White House Draws a Line on Solyndra Document Request

Posted October 15, 2011 at 10:32am

A top lawyer for President Barack Obama told GOP Congressional investigators late Friday that the White House will not be providing documents about internal deliberations regarding Solyndra, a now-bankrupt solar panel company under investigation by the FBI.

Earlier this month, in an Oct. 5 letter, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) asked Kathryn Ruemmler, counsel to the president, for “all communications among White House staff and officials” relating to the loan guarantee Solyndra received under the Energy Department.

In a letter Friday, Ruemmler rebuffed the request, telling the GOP investigators the “request … implicates longstanding and significant institutional Executive Branch confidentiality interests.”

Ruemmler noted the Obama administration will continue to produce documents, including written communications between the White House and three federal agencies involved in the decision to provide the loan guarantee to Solyndra.

“I have been informed that [the Department of Energy], [the White House Office of Management and Budget] and [the] Treasury [Department] have to date produced over 70,000 pages of documents, participated in nine briefings for committee staff and provided testimony at several Committee hearings relating to this matter,” Ruemmler said.

Notably, Upton and Stearn’s Oct. 5 request was not a Congressional subpoena legally compelling the release of the documents.

Issuing a subpoena could provide GOP investigators another shot at obtaining the documents, but Ruemmler’s citing executive branch confidentiality indicates the White House might contest a subpoena.

Ruemmler’s letter also defends the administration’s actions on the Solyndra loan guarantee, particularly against charges that the White House moved to benefit any campaign contributor.

“As you know, the White House has also provided directly to the Committee over 900 pages of documents reflecting communications between the White House and Solyndra. … There is nothing in the documents produced by DOE, OMB, Treasury or the White House that the White House intervened in the Solyndra loan guarantee to benefit a campaign contributor,” Ruemmler said.

Aides to Upton and Stearns did not respond to requests for comment Friday.