WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said Monday that he wants an independent investigator to look into a loan guarantee that the Energy Department approved for the now-bankrupt California company Solyndra LLC., a maker of solar panels.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking for an outside lawyer to probe Solyndra's bankruptcy case to determine "whether politics played a role in influencing the Obama administration to favor Solyndra over more financially stable loan applicants."
Solyndra, a Fremont, Calif., company, won a $535 million loan guarantee from the Energy Department in March 2009. President Barack Obama cited the guarantee as a model for how the government could invest in green energy. But the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month, leaving taxpayers on the hook.
Recent reports that one of the company's investors, George Kaiser, was a campaign-donation bundler for Obama in 2008 "have raised suspicion about the extent to which the Obama administration may have singled out Solyndra for special treatment," Smith wrote in the letter.
Smith asked Holder to appoint an outside investigator through the U.S. trustee's office, which can request one in bankruptcy court if there's suspicion of fraud or misconduct.
The U.S. trustee's office has received the letter and is reviewing it, said Laura Sweeney, agency spokeswoman.
Solyndra executives are scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee later this week.