Solyndra executives will invoke their Fifth Amendment rights Friday when they refuse to answer questions at a Congressional hearing investigating allegations of improper dealings between the failed solar company and the White House.
The solar company is under investigation for going bankrupt despite receiving a $535 million federal loan.
In a letter sent to the oversight panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a lawyer for chief executive Brian Harrison and chief financial officer W.G. Stover said they advised their clients not to provide testimony, Reuters reported.
This is not a decision arrived at lightly, but it is a decision dictated by current circumstances, said the attorney, Walter Brown, On Sept. 8, 2011, federal agents executed a search warrant at Solyndra's facilities. Moreover, the United States Department of Justice has initiated an investigation into Solyndra.
In light of these circumstances, I had to choice but to advise Mr. Harrison to assert his Fifth Amendment rights in response to any questions posed by the Subcommittee. While I have instructed my client not to testify at the hearing, it would be a mistake to infer anything from this other than that is the act of a prudent lawyer who is newly engaged to represent a witness in ongoing government investigations.
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.
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.
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.