WASHINGTON -- When the House Energy and Commerce Committee met in October to decide what Solyndra-related documents to subpoena from the White House, the panel's lead staffer, Gary Andres, as ever, was in the closed-door meeting.
Just three years earlier, Andres was on the opposite side. In 2008, he was a top lobbyist with Dutko Worldwide, which was paid $50,000 to craft Solyndra's loan guarantee application to the Bush White House, according to lobbying records.
The energy panel has relentlessly pursued the Obama administration's handling of the loan guarantee to the solar panel company, which went bankrupt despite a $528 million loan. Energy Secretary Steven Chu testified before an Energy and Commerce subcommittee earlier this month at the request of Republicans.
Earlier this month, over the objection's of committee Democrats, the panel took the remarkable and unprecedented step of subpoenaing internal White House emails related to the Solyndra loan.
Andres is not registered as having specifically worked on the Solyndra loan guarantee, and a spokesperson for the committee, which is chaired by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), a super committee member, said that Andres did not have any involvement with the company while at Dutko.
According to lobbying records, Dutko lobbied the office of the loan guarantee program and the White House Office of Management and Budget, among other executive offices, "regarding the Solyndra loan application."
Federal records list Deanna Perlmutter as having registered on Dutko's behalf to lobby for Solyndra. Perlmutter is a high-profile lobbyist who divorced Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado in 2008, the same year she left Dutko for Holland & Knight, another high-powered firm in Washington. Perlmutter took the Solyndra contract with her. The energy company paid another $50,000 to Holland & Knight for the fourth quarter of 2008 and hasn't contracted with Dutko since. An attempt to reach Perlmutter was unsuccessful. Andres forwarded a request for comment on to a spokeswoman for the committee.
Andres' Dutko connection was spotted by Upton's Democratic congressional opponent, and brought to the attention of HuffPost and the local Kalamazoo Gazette.
"Fred Upton is guilty of a House ethics violation for not stopping Andres' influence on the Solyndra investigations -- at the very least," said John Waltz, who is currently running for Upton's seat. "Hiring a reverse revolving-door lobbyist that misbehaves badly is no more surprising than the results you would get from attempting to bathe a spitting cobra."
There is no evidence that Andres' connection to Dutko and Solyndra inspired him to go soft on the company or the Obama administration. Rather, it's another example of the internecine mixture of business and politics in Washington, where one's political position can fluctuate given the occupant of the White House or the author of lobbying retainer checks. Andres, the committee's staff director, is the author of the 2008 book "Lobbying Reconsidered: Real Politics in America." Andres is a well-known figure in conservative circles and served as a legislative liaison in the administration of president George H.W. Bush, where he first met Upton.
Republicans have treated the Solyndra loan as if it is President Obama's Watergate. Indeed, GOP presidential contender Rep. Michele Bachman (R-Minn.) has said it "makes Watergate look like child's play."
During Secretary Chu's testimony, Upton borrowed Watergate phrasing while questioning the Nobel laureate.
"What did Secretary Chu know about the situation at Solyndra, and when did he know it, and how did he act on this information, if at all?" wondered Upton.
Alexa Marrero, a spokeswoman for the energy committee, said that Andres' activity before he came to the panel doesn't change the situation. "While Gary was never registered on behalf of Solyndra or aware until recently of Dutko's brief representation of the company in 2008, before it received its federal loan guarantee, it's hard to see how Solyndra's choice of a Democratic lobbyist at a particular firm changes the facts of the case, which are these: despite serious warning signs from within the administration that a federal loan to Solyndra would be a losing proposition, the Department of Energy gave a green light to a half-billion dollar loan to this company, followed by a restructuring that put taxpayers at the back of the line. Now the committee is asking what went wrong, and what can be done to ensure taxpayers aren't left on the losing end of this kind of bad bet ever again," she said in an email to HuffPost.
Chu, during his congressional testimony, noted that the GOP Congress, which initially created the loan program, explicitly expected it to incur losses due to the experimental nature of some of the projects.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly described the Solyndra loan as worth $528 billion. Solyndra borrowed $528 million.
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