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GOP Searches for ‘Smoking Gun’ in Solyndra Probe

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Cliff Stearns, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, is pushing for more access to information relating to a loan to Solyndra.

"OK, I'll admit it. It was pretty intoxicating. Two hours at dinner. They sat me right next to Him," Kaiser recalled in an email about a fundraising dinner he shared with the president.

Throughout the investigation, the White House has held firm that there was no undue influence exercised on behalf of the firm.

"We are entering month 10 of this investigation, and everything disclosed in the 185,000 pages of documents, nine committee staff briefings, five Congressional hearings, emails from Solyndra investors and [a] committee interview with George Kaiser affirms what we said on day one: This was a merit-based decision made by the Department of Energy," Obama spokesman Eric Schultz said.

But some Republicans, including Upton's predecessor as head of the Energy and Commerce panel, Rep. Joe Barton (Texas), say it's more complicated than that.

"We have not yet found the proverbial smoking gun in terms of some political quid pro quo, although we have not yet really interviewed the key people at the White House. If such evidence exists, that's probably where it's going to be," Barton said.

Barton also asserted that even if there was improper politician influence, it was unlikely such a thing would be openly discussed.

"It's the elephant in the room that nobody talks about," Barton said. He added that Kaiser might never have raised Solyndra to White House officials, "but everybody knew who he was and what he had done." Still, innuendo falls outside the boundaries of fact-based evidence.

"I don't think there was criminal intent going into this issue. I think there was naiveté," Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) said.

Bilbray recently defended Energy Secretary Steven Chu at a hearing. "I sense he's fallen on the grenade for somebody else that pulled the pin," he explained.

"The one place I see criminal activity where the line was crossed was with the refinancing," Bilbray said.

"They broke the law on subordination. That's clear. The law clearly states you can't do what they did. Now that's a fact. And it doesn't matter what their deputy general counsel wrote in a memo, they broke that law," Barton said.

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