September 18, 2012

Solyndra scandal: Official defies Congress, refuses to appear

While several major news stories were eclipsed by the U.S. embassy attacks in Libya and Egypt, on Wednesday the Department of Energy's Strategic Initiatives director, Morgan Wright, took the opportunity to refuse to appear for a deposition regarding the Solyndra scandal after receiving a Congressional subpoena, according to the chairman of a key House of Representatives committee.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) called Wright's refusal to appear before Congress "unprecedented and regrettable."

"Wright became the first person to ever defy a subpoena for a deposition issued under Oversight Committee authority [which was] first established in 2007 under then Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA)," said Issa on Wednesday.

“The decision of this key figure in the Solyndra scandal to ignore his legal obligation to appear for a deposition is unprecedented and regrettable. This reflects poorly on not only Mr. Wright’s character, but also on Secretary of Energy Chu and other employees who worked on matters related to the loan program," Chairman Issa stated.

As the of Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Department of Energy, Morgan Wright played a critical role in making decisions about controversial loan guarantees that largely benefited political supporters of the Obama Administration, according to House investigators.

Wright is a former investment banker at DeutscheBank whose career moves from high-paying investment banking jobs to federal positions are often part of a “revolving door” strategy to gain new contacts and that are later cashed in for an even more lucrative salary in the private sector, according to the House committee's investigation.

Under the §1705 Loan Guarantee Program, DOE awarded 26 companies loan commitments totaling over $14.5 billion. Three of these companies – Solyndra, Beacon Power, and Abound – have already gone bankrupt. Many others are struggling and taxpayers will likely suffer losses in the billions from failed loans, according to a report.

According to official allegations, e-mails show that Morgan Wright was involved in an organized effort within the Energy Department to use his non-official e-mail account to discuss loan decisions as part of an intentional effort to avoid scrutiny and disclosures under federal transparency laws.

Wright was the recipient of one e-mail from former DOE official Jonathan Silver. “Don’t ever send an email on [DOE] email with personal email addresses,” Silver wrote Aug. 21, 2011, from his personal account to Wright’s gmail account. “That makes them subpoenable.” [sic]

E-mails from non-official accounts have offered important insight into the decision making process at odds with narratives offered by Administration officials, according to the House committee.

“His [Wright's] refusal to appear as ordered by a lawful subpoena only adds to the perception of wrongdoing and attempts to hide what really happened in the loan program office. Taxpayers will likely lose billions on the Obama Administration’s ill-conceived loan guarantee program and the appearance of cronyism only enhances the need for answers," stated Issa.

“Mr. Wright was given notice more than two weeks ago that he would be depositioned [sic] under rules written years ago by committee Democrats that explicitly bar agency counsel from representing him. His excuses for not appearing were last minute and not fully credible. I had already agreed with Ranking Member Cummings that we would discuss Mr. Wright’s concerns about representation when he arrived and before deciding whether the deposition would proceed today. Wright’s failure to appear was an act of bad faith," said Issa.

Chairman Issa will be issuing Wright a new subpoena and may consider other steps in response to his decision not to appear today. The previous subpoena had directed him to appear Wednesday at 1 p.m. Wright’s failure to appear could be the basis of a federal criminal contempt of Congress charge.

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