Issue Date: November 14, 2011
Obama Rejects House Subpoena
White House officials last week refused to comply with a congressional subpoena ordering them to turn over all documents related to a controversial Department of Energy loan guarantee made to Solyndra, a now-bankrupt manufacturer of solar equipment.
In the subpoena to the White House chief of staff, House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) demanded e-mails and other internal documents going back to Jan. 1, 2009, before President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
Committee Republicans are investigating charges that Obama pressured DOE to issue a $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra at the urging of campaign contributor George Kaiser, who had invested in the company. The company folded in August, making taxpayers responsible for the failed loan (C&EN, Oct. 3, page 28).
In a letter rejecting the committee’s subpoena, Counsel to the President Kathryn H. Ruemmler called the request “overbroad” and “unprecedented and unnecessary.” She noted the White House had already released 85,000 pages of internal documents concerning the loan and has begun an independent audit of its own. She called the request “a vast fishing expedition,” quoting a statement by Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), the committee’s senior Democrat. Along with all committee Democrats, Dingell opposes the subpoena.
Also last week, committee Republicans released 11 redacted e-mails showing, they said, that Kaiser had attempted to influence the White House to press DOE to issue the loan guarantee to Solyndra.
However, a close reading of those e-mails reveals that Kaiser’s role was unclear. In fact, when urged by other Solyndra investors to try to influence the White House, Kaiser refused, saying that Energy Secretary Steven Chu might “resent the intervention.”
Within hours of the Republican release, committee Democrats issued a rebuttal and placed some two dozen e-mails on their website. The Democrats said their Republican colleagues on the committee “present a misleading and inaccurate account” that is contradicted by other information in the committee’s possession.
Kaiser, the Democrats said, was interviewed by committee staff the day before the Republicans leveled their charges, and he specifically contradicted their interpretation.
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