By Jillian Sederholm
Top executives from bankrupt solar energy company Solyndra invoked their Fifth Amendment rights to refuse to testify at a congressional hearing on grounds of self-incrimination on Friday. CEO Brian Harrison and CFO W.G. Stover both declined to answer 20 different questions during a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations currently looking into the $535 million government loan guarantee the California company received from the Department of Energy in 2009.
On the day of the hearing, Solyndra sent a tweet to Washington Examiner Online Opinion Editor David Freddoso saying “An all-American company, we at Solyndra believe in the Bill of Rights, especially the fifth part.”
Republican leaders have pointed to Solyndra’s failure as a major financial misstep of the Obama administration under whose watch the solar manufacturer was selected as the first recipient of a loan guarantee from a Department of Energy program supporting clean energy companies that would produce new jobs. President Obama made an onsite visit in 2010, saluting the company for its leadership in the field. Solyndra also ranked number one in the Wall Street Journal’s list of “Top Clean Tech Companies.” Then last month the company abruptly laid off 1,100 workers and declared bankruptcy.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that the White House had rushed the Office of Management and Budget to make a decision on the approval of Solyndra’s loan in time for Vice President Joe Biden to announce it at the company’s 2009 factory groundbreaking. Emails from federal reviewers state that the OMB did not think this gave them enough time to fully access taxpayer risk.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich, was an outspoken critic of Solyndra at Friday’s hearing, telling the executives, “Let me just warn you and the other folks involved in this taxpayer ripoff. We’re not done. No we’re not.” Upton, along with Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, has also openly criticized the Obama administration for failing to create new jobs by giving stimulus money to clean energy projects. However, a set of Energy Department documents obtained by the New York Times show that both Upton and McConnell pushed for federal funding of clean energy projects in their states.