The subcommittee's investigation into the massive federal loan to Solyndra had already been underway for months. In March, ABC News, in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity's iWatch News, began reporting on simmering questions about the role political influence may have played in Solyndra's selection as the Obama administration's first loan guarantee recipient.
Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman, has told ABC News that politics never entered the decision to grant the loan, or restructure it earlier this year. LaVera said the department decided it was worth trying to redo the terms to try and salvage the government's initial investment.
"[P]olitical or optical considerations took a backseat to putting the company and its workers in a better position to succeed and repay the loan," he said.
On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee escalated its inquiry into the deal by seeking information from Solyndra's prime investors -- including Oklahoma oil billionaire George Kaiser, a bundler of campaign contributions to the president in 2008.
That quest for information could shift the spotlight from DOE to the big money players behind Solyndra: Kaiser's Argonaut Private Equity, and another group, Madrone Capital Partners. Madrone is affiliated with the Walton family, founders and WalMart and major Republican donors. Kaiser and other investors get to recoup the $75 million they invested earlier this year before the U.S. government recoups taxpayer money in Solyndra's bankruptcy proceedings.
The House committee said it sent letters to Argonaut and Madrone seeking documents on the $535 million loan guarantee, the investors' $75 million financing this year -- and any communications with the Obama administration, including telephone calls between the White House and companies. Kaiser has not responded to interview requests from iWatch News and ABC News since March.
The June memo and July letter both appeared to be efforts to counter claims that the company was in financial trouble, saying they were providing "the most accurate and up-to-date information."
The letter, signed by Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison, said, among other things, that the company had just completed a "record quarter for shipments," and that it was using "American innovation and ingenuity to compete on the global solar market." Later, Solyndra would blame competition from China for its downfall. Solyndra declared bankruptcy on August 31.
Congressional investigators have also released a copy of a Sept. 10, 2011 email from an attorney for Solyndra to staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee stating that the company's CEO "will appear voluntarily and answer the Committee's questions on any day the Committee chooses."
Just days later, an attorney for Harrison, the Solyndra CEO, wrote back to say his client would not answer any questions from the committee, and planned to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights when he appears before the committee Friday.