Issa plans Solyndra reform law amid White House jeering

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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House Republicans are drafting a reform law intended to restrict political appointees’ ability to award loans and grants in the face of opposition from civil servants, Rep. Darrell Issa, the GOP chairman of the House oversight committee, told The Daily Caller.

The new bill is emerging from the Republicans’ extensive investigation into the White House’s $60 billion effort to boost green-tech companies, many of which have gone belly-up after getting large government grants and loan guarantees.

“We’ve learned enough to know that real reform is needed” to prevent appointees from overruling civil servants’ advice, Issa said. The White House’s sidelining of civil servants’ recommendations is “probably [a] violation of the law,” he said.

The investigation has focused on the White House’s support for Solyndra, a solar panel firm that went bankrupt in 2010 at a cost of $500 million to taxpayers. That scandal has deeply damaged public support for the green-tech initiative, and has prompted Obama’s 2012 campaign to run TV ads defending the president’s program.

The planned reform would ensure that any decision to provide companies with grants and loan guarantees “has to be backed by science and career professionals,” Issa said.

However, the bill likely won’t be introduced until after the presidential election, he said. Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a more limited No More Solyndras Act Thursday.

The GOP investigation has been aided by the examination of emails among White House officials, including emails sent via non-government networks.

“What we find is career professionals giving one kind of advice and appointees … trying to ignore that advice and trying to bail out their ideological cronies” in the green-tech sector, Issa said.

Republicans on Thursday released another trove of emails from the investigation, which showed that Solyndra’s CEO described the White House’s funding as the “Bank of Washington.”

Another email, dated August 2009, suggests that President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, pushed for federal funding of Solyndra, and for the president’s support for the funding.

One senior official “has talked to Rahm about this. … POTUS involvement was Rahm’s idea [and] obviously we should all be on board before moving forward,” said the email, written Aditya Kumar, an aide to Emanuel.

Officials also used private emails to hide their cooperation with executives, in likely violation of the law, Issa said. For example, Jonathan Silver, a loan official in the Department of Energy, used a private email account to edit a funding request from a green-tech executive to Emanuel’s successor as chief of staff, Bill Daley.

The executive, John Bryson, later served briefly as secretary of the Department of Commerce.

Republicans are continuing their investigations.

They’re trying to schedule meeting with White House officials to discuss their actions, and to set public hearings so that officials can give testimony about the green-tech programs, Issa said.

Among the officials being sought for hearings, he said, is Jack Lew, the current director of Obama’s Office of Management and Budget.

The Republican investigation is being derided by White House officials.

“This is a 18-month, costly investigation that only highlights the fact that Congress is not doing what it should do to help the American people,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Aug. 2. “Why isn’t the House passing tax relief for middle-class Americans, for 98 percent of the population?”

Overall, the administration has directed $60 billion to green-tech efforts, of which $11 billion went to companies whose top officials provided campaign donations to Obama.

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