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Thursday
Nov032011

Congress Votes to Subpoena White House over Solyndra Scandal

Ken James/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee voted Thursday along partisan lines to subpoena White House documents related to Solyndra, the politically connected solar company and flagship of the Obama administration's green energy program that received a half-billion dollar, taxpayer-funded federal loan before going bankrupt.

The vote in the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee split along party lines, 14 to 9. The Republican majority said the subpoenas were necessary because the Obama administration had delayed or rebuffed requests for documents related to the California solar panel maker. The Democratic minority said the White House has been cooperating.

The Obama administration had selected Solyndra as the first to receive a loan under an Energy Department program designed to provide government support to companies that would create jobs while generating energy from cleaner sources, such as solar, wind and nuclear. President Obama personally visited the Solyndra complex in May of last year, hailing it as a leader in this emerging field -- this apparently despite the fact that the company's books were already in trouble.

In August, Solyndra abruptly shut its doors, laying off 1,100 workers. Within days, it had declared bankruptcy. The House Energy and Commerce Committee's investigative subcommittee has held two hearings intending to unwind the deal and understand how signs of Solyndra's financial trouble had been overlooked by the Department of Energy.

A week after Solyndra's bankruptcy filing, Federal agents searched the company's California headquarters, and visited the homes of Harrison, company founder Chris Gronet, and a former executive.

In March, ABC News, in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News, began reporting on simmering questions about the role political influence may have played in Solyndra's selection as the Obama administration's first loan guarantee recipient.

Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman, has told ABC News that politics never entered the decision to grant the loan, or restructure it earlier this year. LaVera said the department decided it was worth trying to redo the terms to try and salvage the government's initial investment.

"[P]olitical or optical considerations took a backseat to putting the company and its workers in a better position to succeed and repay the loan," he said.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has sought information from Solyndra's prime investors -- including Oklahoma oil billionaire George Kaiser, a bundler of campaign contributions to the president in 2008.

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