House holds sub-committee hearing on Solyndra

President Obama, center, is given a tour of Solyndra by Executive Vice President Ben Bierman, right, as Chief Executive Officer Chris Gronet, left, walks along at Solyndra Inc. in Fremont, Calif., Wednesday, May 26, 2010. Solyndra is a solar panel manufacturing facility. (AP Photo/Paul Chinn, Pool)
September 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The White House is now pointing figners at the Bush administration for the $500 million loan to Solyndra, the Bay Area solar company that is now bankrupt.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans on the House Commerce Committee pounced on the Solyndra investigation, claiming the Obama administration rushed a $500 million loan for political reasons. Administration officials are saying it was the Bush administration that first gave the green light for the loan that went to the now-bankrupt Solyndra.

The solar panel company had its $500 million government loan guarantee fast-tracked shortly after President Obama took office. The president visited the plant in May 2010 and, even back then, there were warning signs that Solyndra was in financial trouble.

"Solyndra's costs were just a lot higher," said GigaOM contributor Katie Fehrenbacher, who wrote about the financial challenges facing Solyndra at the time of the president's visit.

On Wednesday, Republicans on Capitol Hill pressed for answers.

"The documents demonstrate that, when the Department of Energy was reviewing the Solyndra guarantee in 2009, it was well-aware of the financial problems the deal posed," said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla.

The documents include an email from an Obama administration budget analyst. In 2009, the email said the deal "is not ready for prime time."

Vice President Biden's Chief of Staff wrote, "If you guys think this is a bad idea, I need to unwind the WW (West Wing) quickly."

But that didn't happen. Instead, the loan went through. Two years later, Solyndra's in bankruptcy.

The FBI raided the company last week, and Congressional Republicans are questioning the ties between President Obama and one of his biggest fund raisers: Billionaire George Kaiser, who is also a principal investor in Solyndra.

Democrat Henry Waxman tried to sink that allegation, and pointed out that Menlo Park venture capital firm Madrone was also a big investor in Solyndra. Madrone is known for investing on behalf of the Walton Family of Wal-Mart fame. The Walton Family is known for donating primarily to Conservatives.

But as ABC7's political analyst Professor Bruce Cain, Ph.D. explains, the Solyndra issue is going to be trouble for Democrats and the president in next year's election.

"I think the basic story is, if you're explaining, you're losing," Cain said. "That's always the case in politics, and right now, the Democrats are explaining, therefore they're losing."

The Treasury Department announced its own investigation into Solyndra on Wednesday, and next week Solyndra officials are expected to testify.

Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee want to know why the company said everything was fine in July, and then a month later declared bankruptcy.


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