Aug 15, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
(THE WALLSTREET JOURNAL) Democrats hoping the Solyndra issue will fade away this fall will get some bad news this week: Republican investigators may have found yet another trove of e-mails to explore.
Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, plans as soon as Wednesday to ask for personal e-mails related to Department of Energy business from ten current and former Department of Energy employees who served during the Obama Administration and participated in the program that gave loan guarantees to Solyndra, the failed solar firm that received a $528 million loan guarantee, and other companies, according to a congressional aide familiar with the investigation.
The committee recently released e-mails that make it clear that some Department of Energy officials were communicating about official business using personal e-mail accounts. Federal law requires those records be preserved, but it’s not clear the officials did so by turning in paper records or forwarding them to a government e-mail address.
So far, the Republican investigation into Solyndra and other loan guarantees hasn’t proven that any loans were made to reward political donors – the chief charge leveled by Mr. Issa and others.
But if the request turns up any previously undisclosed e-mails, it could keep Solyndra in the headlines. In the past week, Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released documents from the personal e-mail account of a Department of Energy official who used to run the loan program. The Washington Post wrote about the e-mails, and The Wall Street Journal also reported that they reveal fresh details about Secretary of Energy Steven Chu’s fight against other top administration officials to push forward a $1.4 billion loan guarantee for a nationwide rooftop solar project.
The Department of Energy has turned over more than 900,000 pages of documents to House Republicans in response to questions about the DOE loan program, including personal e-mails “in the rare cases where the Department has found that some officials may have used their personal email accounts to discuss official business,” department spokesman Damien LaVera said.
“The Department has treated those emails as official records and voluntarily provided them when requested by congressional investigators,” Mr. LaVera said.
Republicans on two congressional committees have released many of the documents they’ve received since last fall in piecemeal fashion, issuing dozens of press releases that hold up the loan program as an example of what they say is a failed Obama administration policy. But they appeared until recently to be running out of fresh ammunition.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight panel and one of the chief lawmakers pushing the Solyndra investigation lost a primary battle on Tuesday. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R. Fla.), conceded to a Tea Party-backed opponent, according to the Associated Press.