- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Citing concerns that President Obama’s “closest confidants” monitored now bankrupt solar panel maker Solyndra LLC, leaders of a House committee said Wednesday they were expanding their investigation into the failed company’s more than half-billion dollar federal loan package.

Republican leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee, in a letter, called on the White House to turn over all communications between its staff members involving Solyndra dating back to Mr. Obama’s Jan. 20, 2009, inauguration.

Emails released this week show that White House officials moved ahead with plans to have Mr. Obama visit Solyndra last year to tout the success of the federal stimulus package, despite concerns from the administration and political supporters that Solyndra could go broke.

Last month, the company filed for bankruptcy, fired more than 1,000 employees and saw its offices raided by the FBI.

In one email released as part of the committee’s months-long investigation, Obama fundraiser and venture capitalist Steve Westly wrote to White House adviser Valerie Jarrett in May 2010 to warn against a visit to Solyndra by Mr. Obama.

“I just want to protect the president from anything that could result in negative or unfair press,” Mr. Westly wrote.

In turn, White House officials contacted the Department of Energy.

“Bottom line is that we believe the company is okay in the medium term, but will need some help of one kind or another down the road,” Rod O’Connor, chief of staff for the department, wrote back to Ronald Klain, then-chief of staff to Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

Mr. Klain nonetheless reported to Ms. Jarrett, “Sounds like there are some risk factors here but that’s true of any innovative company that POTUS would visit. It looks like it is OK to me, but if you feel otherwise, let me know.”

Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Republican and chairman of the committee’s investigations panel, said those and other documents provided to the committee by the Office of Management and Budget last week confirm that top advisers such as Ms. Jarrett and Lawrence Summers, Mr. Obama’s then top economic adviser, “had direct involvement in the Solyndra mess.”

Mr. Summers noted in an email to a Solyndra investor that the U.S. was a “crappy venture capitalist.”

“In addition to the cast of West Wing characters with access to the Oval Office, documents reveal a startlingly cozy relationship between wealthy donors and the president’s confidants, especially in matters related to Solyndra,” said Mr. Stearns.

White House spokesman Jay Carney Wednesday defended the administration, pointing out that the Energy Department loan program existed under the Bush administration.

“It is obvious that not every investment is going to succeed, and we are disappointed that this one didn’t,” he said. “But the overall program continues to succeed.”

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