Chu: No politics involved on Solyndra deal
“Was there incompetence? Was there any influence of a political nature? And I would have to say no,” Mr. Chu testified, blaming Solyndra’s collapse on the fallout of the solar market and big subsidies by the Chinese in solar-energy initiatives.
Mr. Chu is the highest-profile administration figure to testify on Solyndra so far. Twice, Republicans chided him for answering questions by saying he had never heard of the particular details or by saying he wasn’t aware of those details.
Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Republican and chairman of the investigations subcommittee, cited what he called a pattern of answers by the secretary in which he said he was not aware of information.
“You seem to have an unawareness,” Mr. Stearns said.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, told Mr. Chu, “It leaves me to believe maybe you had some staff that was keeping you out of the loop on some decisions.”
The hearing exposed a partisan divide on the failed Solyndra deal. Republicans charged the government was acting as a venture capitalist, making risky bets with taxpayer money. They said the Energy Department’s efforts to keep afloat Solyndra, a flagship of Mr. Obama’s stimulus program, broke the law, resulting in little chance of taxpayers recouping their money.
Meanwhile, Democrats said the Republican-led congressional probe has been charged with politics. Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said he didn’t condone the delay of the layoff announcement but called it “really small potatoes.”
“We lost the money, it’s unfortunate, but there is no scandal there,” he said, telling Republicans to “stop dancing on Solyndra’s grave.”
For as much Solyndra’s bankruptcy has attracted widespread attention, the company’s loan guarantee was highly publicized from the start. Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Mr. Chu took part in a 2009 groundbreaking ceremony, and Mr. Obama toured the company last year even as some in the administration warned against the visit because of questions over Solyndra’s finances.
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