The "Solyndra scandal" is the gift that keeps on giving to the Republicans, providing seemingly endless fodder for the GOP's efforts to embarrass President Obama by showing that the administration has been lax in handling taxpayers' money,
The episode exposes "the flaws in Obama's economic stimulus program," a senior GOP strategist told me, because federal money was rushed to questionable companies and projects without adequate safeguards, At the core of the controversy is $535 million in government loan guarantees provided to Solyndra, which later filed for bankruptcy protection. The Republicans plan to highlight all this in a series of congressional inquiries. [Read Rettig: Solyndra Bankruptcy Raises Questions About Federal Loan Guarantees.]
The latest problem for Solyndra—keeping the case prominently featured in the media—is the announcement by executives of the bankrupt California-based solar panel manufacturer that they will plead the Fifth Amendment and refuse to answer some questions from House members at a hearing scheduled for tomorrow. CEO Brian Harrison and Chief Financial Officer Bill Stover issued a statement to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that they won't be able to provide "substantive answers" to legislators' questions because of an ongoing Justice Department investigation of Solyndra. This provoked an angry response from GOP legislators who asked what Solyndra is trying to hide. The legislators pointed out that the Solyndra executives were backing away from earlier pledges to testify voluntarily. [Read about how Obama abandoned clean energy in his recent jobs speech.]
House Republicans are now broadening their investigation into the Energy Department's loan guarantee program with a special emphasis on projects that the administration wants to complete by the September 30 funding deadline. Three GOP leaders wrote a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu raising concerns that the funding decision might be proceeding hastily and asking whether the department "needs additional time to conduct its due diligence to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not being put at risk unnecessarily." The letter was signed by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns of Florida, and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Edward Whitfield of Kentucky. The San Jose Mercury News has done a good summary of these developments.