You are hereThe Hill: Rep. Issa lobbied for same kinds of federal loans his committee is now investigating

The Hill: Rep. Issa lobbied for same kinds of federal loans his committee is now investigating

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has lobbied the Department of Energy in the past for a kind of federal loan similar to those his committee is now investigating.

-By Justin Sink and Jordy Yager

September 21, 2011- The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee sought to obtain a federal energy loan for a green-car company in his state, and also received a campaign donation from one of the business’s trustees and advisers.

Meanwhile, Issa announced this week his panel is investigating the Obama administration’s role in approving government loans to private corporations out of a concern that political or financial influence might have played a part.

In a letter received by the department in January 2010, Issa asked Energy Secretary Steven Chu to grant a loan to Aptera Motors, a California-based electric car company. In November 2009, Donald R. Beall, who sits on the Aptera’s board of advisers and whose family’s foundation is one of the “angel investors” in the company, made a campaign donation to Issa of $250.

Issa’s office defended the chairman’s role in pushing the Energy Department for the approval of the local car manufacturer’s loan.

“There is nothing new or surprising about the existence of federal loan guarantee programs or members of Congress writing letters in support of home state businesses who apply for them,” said Frederick Hill, a spokesman for Issa.

“The focus of questions and concerns are about actual bill provisions and their interpretation by the administration that resulted in decisions to bestow connected firms like Solyndra with special treatment.”

Issa’s investigation into the role that political ideology and campaign backing plays in the White House’s selection of eligible companies for subsidized government loans was spurred by the solar panel-maker Solyndra declaring bankruptcy late last month after receiving a $535 million government loan.

The Obama administration had touted the company as a success of its stimulus program and green-jobs agenda. But emails between the White House and Energy Department show administration officials pushing for quick consideration of the loans. One of Solyndra’s private investors is a major Obama campaign contributor, raising as much as $100,000 for the president’s 2008 victory.

White House and Energy Department officials deny any wrongdoing. But Issa said the situation smacks of “crony capitalism.”

“There’s been this attitude that somehow government can weigh in with loan guarantees and money and pick specific company winners and losers,” Issa said on C-SPAN earlier this week. “We see that as a back-door easy way to end up with corruption in government.