DeGette rails against Solyndra subpoenas as ‘political sideshow’

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee today called for a subpoena of White House records regarding the half-billion dollar taxpayer loan guarantee of Solyndra, a move Rep. Diana DeGette, the ranking Democrat on the panel, blasted as “an act of irresponsible partisanship.”

“In my 15 years on this subcommittee, we have forged a strong bipartisan tradition of thorough and meaningful investigations. That could have been the case with the Solyndra investigation,” DeGette said today at a subcommittee meeting on oversight and investigations. “We have here a $525 million loan guarantee made with taxpayer funds that went bad. We need to learn the circumstances of the original deal as the restructuring. We need all the facts, all the witnesses, all the documents. Sadly, after seeing the Majority’s conduct of this investigation, I do not believe they share this goal.”

The subpoena authorization is an unprecedented move for the committee, DeGette noted, stressing that the Obama administration has already turned over 85,000 pages of documents related to Solyndra.

“I believe the majority’s action in moving forward with a subpoena resolution today is an act of irresponsible partisanship,” she said. “The Committee has every right to seek and obtain relevant information from the White House to advance its legitimate oversight needs. But a subpoena to the White House is a serious step in a congressional investigation. And it is a step that should be taken only after alternative avenues have been exhausted. We clearly do not face those circumstances today.”

Colorado’s congresswoman was among the first to seek an investigation into the Solyndra loan guarantee after the solar company in Fremont, Calif., flamed out in August. A grim macroeconomic climate, excess capacity, European subsidy cuts and competition from China all factored in its demise.

Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity — an anti-tax group partly founded and funded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch — is spending $2.4 million on television commercials in Florida, Michigan, New Mexico and Virginia attacking Obama over Solyndra and his ties to clean energy.

A subpoena to the White House is a serious step in a congressional investigation, and a step that should be taken only after alternative avenues have been exhausted. We clearly do not face those circumstances today.

“Wealthy donors with ties to Solyndra give Obama hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the one-minute ads say. “What does Obama give them in return? Half a billion in taxpayer money to help his friends at Solyndra — a business the White House knew was on the path to bankruptcy, but loaned them the money anyway. … Now Solyndra is bankrupt and taxpayers are stuck with the bill.”

The ads end with an allegation the president is using taxpayer money for “political favors.”

The link between money and politics is indeed hard to ignore, especially when examining the actions of the Republican congressmen on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Koch Industries and its employees — who help operate Americans for Prosperity — contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the majority of the committee’s Republicans. Koch Industries is grounded in the oil and gas business and is the largest energy donor to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R- Colo., is the biggest beneficiary of the Kochs’ campaign contributions in Colorado, raking in upwards of $315,000 from Koch-funded organizations in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other sources.

Gardner, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, voted in favor of the White House subpoena. Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., who is leading the charge in the Solyndra investigation, received a maximum $5,000 contribution from Koch Industries in this election cycle.

DeGette said Upton’s rhetoric has become “inflammatory,” “brazenly inaccurate,” and proof that any objective review of the Solyndra situation has deteriorated into a conspicuous “political sideshow.”

Troy Hooper covers environmental policy for the American Independent News Network. His work has been published in The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Huffington Post, San Francisco Weekly, Playboy, New York Post, People and dozens of other publications. Hooper has covered the Winter Olympics in Italy, an extreme ski camp in South America and gone behind the scenes with Hunter S. Thompson on election night in 2004. Born and raised in Boulder, Hooper has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara.