantee to the solar panel maker Solyndra. The White House fired back in a letter late Friday that described the effort as unprecedented and a partisan fishing expedition, but appeared to stop short of refusing to comply.

x

x

Solyndra, a Silicon Valley solar panel maker, was a centerpiece of Obama’s initiative to develop clean energy technologies and received the program’s first loan guarantee, for $535 million. Solyndra reported accelerating sales until Aug. 31, when it collapsed and filed for bankruptcy protection. A week later, the FBI raided the company’s offices in a fraud investigation.

The collapse has become a political liability for the White House because of ties to Kaiser. At the White House, records show Kaiser has met with presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emanuel, who was then Obama’s chief of staff. Kaiser has said he did not lobby on behalf of Solyndra or help it win its loan guarantee.

x

x

x

x

Solyndra’s largest investor was a fund owned by the George Kaiser Family Foundation of Tulsa, a nonprofit founded by George Kaiser. White House logs show Kaiser has been a frequent vistor to the White House, where he has met with some of the administration’s most senior officials.

In a statement in September, the George Kaiser Family Foundation said George Kaiser was not personally invested in Solyndra and “did not participate in any discussions with the U.S. Government regarding the loan.”

x

x

x

On Thursday, Republicans on the House Energy Committee’s investigative panel voted to subpoena the White House, saying the administration had failed to voluntarily turn over documents related to Solyndra and its loan.

Served on White House Chief of Staff William Daley and Vice President Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff Bruce Reed, the subpoenas outlined four areas for document production and set a deadline for compliance of noon on November 10.

White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler responded to the committee in a letter late Friday, saying she was “disappointed and troubled” that the committee had moved ahead with a broad subpoena that she called unprecedented and little more than a “vast fishing expedition.” She concluded that the move was “driven more by partisan politics than a legitimate effort to conduct a responsible investigation.”

“Curiosity is not a sufficient justification for encroaching on longstanding and important Executive Branch confidentiality interests, particularly when none of the more than 85,000 pages of documents produced to date evidence any favoritism to political supporters or wrongdoing by the White House,” Ruemmler wrote.

“We remain willing to work with the committee to accommodate its legitimate oversight interests in a balanced manner. Given the breadth of the subpoena, I hope that the committee’s public statement that it intends to negotiate the scope of any document production is sincere.”

Republicans said they had hoped to avoid the step, but that the committee’s long-running investigation had failed to get to the bottom of why Solyndra, which collapsed in August and is now under criminal investigation, was selected to receive the Obama administration’s first loan guarantee under the stimulus act. President Obama last year visited the company’s California operation, whose biggest investors were venture capital funds linked to Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser, a major Obama fundraiser.

Some Republicans have questioned whether the administration rushed stimulus funding out the door to benefit its political supporters. On Oct. 14, the White House had told the committee that it would not comply with a request for all internal White House communications regarding the Solyndra loan.

Following the committee’s vote on Thursday, a White House official said the administration had cooperated extensively with the committee’s investigation, producing more than 85,000 pages of documents, including 20,000 pages Thursday afternoon, and having administration officials provide multiple briefings and hearings.

“The White House has also already provided over 900 pages of documents in response to requests we have received. And all of the materials that have been disclosed affirm what we said on day one: This was a merit-based decision made by the Department of Energy,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

“We’d like to see as much passion in House Republicans for creating jobs as we see in this investigation. The White House has been clear with the committee that we are willing to cooperate with legitimate oversight requests that are tailored to balance the important institutional interests of both branches. We are disappointed that the committee has refused to discuss their requests with us in good faith, and has instead chosen a partisan route, proceeding with subpoenas that are unprecedented and unwarranted.”

“I regret that we have reached this place,” Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said Thursday morning at a meeting of the panel. “The committee has been investigating this for over eight months and has clearly established the legitimacy of our investigation. Two of the first three companies to receive loan guarantees have now filed for bankruptcy protection.

President Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu visited Solyndra’s plant before its demise, and Vice President Biden spoke at a groundbreaking ceremony for its new factory via live video. At the time, each described the company as a model of the administration’s effort to create millions of new “green” American jobs.

Last week’s subpoena was the second that the Energy and Commerce Committee issued in the matter. On July 14, 2011, Republicans on the committee’s oversight panel voted on party lines to subpoena Solyndra-related documents from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Politics