Today embattled Energy Secretary Steven Chu finally ended his silence and took personal responsibility for the controversial Soyndra loan amid congressional charges that he may have violated federal laws. At the contentious hearing he repeatedly said he was unaware of many governmental emails and reports that warned Solyndra was a bad bet.
Chu testified under oath before a key House Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee. He asserted “the final decisions on Solyndra were mine” and that “I did not make any decision based on political considerations.”
Chu said that knowing what he knows today about Solyndra, he “would not have approved” the Solyndra loan. He said he did not know how much money taxpayers would recover from the Solyndra bankruptcy but added “not very much.”
Chu claimed that the $535 million loan guarantee was not awarded because of the company’s ties to George Kaiser, a major donor for the president’s 2008 political campaign.
He said some additional DOE green loans may be in “financial trouble,” but under repeated questioning by the panel’s chairman he refused to give a specific number.
A Republican congressman charged that the secretary’s decision to change the Solynra loan terms at the last minute violated federal law. The change by Chu, called subordination, waived U.S. government rights as a first tier creditor to recover money during the Solyndra bankruptcy.
Prior to today’s hearing some lawmakers have called for Chu’s resignation.
Chu emphasized that upon entering office he was ordered to “get the loans out” and he authorized “the most promising” companies. Solyndra was the first recipient of Obama’s ambitious $37 billion green technology funding. The California company was touted by the White House as a solar energy winner. President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden personally hailed the company.
Chu said he did not know Kaiser, a prominent 2008 Obama campaign donor, was tied to Solyndra. Rep Barton (R-TX) retorted he was surprised Secretary Chu did not know since “everyone else in DOE” knew about Kaiser’s relationship. Kaiser has personally visited the White House 16 times since President Obama assumed office. He defended himself that no one at the White House “pressured” him to approve the loan.
However, the secretary equivocated about White House communications to him under questioning by Rep Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).