What if they held a hearing and no one showed up?

That's what happened last week when the Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Jeffrey Zients failed to show for the hearing to discuss OMB's role in the Solyndra DOE Loan Guarantee process. He sent a letter saying he had a scheduling conflict. Here's a press release from the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

According to the Center for Public Integrity:

Subcommittee Chair Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., said that if the budget office refuses to comply in the coming weeks, he might seek a subpoena to force disclosure.

The subcommittee is investigating whether the Energy Department and budget office diligently vetted the loan, and the internal documents could reveal whether the budget office had reservations. The Department of Energy said the loan guarantee will pay off, and Solyndra said politics played no role in its award and that its finances have strengthened.

Here's our coverage from last week:

The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has a hearing scheduled today entitled “OMB's Role in the DOE Loan Guarantee Process.” 

And you can trust that the topic of Solyndra will be front and center.

Solyndra of Fremont, California, the beleaguered cylindrical CIGS solar manufacturer, received a $535 million loan guarantee from the DOE in March of 2009.

That loan guarantee, Solyndra's subsequent layoffs, and IPO-withdrawal placed it in the crosshairs of those opposing the allegedly less-than-transparent loan guarantee process. Accusations of political favoritism and shady deals were traded based on the fact that George Kaiser, one of the larger investors in Solyndra, through Argonaut Equity, was a bundler of campaign funds for the Obama presidential campaign.

Greentech Media received a copy of some of the loan guarantee process paperwork via the FOIA -- but it was too highly redacted to be of use. The United States DOE Loan Guarantee Program has disbursed $32 billion and claims to have created or saved 62,350 jobs.

Solyndra is also using project financing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank to facilitate the sale of its solar panels to a private-sector project in Belgium. Ex-Im Bank is guaranteeing a $10.3 million loan provided by KBC Bank in Belgium to finance the sale of Solyndra's solar panels for a three-megawatt rooftop PV project. This is the company's first transaction with Ex-Im Bank and its largest rooftop solar project globally to date

And recently Solyndra received $10.6 million more in equity funding in “a private transaction with an existing investor in anticipation of future growth.”  Solyndra's total VC funding and loan guarantee money raised is in excess of $1.2 billion.

At the moment -- the governmental friction is more about the lack of response from the OMB than any misdoings by Solyndra. We'll get you the details of the subcommittee's findings as they emerge.

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Here are some excerpts from the committee paperwork:

  • Pursuant to rules X and XI of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Committee is conducting an investigation of the DOE Loan Guarantee Program and the Solyndra loan guarantee. 
  • Dating Back to March, OMB Has Refused Committee Requests for All Documents and Information Related to Solyndra Investigation
  • The Committee on Energy and Commerce opened an investigation of the Department of Energy (DOE) Loan Guarantee Program on February 17, 2011, with a letter requesting documents and information from DOE Secretary Steven Chu.
  • This Committee’s investigation showed that the Office of Management and Budget plays a key role in approving the DOE Loan Guarantees.  For this reason, the Committee sent a letter to OMB Director Jacob Lew on March 14, 2011 (March 14 letter), requesting a briefing and certain documents regarding the Solyndra guarantee.  Although this document request was sent over three months ago, OMB has yet to fully respond to the Committee’s requests.  Instead, OMB has repeatedly sought to delay and thwart this Committee’s efforts to understand its actions during the course of the Solyndra review.
  • OMB did produce 20 documents to the Committee, including a credit assessment, a draft term sheet for Solyndra, and engineering and marketing reports, which totaled 393 pages.  These documents, however, were all created or provided by DOE to OMB in the course of the Solyndra review.  OMB has yet to produce a single memoranda, report, or analysis — aside from the final apportionment paper for Solyndra — reflecting its own work on the Solyndra review.  The documents produced reveal nothing about what OMB did with DOE’s information, or how OMB considered or weighed the risks presented by the Solyndra deal.   
  • The Committee Has a Right to the Documents Requested in the March 14 Letter, and OMB is not Justified in Withholding Them During the course of this investigation, OMB has continued to assert that this Committee does not need to see, and has not demonstrated a need for, the documents it has requested.  Not only is this incorrect, OMB’s position also demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the respective roles of Congress and OMB.  It is not for OMB staff to selectively decide which responsive documents the Committee needs to see.  

Tags: cigs, doe, loan guarantee, omb, pv, solar, solyndra, thin-film