The Department of Energy knew its $535 million loan guarantee to solar-panel maker Solyndra Inc. was “a bad bet from the beginning” but was “determined to make Solyndra a stimulus success story at any cost,” the Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee concluded in a report released Thursday.
Solyndra failed last year. The committee’s 154-page report follows its approval Wednesday of the No More Solyndras Act, which would disband the DOE loan guarantee program. The bill would also bar any guarantees for applications received after 2011 and require additional reviews by the Treasury Department and Congress for pending and existing loans.
Solyndra, a California-based renewable energy firm and favorite of the Obama White House, received the administration's first loan guarantee in 2009 and was held out as an example of the “promise of clean energy” by the president. Within two years, the company had filed for bankruptcy, firing 1,100 employees in the process.
The Center for Public Integrity and ABC News first reported on the Solyndra loan guarantee in May 2011, revealing that the DOE had rushed to back the firm without fully vetting its economic prospects. The investigation also noted that billionaire George Kaiser, one of Obama’s principal backers in the 2008 elections, was a major Solyndra shareholder.
The Energy and Commerce Committee report reflects an 18-month investigation into the DOE-Solyndra affair, presenting what it calls “a complete picture of the facts and circumstances” surrounding the White House, DOE, Solyndra, and investors like Kaiser.
“Solyndra will be remembered in the history books as a sad hallmark of a newly installed administration that felt it was above the rules, lusting for positive headlines rather than focused on delivering results,” committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said in a press release. “Now, Solyndra is a painful reminder of why the federal government should not be in the venture capital business. Our investigation revealed a shocking episode where politics were put before taxpayers and integrity was sacrificed for the sake of corporate favoritism.”
In a statement, White House spokesman Eric Schultz replied, “This is month eighteen of this Congressional investigation and everything disclosed in the 215,000 pages of documents, 14 committee staff briefings, 5 Congressional hearings, 72,000 pages from Solyndra investors, and Committee interview with George Kaiser, affirms what we said on day one: this was a merit based decision made by the Department of Energy. As Republicans won’t answer how much investigation has cost taxpayers, we believe they should instead be focused on legislation to creating jobs and grow the economy."
Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee released a memorandum stating, "The Republican report contains obvious inaccuracies, frequent misstatements, cherry picked evidence, and glaring omissions of exculpatory information received by the Committee."