A top congressional investigator said on Tuesday that he believes more companies that benefitted from the stimulus bill’s renewable energy loan guarantee program will go bankrupt before all allotted funds are spent.
The program, which guaranteed a $535 million loan to Solyndra before the company declared bankruptcy last week, still has $8-10 billion in authorized funding that has yet to be spent. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said he had called on the administration to hold off on awarding more loan guarantees from the program.
“The question is: how many Solyndras are out there?” Stearns said. “I’m convinced based upon what I’ve seen on this kind of industry and solar panel, that there’s more that are going to go bankrupt, and I think the president’s unwise to continue this idea of funding through taxpayer money industries that are not viable.”
Stearns would not reveal which companies he thought are at risk, saying he would save that information for his panel’s Wednesday hearing on the Solyndra bankruptcy. “I’ve called upon the president not to award any more money for this kind of venture, and to return the money to the Treasury rather than put it out the door,” he added.
Stearns’s hearing will examine two aspects of alleged corruption in Solyndra’s loan guarantee award, he said. The panel will examine both the possibility that political factors played a p[art in the award – a major investor in the company is also a large Obama donor – and the apparent lack of oversight by the White House Office of Management and Budget and other federal officials.
OMB’s director will testify at the hearing Wednesday, as will the Energy Department official who supervised the loan program. Stearns said the committee had agreed to postpone the testimony of Solyndra’s CEO and CFO in exchange for agreements that they would not “plead the fifth” and refuse to answer questions when they eventually do appear before the committee.