Administration grilled on Solyndra loan

Who’s to blame for debacle, lawmakers ask

Obama administration officials refused to say Wednesday whether anybody would be fired over the decision to award solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra LLC a half-billion dollars in loansbefore it went bankrupt and saw its headquarters raided by the FBI.

During a hearing in which two top administration officials defended the $535 million loan deal to Solyndra in 2009, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee questioned whether Americans could expect any government officials to be fired. The FBI raided the company after it filed for bankruptcy last week.

The committee also raised questions about whether the loan deal came about because of political influence, highlighting an email that they said showed how the White House was trying to hurry a loan approval so Vice President Joseph R. Biden could announce the deal in 2009.

The largest private investor in Solyndra is a venture-capital firm tied to Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser, a fundraiser for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, the committee’s ranking Democrat, also noted during the hearing that the company’s investors included Madrone Capital Partners, which has ties to Wal-Mart’s Walton family, which has often backed Republicans.

Much of the toughest questioning by the committee was directed at Jonathan Silver, head of the Department of Energy’s loan program, which approved the loan.

Rep. Tim Murphy, Pennsylvania Republican, accused Mr. Silver of throwing his subordinates “under the bus.”

“What do you do for a living?” an angry Mr. Murphy asked.

“We work to the fullest of our capabilities, congressman,” Mr. Silver replied.

Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee, pressed Mr. Silver on whether anybody should be fired.

“I’m saying we are doing the best job we know how to do,” Mr. Silver said, declining to answer the question.

The other top official who testified at the hearing, Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, told the committee that neither he nor his staff met or talked with Mr. Kaiser. White House records show that in March 2009, Mr. Kaiser met with Jason Furman, who was then deputy director of the White House’s National Economic Council.

The hearing Wednesday came amid reports that the Treasury Department’s office of inspector general also is investigating the loan deal.

Company executives busy

Solyndra became the first company to get a Department of Energy loan guarantee through the stimulus program, and it was hailed as an example of job creation and clean-energy technology by the White House. Both Mr. Zients and Mr. Silver said they didn’t know why Solyndra was raided by the FBI last week.

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