The White House today failed to comply with a noon deadline set by Congress to produce all communications related to Solyndra, part of an escalating battle between Republicans and Democrats over the direction of a Congressional investigation into the failed solar firm, which went bankrupt despite a $535 million federal loan.
Asked about the deadline by Jake Tapper of ABC News this afternoon, White House press secretary Jay Carney referenced White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler's earlier response to the Congressional subpoena demanding the documents. "As the White House counsel made clear," said Carney, "this is something we view as overbroad, unnecessary, and, I think in my words, when something seems partisan, it probably is."
Carney said that the White House had already been "enormously cooperative with legitimate oversight in this area and others," turning over more than 85,000 pages of documents, and would continue to cooperate with investigators.
"When we hear the Speaker of the House saying that the Republicans will be, quote, relentless, in pursuing this oversight investigation," said Carney, "I think most American people wish they would be as relentless in taking measures to help the economy and create jobs."
The Republican leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which authorized the subpoena on a strict 14-9 party line vote, said "the White House could have avoided the need for subpoena authorizations if they had simply chosen to cooperate."
"That would have been the route we preferred," said Rep. Fred Upton, R.-Mich., chairman of the committee, "and frankly, it would have been better for the White House to get the information out now, rather than continue to drag this out."
On Wednesday, Congressional Republicans and Democrats released dueling sets of emails that the Republicans claim show a major Obama fundraiser attempting to influence the White House to help Solyndra and the Democrats insist show just the opposite.
Rep. Upton and Rep. Cliff Stearns, R.-Fla., 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 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?"