Republicans Call for Probe of Obama's Green Car Program

Murphy: Expand investigation to include Fisker Automotive.

ByABC News
October 25, 2011, 11:24 AM

Oct. 25, 2011 — -- Republicans are calling on Congressional investigators to expand their probe of the Obama Administration's "green energy" loan program to include Fisker, the start-up electric car company that received more than $500 million in federal support but is assembling its high-end sports sedan in Finland.

"We need to extend the investigation," Rep. Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican who sits on the committee that has been investigating the government's loan program, told ABC News in an interview for reports on World News and Nightline that air tonight. "If they couldn't find someone to build the car in the U.S., then don't do it. Find another way. Find something else."

Fisker is one of two start-up electric car companies that combined have been offered $1 billion in federal loans through an Energy Department program meant to create jobs and improve air quality through the fledgling alternative energy industry. The loan program has faced intense scrutiny from Congress since the first loan recipient, the solar manufacturing firm Solyndra, declared bankruptcy last month.

A House Energy and Commerce Committee panel has held a series of hearings and released thousands of pages of documents subpoenaed from the Obama administration that showed there were deep divisions about the wisdom of loaning Solyndra $535 million. ABC News reported Thursday that there are now emerging questions about the progress of Fisker Automotive, which has experienced delays with the production of its $97,000 hybrid electric sports sedan. The company has yet to make public even a picture of its next car – a more affordable family car that is supposed to be manufactured in Delaware.

Fisker received its government loan even after company executives told Energy Department officials that they had hired a company in Finland to assemble their first car, the Karma. "Under the terms of loan," said Energy Department spokesperson Damien LaVera, "no DOE funds can be, or have been spent on Fisker's overseas operations. The Department's funding is strictly limited to supporting design and engineering work at Fisker's California headquarters, as well as Fisker's plans to employ 2,500 people in Delaware by bringing a shuttered General Motors plant back to life."

"Not a single dollar of the DOE loans has been, or will be, spent outside of America," a statement from Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher said. "All expenditures are reviewed by [PriceWaterhouseCoopers] on behalf of the DOE."

"After receiving the DOE loan," said the statement, "Fisker made it a priority to create U.S. jobs, which led to the purchase [of] its own assembly plant in Delaware where we plan to establish production of our second, higher volume, line of vehicles." Fisker officials said that the company has already hired hundreds of workers in the U.S., most in engineering and marketing jobs, though about 100 assembly line workers have been hired to start prepping the Delaware facility.

READ Fisker's response to the original ABC News report.

Press Secretary Jay Carney told ABC News White House Correspondent Jake Tapper Friday that the funds provided to Fisker "are not being used, as I believe the CEO said to ABC, are not being used for its facility in Finland."

Murphy said the Energy Department's position amounted to "splitting hairs."

"Ultimately, American taxpayer dollars went to a Finnish automaker to build high-end luxury automobiles for Hollywood," he said.

Concerns about the fate of federal loans to companies such as Solyndra and Fisker have become grist for campaign trail attacks aimed at President Obama. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney joined those calling on more scrutiny from Congress.

"The U.S. government shouldn't be playing venture capitalist," Romney wrote in an op-ed first published in the Orange County-Register. "It's not merely that government bureaucrats are bad at picking winners. The very process invites cronyism and outright corruption."