Congressional Republicans and Democrats investigating the failed solar firm Solyndra released dueling sets of emails Wednesday that the Republicans claim show a major Obama fundraiser attempting to influence the White House and the Democrats insist show just the opposite.
The email salvos are part of an escalating battle between Republicans and Democrats over the direction of a Congressional investigation into a $535 million government loan to Solyndra. The White House has already rebuffed a GOP-driven subpoena for all internal communications about the company, calling it a politically motivated fishing expedition, a stance echoed by Congressional Democrats.
Reps. Cliff Stearns, R.-Fla., and Fred Upton, R.-Mich., who have been spearheading the Solyndra investigation, released emails from Obama donor George Kaiser that they say rebut the repeated assurances from the White House that Solyndra did not attempt to use political influence to secure its federal loan, or to get the loan restructured when the company started to falter.
"We note that the White House has repeatedly stated that no political influence was brought to bear with regard to Solyndra, and that Mr. George Kaiser, a Solyndra investor and Obama fundraiser, never discussed Solyndra during any of his seventeen visits to the White House," said Reps. Upton and Stearns in a letter sent to White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler. "Documents recently obtained by the Committee directly contradict those statements."
They pointed to emails in which they say Kaiser, an Oklahoma oil billionaire, strategized with his top executives about whether and how they should use their contacts inside the White House to help their failing business venture.
"The White House has offered to help in the past and we do have a contact within the White House that we are working with," an adviser to Kaiser who also sat on Solyndra's board wrote in an October 6, 2010 email released by Upton and Stearns. "I think the company is hoping we have some unnatural relationship that can open bigger doors -- I've cautioned them that no one really has those relationships anymore."
Kaiser replied to Steve Mitchell, a senior executive at Kaiser's venture capital firm, Argonaut Ventures, and managing director at Solyndra, that he should "pursue your contacts with the WH to follow up" but advises him not to directly ask, "Can you help with this?"
Democrats from the House Energy and Commerce Committee responded to Upton and Stearns by blasting the Republicans' "selective release of emails" -- and by surfacing their own store of Kaiser emails.
In a letter to their Republican counterparts, Rep. Henry Waxman, D.-Calif., and Diana DeGette, D.-Colo., said that Kaiser had been interviewed by Congress Tuesday about the emails referenced by the Republicans. "In key instances, he directly contradicted your interpretations of the documents you released today," said the letter. "But you also failed to disclose this. This is wrong and an unfair smear of Mr. Kaiser."