The White House will not say whether it will comply with a subpoena from a House committee related to its involvement in the Solyndra scandal. Instead, the administration has opted to open its own investigation into the loan program that backed the defunct solar company – though that investigation will not examine Solyndra itself.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced Friday that it will vote to subpoena a host of White House documents related to Solyndra, including messages from the president’s Blackberry.
Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL) released this joint statement in announcing the subpoena vote:
Subpoenaing the White House is a serious step that, unfortunately, appears necessary in light of the Obama administration’s stonewall on Solyndra. What is the White House trying to hide from the American public? It is alarming for the Obama White House to cast aside its vows of transparency and block Congress from learning more about the roles that those in the White House and other members of the administration played in the Solyndra mess.
While we of course respect Executive Privilege, the White House Counsel – in two separate letters to the Committee – has not asserted it. Moreover, we fail to see why internal White House communications about a loan guarantee to a solar panel manufacturer would implicate issues of national security or the other foundations upon which the Supreme Court has recognized the Privilege.
Asked about the subpoena on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Senior White House advisor David Plouffe declined to say whether the administration would comply. “I am not going to comment on a subpoena if it has not been issued,” Plouffe told host David Gregory.
Plouffe added that the White House “take[s] very seriously the fact that one of these loans did not work.”
But the White House’s own probe of the Energy Department loan guarantee program that backed Solyndra with half a billion dollars in federal financing will not actually examine Solyndra, or why the government backed a company seemingly on the verge of financial collapse. Instead, the White House’s investigation will focus on other companies to benefit from the program.
White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley announced Friday that the investigation will be lead by a former Treasury official and, according to Daley, will cover other existing loans made to energy companies backed by the government. Said Daley:
The president is committed to investing in clean energy because he understands that the jobs developing and manufacturing these technologies will either be created here or in other countries. And while we continue to take steps to make sure the United States remains competitive in the 21st-century energy economy, we must also ensure that we are strong stewards of taxpayer dollars.
Those two objectives, though – financing solar projects using federal money and making sound investments – may not be compatible. As Heritage’s David Kreutzer has pointed out, if solar companies were viable investments with reasonable expectations of return, they would have no problem getting private financing, and DOE’s loan program would be moot.
Even if Solyndra offered equity to the DOE for the $528 million, it would still be a bad idea. Government investments are made according to political rates of return and not economic ones.
Indeed, two of the criteria for the loan program show how silly it is to have government run a bank. One is that the loan must be for a commercially viable project. Another is that the applicants have to demonstrate that they could not get private financing. By definition, the second criterion rules out the first.