As they warned they would, Solyndra executives repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment Friday as House lawmakers peppered them with questions regarding the solar company's financial collapse.
While I hope to have an opportunity to assist this committee in the future, on the advice of my attorney, I must respectfully decline to answer any questions, Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison told Energy and Commerce oversight subpanel Chairman Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., who opened the questioning.
CFO Bill Stover gave a similar response to questions.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., objected to the repeated questions, slamming Republicans for persisting with their questions, even after the executives made it known they would remain silent, Politico reported.
I just want to take this moment to assert the fact that I think it's unseemly and inappropriate for members to be asking questions that you know they will not answer, Waxman said, saying the GOP questions were sound bites for the press.
Full Committee Chairman Fred Upton said it inappropriate for the White House to respond to the Solyndra scandal by highlighting Republican lawmakers' past support for clean energy projects in their districts.
The administration's actions in this case are deeply troubling and so is their response our findings, the Michigan Republican said. This is not a debate about the virtues of clean energy; it is a serious inquiry into reckless use of taxpayer dollars on a company that was known to psoe serious risks before a single dime wen out the door.
Let me just warn you and the other folds involved in this taxpayer rip-off, Upton said. We're not done. No we're not.
Solyndra Stuns Policy Makers With Bankruptcy
Earlier this month, Solyndra unexpectedly filed for bankruptcy, coming as a surprise to both employees and the Obama administration, which had secured $535 million in low-interest loans for the company.
Criticism by Republicans, who allege that the Obama administration exerted improper influence to the aid of both companies, has left Obama defending himself.
Solyndra's sudden collapse has left Republicans and conservatives alike placing the blame squarely on the Obama administration's shoulders, saying it is the one to blame for Solyndra's loan approval.
Solyndra's downfall puts a spot light on the kind of taxpayer-funded cronyism this White House said it would eliminate, said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in a statement last week. After bundling tens of thousands of dollars for President Obama and his campaign, company officials were granted at least 20 visits to the White House and had Energy Department officials sitting in on company board meetings. Before taxpayers are forced to spend another dime of stimulus money, the White House must explain why they were so reckless the first time around.
House Republicans also say they have e-mails showing the White House pressuring Department of Energy professionals to expedite the loan approvals, although the White House has argued that nothing improper happened.
On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he and his team will be looking to see if members of Congress or White House staff improperly chose companies eligible for subsidized government loans based on their ability to give campaign donations.
I want to see when the president and his cronies are picking winners and losers ... it wasn't because there were large contributions given to them, Issa said.
Did White House Pressure U.S. Air Force General?
According to The Hill, Republicans have also said the White House pressured an Air Force general to revise testimony before a closed congressional hearing to aid LightSquared. Apparently, e-mails between the company and the White House mention that the company's CEO would be attending Democratic fundraisers in Washington; administration officials reportedly met with executives from the company the same day CEO Sanjiv Ahuga wrote a $30,400 check to the Democratic National Committee.
Both the company and White House have denied any influence-peddling. And while Issa did not accuse the White House of wrongdoing, he suggested that government loan programs tempt corruption.
This is another reason that crony capitalism ... is dangerous, because they're going to pick winners that they ideologically, or in some cases because they support their candidacy, want to see win, Issa said.
The congressman also said that he does not want to limit the investigation to the Obama administration and the companies, but rather expand it to see whether congressmen were also exerting influence on the bureaucracy.
We see that as a backdoor, easy way to end up with corruption in the government, Issa said.