White House orders review of Energy Department loans

WASHINGTON — On the defensive over a $528 million loan to a now-bankrupt solar company, the White House on Friday ordered an independent review of similar loans made by the Energy Department.

The announcement came as House Republicans prepared for a possible vote next week to subpoena White House documents related to the defunct California company, Solyndra Inc.

Congressional Republicans have been investigating Solyndra's bankruptcy amid embarrassing revelations that federal officials were warned it had problems but continued to support it, and sent President Barack Obama to visit the company and praise it publicly.

White House officials said chief of staff William Daley ordered the review that will evaluate the $35.9 billion loan portfolio made to support the private-sector development of new technologies that could help improve the economy and create jobs.

"While we continue to take steps to make sure the United States remains competitive in the 21st century energy economy, we must also ensure that we are strong stewards of taxpayer dollars," Daley said.

Daley said the 60-day review would be conducted by former Treasury official Herb Allison, who oversaw the Troubled Asset Relief Program, part of the 2008 Wall Street bailout.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he welcomed the White House review.

House Republicans are preparing to ramp up their investigation of Solyndra. The White House has refused a request by the Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee for all its internal communications about Solyndra, which closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy protection in the summer, costing 1,100 jobs.

GOP Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan and Cliff Stearns of Florida said Friday a subpoena was necessary because the White House has denied its requests for documents. Upton chairs the Energy and Commerce panel, while Stearns leads a subcommittee on investigations.

The Obama administration has released thousands of e-mails — but withheld thousands more — on the $528 million loan.

Any subpoena of White House records could trigger a claim of executive privilege by the Obama administration.

Information from the Washington Post was used in this report.

White House orders review of Energy Department loans 10/28/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 29, 2011 12:20am]

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