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Solyndra executives repeatedly invoke the 5th

September 23, 2011

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Solyndra executives repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment this morning as House lawmakers pressed them to answer questions about the company’s financial collapse and any hopes of repaying their $535 million federal loan guarantee.

“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,” Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison told Energy and Commerce oversight subpanel Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who opened the questioning.

CFO Brian Stover gave a similar response.

The repeated questions drew an objection from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who slammed Republicans for persisting even after knowing that the executives would invoke their right to remain silent.

“I just want to take this moment to assert the fact that I think it’s unseemly and inappropriate for members to be asking questions that you know they will not answer,” Waxman said, saying the GOP questions were “sound bites” for the press.

Meanwhile, full committee Chairman Fred Upton called it unseemly for the White House to respond to the Solyndra scandal by highlighting Republican lawmakers’ past support for clean energy projects in their districts.

“The administration’s actions in this case are deeply troubling and so is their response to our findings,” said the Michigan Republican, who quoted from a POLITICO story on the White House efforts.

He added: “This is not a debate about the virtues of clean energy, it is a serious inquiry into reckless use of taxpayer dollars on a company that was known to pose serious risks before a single dime went out the door.

“Let me just warn you and the other folks involved in this taxpayer rip-off,” Upton said. “We’re not done. No we’re not.”

But Waxman sounded a theme similar to the White House’s.

“Republicans in Congress are now dancing on Solyndra’s grave, but they seem to have a case of collective amnesia,” said Waxman. He cited several members of the panel who have sought federal subsidies on energy, including Upton, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Charlie Bass of New Hampshire, Brian Bilbray of California and Mary Bono Mack of California.

This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 10:38 a.m. on September 23, 2011

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