Citing New Documents, Oversight Committee Queries President on Involvement in Controversial Energy Loan Program

August 9, 2012

WASHINGTON – House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, along with Subcommittee Chairmen Jim Jordan and Trey Gowdy, sent President Barack Obama a letter yesterday seeking answers and documents about the President’s own involvement and knowledge of White House officials making decisions in the controversial Department of Energy Loan Program that used taxpayer funds to support companies including Solyndra.

“The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has obtained documents which raise questions about how your interactions with business leaders at political events affected decisions to give billions of taxpayer dollars in loan guarantees to green energy companies through the Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) 1705 Loan Guarantee Program,” wrote Issa, Jordan, and Gowdy to President Obama.  “The failure of several companies that received loans under the program, including Solyndra’s August 2011 bankruptcy, led to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds.”

Distancing himself and the White House from decisions made in the controversial program that made a $535 million loan to Solyndra, on October 6, 2011, President Obama stated that loan program decisions were made by Department of Energy officials:

“I will tell you that even for those projects under this loan guarantee program that have ended up being successful, there are those in the marketplace who have been doubtful … And all I can say is that the Department of Energy made these decisions based on their best judgment about what would make sense.”

New documents cited in the committee’s letter to the President, however, indicate the White House and President Obama were critically involved.

  • E-mails indicate that objections to a loan from President Obama’s most senior economic advisors were overridden by then White House Chief of Staff William Daley.  DOE employees cheered Daley’s decision as “total victory” and as close to an “annihilation of the economic team’s position as you could possibly hope for.”  They stated it was, “Kind of nuts that Chu defeated Treas Sec, OMB head, and NEC head.”
  • Department of Energy Chief of Staff Brandon Hurlbut stated in an e-mail that President Obama hears about the program because at “political events he interacts with business community and Congressional members – many of them have some affiliation or interest in the numerous applications we have received that involve substantial funds.”
  • In June 2011, before Solyndra declared bankruptcy, President Obama requested a personal briefing on the loan guarantee program.
  • Secretary of Energy Chu acknowledged in an e-mail that other Administration officials were concerned that loan applicants were receiving “unjust enrichment” from the program.

The letter requests that President Obama direct the White House Counsel’s Office to produce information and documents including a full explanation of the President’s involvement in the 1705 Loan Guarantee Program, energy projects that the President discussed at official and political events, and all White House records related or referring to the Loan Guarantee Program by August 21, 2012.