Suddenly silent: Solyndra execs refuse to fess up to Congress

C.J. Ciaramella Contributor
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Executives from bankrupt solar company Solyndra refused to testify at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Friday morning, despite being peppered with questions from committee Republicans.

Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison and CFO Brian Stover invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 20 times while Republicans repeatedly questioned them on the failure of the federally-backed company and the chances of repaying their $535 million loan from the Department of Energy.

“While I hope to have an opportunity to assist this committee in the future, on the advice of my attorney, I must respectfully decline to answer any questions,” Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison told the committee oversight subpanel Chairman Cliff Stearns.

Critics and Republicans have put Solyndra on the hot seat since it announced its bankruptcy on Aug. 31. Critics have suggested improper White House influence in Solyndra’s loan approval, specifically charging that the loan was fast-tracked to accommodate the Obama administration’s desire to tout its green energy initiative.

“Congress and the American taxpayers have a right to know whether this loan guarantee was rushed out the door before it was ready for prime time, whether the administration doubled down on a bad bet after knowing of the company’s dubious commercial prospects or, even worse, whether $535 million taxpayer dollars were wasted on false or incomplete information,” Stearns said. “We intend to get those answers.”

Committee Chairman Fred Upton called the Solyndra failure “our own modern day great train robbery.”

Republicans’ questioning drew criticism from committee Democrats. Rep. Henry Waxman said Republicans were using the opportunity to create “sound bytes” for the press.

“I just want to take this moment to assert the fact that I think it’s unseemly and inappropriate for members to be asking questions that you know they will not answer.”

Committee Democrat Diana DeGette accused Republicans of “badgering” the witnesses.

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