In another bad turn for the White House, Solyndra executives repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment on the company’s financial collapse and its receipt of $535 million federal loan guarantee. President Barack Obama has been criticized for ignoring warnings that the company was poorly structured and in danger of failing before highlighting the company as an example of his program of stimulus funds.
Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison told Energy and Commerce oversight sbucommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) “While I hope to have an opportunity to assist this committee in the future, on the advice of my attorney, I must respectfully decline to answer any questions.”
This is an example, in my view, of exceptionally poor judgment on the part of the White House in selecting this company. While the Bush Administration started this process, White House staff members ignored warnings in the rush to give out stimulus funds and use the company as a back drop.
While the New York Times found no evidence of political favoritism for major donors connected with the company, it did find extensive lobbying of White House officials and a type of willful blindness as the White House choreographed every detail of the photo op planned with the President.
The lobbyists included most significantly Michael Sheehy, a former top aide to Representative and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Sheehy is yet another former government official who has become wealthy in using prior contacts as a lobbyist. In this case, the company went to the top of the list for massive federal support.
The scandal has now picked up possible criminal overtones and the pleading of the fifth by these executives creates more than bad optics for the White House.