Numerous press reports indicate that House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA-41) intends a broad investigation of the federal grant and loan application process, in the wake of the recent bankruptcy of the solar company, Solyndra. Up until now, the primary committee in the House investigating and holding hearings on the decision to award $535 million in loan guarantees to Solyndra has been the House Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL-6). It held a recent hearing with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, where committee members grilled the Secretary on the Department’s decision to restructure the terms of the loan guarantee to favor private investors, and whether that was influenced by political considerations. As a result of that hearing, Chairman Stearns has called for Secretary Chu’s resignation. And as investigation continues, both Chairman Stearns and full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI-6) are pressing the White House for additional documents on the loan guarantee, as well as the testimony of senior White House staff.
But what Chairman Issa promises is a broader investigation – not just into Solyndra, but also into the federal investment in renewable energy, and possibly beyond. We have seen evidence of this broader line of inquiry in a recent hearing by Oversight and Government Reform into possible politicization of grants at the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement. In fact, it seems as if Mr. Issa is planning on looking at the entire Federal assistance apparatus, to determine if merit, and not politics, count for final award decisions. As a result, all loan guarantees and grants could come up for review, especially those to entities facing financial difficulties. Administration officials, and executives, should be ready for the subpoenas.