Energy Secretary Steven Chu was on Wednesday subjected to over three hours of grilling from House lawmakers investigating the $535 million loan guarantee his agency granted to Solyndra, a solar company favored by the White House that went bankrupt in August.
But throughout the hearing conducted by the House Energy and Commerce Committees Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Chu maintained his calm and repeatedly rebuffed Republican suggestions that the Obama Administration influenced the Energy Departments decision making in any way.
Concerning the Solyndra loan guarantee, Chu said in his opening remarks that the final decisions were mine. I made them with best interests of taxpayer in mind. I did not make any decision based on political consideration.
Later, when questioned by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) about the process that lead the Energy Department to reverse the decision it made under the Bush Administration not to approve Solyndras loan guarantee, Chu explained that there had been, in fact, no such reversal, as some Republicans have accused, and surely not a politically motivated one.
What happened when I became Energy Secretary, beginning with my confirmation, was that there was tremendous interest in getting the loan program going. I was told by Energy career people, who had been there during the previous [Bush] administration, that Solyndra was the first loan in line, Chu said.
Chu explained that although the loan guarantee had not been approved by the Energy Department during the waning weeks of the Bush Administration, it also wasnt rejected outright, only labeled as containing incomplete information. Instead, the loan guarantee application had been sent back to Solyndra with further questions from the Energy Department.
The same career folks said: You satisfied our questions. We recommend moving forward with loan, so thats what we did, Chu said.
Chu also admitted that he and the Energy Department were alone responsible for restructuring the loan in February so that private investors would get paid before the government in bankruptcy recovery.
In addition, Chu said they undertook that process without any prompting from the White House or anyone connected to the President, including billionaire Obama campaign bundler George Kaiser, whose family foundation was a major private investor in Solyndra.
Did anyone from the Obama Administration or any campaign donor tell you to undertake restructuring? asked DeGette.
No, none ever did, Chu said.