September 14th, 2011
02:56 PM ET
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Wednesday downplayed recently revealed e-mails that Congressional Republicans say suggest the White House was pushing for a hasty approval of a $535 million loan to an unstable but politically connected solar energy company.
One e-mail, uncovered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and reported by ABC News, is from a White House budget analyst warning then-Vice President Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, that the 2009 Department of Energy loan was “not ready for prime time.” In a separate e-mail to the budget analyst, Klain wrote, “If you guys think this is a bad idea, I need to unwind the W[est] W[ing] QUICKLY."
But the loan to the now-defunct Solyndra company was was later announced by Vice President Biden and reviewed in only 9 days - proof, a House Energy and Commerce Committee report says, that the administration pressured the budget office to hastily approve a tax-payer funded deal with a company they had reason to believe wasn’t standing on strong financial ground.
Speaking to reporters on Air Force One Wednesday, Carney said the e-mails show nothing more than concern over a scheduling matter, in light of the fact the announcement event was already planned and would have to be pushed back if the loan was not approved on time.
“What the e-mails, I believe, made clear is that there was urgency to make a decision about a scheduling matter. As you know, and you are familiar with it in a way that most Americans aren’t, it is a big proposition to move the President or to put on an event and that sort of thing,” Carney said. “So people were simply looking for answers about whether or not we could move forward - they could move forward with that.”
“[I]t was vital to make these investments,” Carney said. “But the overall understanding of the need to make, to - in these potentially high-risk but high-reward industries, that require - get the seed money from the federal government, like, say, the Internet, you have to take these measures. The President and the administration remain committed to that.”
Republicans instead contend Solyndra received favorable treatment in the loan approval process due to its tight relationship with administration officials. They point out that one of the company's main financial backers, billionaire George Kaiser, is also a big Democratic campaign donor.
Noting Kaiser’s connection to the president, the Republican National Committee last week issued a press release stating, “Corruption [is] at the heart of the failed Obama economic strategy.”
Carney rejected that suggestion, saying Wednesday, “We did not - it had nothing to do with – -and there is no evidence to the contrary - nothing to do with anything besides the need to get an answer to make a scheduling decision.”
So far, the energy department has backed nearly $40 billion in projects that range from solar and wind farms to nuclear power plants. Carney’s comments come the same day the Energy and Commerce Committee is holding hearings on the matter.
The California-based Solyndra, which employed more than 1,000 people, declared bankruptcy earlier this month.
President Obama visited the company in May of 2010, saying it was a prime example of “American ingenuity and dynamism.”
–CNNMomney.com's Steve Hargreaves contributed to this report