Sullivan sees no wrongdoing by Kaiser in Solyndra loan
BY JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. John Sullivan said Wednesday that he has not seen any wrongdoing by Tulsa businessman and philanthropist George Kaiser in the months-long investigation into a $528 million government loan to a failed solar panel maker.
A member of the House subcommittee conducting the investigation into the California-based Solyndra, the Oklahoma Republican also expressed doubt that Kaiser or officials with an equity group associated with his foundation would have to testify publicly.
“He is not the focus of this,’’ Sullivan said of Kaiser.
“I don’t see any illegality by him or any impropriety. He was just doing what a businessman does.’’
The congressman made his comments shortly after he received a briefing from a staff attorney involved in the nine-month investigation by the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.
Sullivan said he asked the attorney specifically about Kaiser.
Even while acknowledging that not everything could be divulged, he repeatedly expressed confidence that, up to this point, the lengthy investigation has not uncovered any improper actions by the Tulsan.
“They don’t think there’s really any wrongdoing by Kaiser,’’ Sullivan said.
He repeated similar comments about those with Argonaut, the Kaiser foundation’s equity firm and a major Solyndra investor.
“Argonaut has been very cooperative,’’ Sullivan said, citing discussions between the panel’s attorney and the firm.
“It’s gone well. They have been forthright.’’
His comments came one week after key Republicans released emails written by Kaiser and his associates to prove the close relationship Kaiser, a fundraiser for President Barack Obama, had with the administration.
Republicans, who repeatedly have tried to link Kaiser’s fundraising to the Solyndra loan, insisted that the emails contradicted claims that Kaiser had never discussed the issue.
Democrats accused Republicans of releasing the emails to present a misleading account and to unfairly smear Kaiser.
Asked for his view of the emails and the way they were handled, Sullivan was careful not to criticize his fellow Republicans but conceded that the emails were released in response to White House stonewalling.
“Yes, they were used to nudge the White House,’’ he said.
Sullivan stood by the panel’s efforts to gain more access to information that explains how the Solyndra loan was handled.
“I think the White House does need to be more forthcoming on what it did,’’ he said.
“Over $500 million of the taxpayers’ money is gone. We need to know where it is, what happened to it. That’s the FBI’s job, and they are working on that right now. We will find out where it is.’’
Sullivan said he was preparing questions for Thursday’s hearing, where the star witness will be U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
He said the focus now is on Chu and his agency, specifically the process used to administer the loan, “how messy it was, how political it was, and how fast they wanted to get it done.’’
Sullivan also cited newly released information indicating that Solyndra was asked to delay its announcement of layoffs until after the 2010 election.
As a pre-emptive strike, Chu’s office released excerpts of his prepared remarks.
Chu defended the way the Solyndra loan was handled, expressed appreciation for the support for the program by members of Congress and cited what he called his agency’s cooperation with the panel.
“As this extensive record has made clear, the loan guarantee to Solyndra was subject to proper, rigorous scrutiny and healthy debate during every phase of the process,’’ he stated.
In an interview with National Public Radio on Tuesday, Chu was asked specifically about Kaiser.
“Who was backing the company had nothing to do with the work of our loan professionals,’’ he said.
Others involved in the $1 billion package of private investment, Chu said, have been associated with the Republican Party.
This May 24, 2010, photo shows the exterior of Solyndra Inc. in Fremont, Calif. PAUL SAKUMA/The Associated Press
George Kaiser. Tulsa World file
U.S. Rep. John Sullivan. Tulsa World file