House panel to subpoena White House on Solyndra email

WASHINGTON Thu Nov 3, 2011 1:10pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama passes by a construction site as he tours Solyndra, Inc., a solar panel manufacturing facility in Fremont, California May 26, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama passes by a construction site as he tours Solyndra, Inc., a solar panel manufacturing facility in Fremont, California May 26, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A House of Representatives panel voted on Thursday to subpoena the White House for emails and other documents related to a $535 million loan to Solyndra, the solar panel maker that went bankrupt and was raided by the FBI.

The subcommittee vote in the Republican-controlled House means the White House -- unless it invokes executive privilege -- may be asked to release a broad range of emails, including any received about Solyndra on President Barack Obama's personal BlackBerry.

"Today is our last resort," said Fred Upton, chairman of the full House Energy and Commerce committee.

The committee has been looking into the loan since February, and has raised questions about whether Obama donors who were also investors in the company had influence on government decisions -- a charge firmly denied by the White House and Energy Department.

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee voted against the move, which gives the chairman the power to issue a subpoena, and urged Upton to postpone the subpoena and work with the White House to get the documents needed.

Rep. Henry Waxman called it an unprecedented step that abused the committee's powers.

The White House had offered late on Wednesday to work with the committee if it narrowed its request. Upton said at a hearing that the offer was encouraging but insufficient, although he said he would take the offer into consideration when crafting the final subpoena.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the subpoenas were "unprecedented and unwarranted" and said the administration was cooperating with the investigation, providing more than 85,000 pages of documents so far.

"All of the materials that have been disclosed affirm what we said on day one: this was a merit-based decision made by the Department of Energy," Schultz said in a statement.

The White House announced its own review of Energy Department loans last week. Wall Street veteran Herb Allison is slated to issue a report on the loans by the end of the year.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Doina Chiacu)