Solyndra Subpoena Draws White House Rebuff

The subpoena for Solyndra documents that House Republicans approved on Thursday was swiftly rejected by the White House on Friday. In a strongly worded response [PDF], Kathryn H. Ruemmler, counsel to the president, said the demand for documents from the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President was “unprecedented and unnecessary” and “was driven more by partisan politics than a legitimate effort to conduct a responsible investigation.”

The authority to issue the subpoena came on a 14-9 party-line vote in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Republicans said the subpoena – one each to White House Chief of State William Daley [PDF] and Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff [PDF], actually – was required “to know the White House’s role in the Solyndra debacle in order to learn the full truth about why taxpayers now find themselves a half billion dollars in the hole.”

white house solyndra subpoena

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The solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra had received federal backing for $535 million in loans in 2009. In late August this year it declared bankruptcy and closed down, putting 1,100 employees out of work and leaving taxpayers on the hook for the loan amount.

Ruemmler rejected the Republicans’ charge that the White House was putting up “partisan roadblocks to hide the truth from taxpayers.” She said the subpoena “encompasses all communications within the White House from the beginning of this Administration to the present that refer or relate to Solyndra, and the subpoena purports to demand a complete response in less than a week. Thus, any document that references Solyndra, even in passing, is arguably responsive to the Committee’s request…. There is no basis for such a broad request beyond a ‘vast fishing expedition,’ as Congressman (John) Dingell (D-Mich.) noted yesterday.”

So what happens next? Probably more political potshots – and perhaps negotiations, as Ruemmler suggested a more narrowly focused request might have a better chance of success. She concluded her letter: “Given the breadth of the subpoena, I hope that the Committee’s public statement that it intends to negotiate the scope of any document production is sincere.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.


  • Reply November 4, 2011


    Why is President Obama above the law of the land?nnAnd why do we allow this man to repeatedly discard our Constitution?

    • Reply November 4, 2011

      Pete Danko

      Chris, virtually all presidents — including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson! — have asserted that the executive is protected against overly broad and intrusive oversight (which this may or may not be), and the Supreme Court has generally endorsedu00a0″the valid need for protection of communications between high government officials and those who advise and assist them in the performance of their manifold duties.u201d President Obamau2019s immediate predecessor, George W. Bush, invoked executive privilege on numerous occasions u2013 in refusing to disclose the details of meetings Vice President Dick Cheney held with energy executives; in refusing to release documents related to the death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman; and in refusing to have his advisor Karl Rove testify before Congress regarding fired federal prosecutors, for example. So there’s little that’s new or unique here. President Obama hasn’t actually invoked executive privilege in this case and my suspicion is that after more back and forth some kind of narrower request will be agreed to.

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