Solyndra subpoena draws White House rebuff

The subpoena for Solyndra documents that House Republicans approved on Thursday was swiftly rejected by the White House on Friday.

In a strongly worded response [PDF], Kathryn H. Ruemmler, counsel to the president, said the demand for documents from the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President was “unprecedented and unnecessary” and “was driven more by partisan politics than a legitimate effort to conduct a responsible investigation.”

The authority to issue the subpoena came on a 14-9 party-line vote in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Republicans said the subpoena – one each to White House Chief of State 

William Daley [PDF] and Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff [PDF], actually – was required “to know the White House’s role in the Solyndra debacle in order to learn the full truth about why taxpayers now find themselves a half billion dollars in the hole.”

The solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra had received federal backing for $535 million in loans in 2009. 

In late August this year it declared bankruptcy and closed down, putting 1,100 employees out of work and leaving taxpayers on the hook for the loan amount.

Ruemmler rejected the Republicans’ charge that the White House was putting up “partisan roadblocks to hide the truth from taxpayers.”

She said the subpoena “encompasses all communications within the White House from the beginning of this Administration to the present that refer or relate to Solyndra, and the subpoena purports to demand a complete response in less than a week.

“Thus, any document that references Solyndra, even in passing, is arguably responsive to the Committee’s request… There is no basis for such a broad request beyond a ‘vast fishing expedition,’ as Congressman (John) Dingell (D-Mich.) noted.”

So what happens next? 

Probably more political potshots – and perhaps negotiations, as Ruemmler suggested a more narrowly focused request might have a better chance of success. 

She concluded her letter: “Given the breadth of the subpoena, I hope that the Committee’s public statement that it intends to negotiate the scope of any document production is sincere.”

Pete Danko, EarthTechling