Ever since Solyndra shut its manufacturing plant and filed for bankruptcy, the Obama administration has faced questions about the methods use to select recipients of billions of dollars worth of energy department loans and loan guarantees. The goal of the massive lending program has been to stimulate the growth of clean energy initiatives such as wind farms, solar arrays, and electric cars.
Republicans have alleged that political favoritism sullied the process by which loan recipients were selected. The Energy Department has always maintained that politics played no role in the loan process, and that loan guarantees were awarded on merit alone.
White House officials initially said they thought Kaiser's White House meetings concerned his charity work. A review of visitor logs by the Sunlight Foundation showed that Kaiser was accompanied by experts on energy policy to at least three of the meetings. In October, a White House official familiar with an internal review of meetings between Kaiser and such senior presidential aides as Valerie Jarrett and Pete Rouse told ABC News that the White House now firmly believes that Kaiser never broached the subject of the Solyndra loan.
Kaiser has "said publicly that Solyndra was not discussed at these meetings, and we have no reason to dispute that," the White House official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he had not been given approval to discuss the matter. "We understand that the conversations in these meetings were focused on the general policy priorities of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, including early childhood education and poverty, health care policy and energy policy."
Earlier this month, the White House rejected the sweeping Congressional demand for documents related to Solyndra, accusing Republicans of playing politics.
White House counsel Ruemmler said that the vote by the House and Energy Committee's investigative subcommittee to subpoena all White House records on Solyndra, including emails, documents and memos, was "overbroad," "unprecedented and unnecessary."
"I can only conclude that your decision to issue a subpoena, authorized by a party line vote, was driven more by partisan politics than a legitimate effort to conduct a responsible investigation," Ruemmler wrote to Reps. Upton and Stearns.
"The White House could have avoided the need for subpoena authorizations if they had simply chosen to cooperate," responded Rep. Upton. "That would have been the route we preferred, and frankly, it would have been better for the White House to get the information out now, rather than continue to drag this out.
Upton said the request for documents was "reasonable." "We are not demanding the President's blackberry messages, as we are respectful of Executive Privilege," said Upton. "What is the West Wing trying to hide? We owe it to American taxpayers to find out."