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Issa Eyes Political Connections That Drove Loan Approvals Like Solyndra

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In this May 26, 2010, file photo, President Obama and Solyndra Chief Executive Officer Chris Gronet look at a solar panel during a tour of Solyndra, Inc.AP

The Obama administration engaged in a pattern of approving loans that were not qualified to receive taxpayer money, according to one Republican House chairman who says the development is as disturbing as the potential loss of billions of dollars in investments.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Sunday that the administration's approval of a loan guarantee for solar power company Solyndra -- which went belly up shortly after a half-billion dollar investment by the federal government -- is just one example of a "breach of protocol" in approving loans.

Issa said the Energy Department actually approved $4.75 billion worth of loans on the last day that the law allowed for financial backing of alternative energy firms. 

"We're finding it's not just Solyndra. It's a pattern of these sorts of investments," Issa told "Fox News Sunday." "One of the questions we have for (Energy) Secretary (Steven) Chu is, tell us why that last day, somehow, you had everything you needed and you didn't have it over a period of time before?" 

He said that his committee is less interested in debating the merits of "green energy" and what qualifies as jobs created in that field than at looking to see whether political connections interfered in the approval process for struggling companies, and whether that interference pushed the Obama administration to back a loan for a creditor who otherwise would have been left holding the bag after Solyndra's bankruptcy claim. 

"The American people have a right to except that the rule of law will guarantee that even if we don't like the policy, that it's done properly," Issa told "Fox News Sunday." 

"Remember this was a $500 million earmark, effectively, by political appointees, something you hear about with Congress you don't always hear about with the president. ... We're going to look for political interference because you have to ask -- why would we put the government at a disadvantage when we're putting in more money?"

President Obama has made no bones about his decision to invest in green energy companies. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, he said that his administration did due diligence, but the loss comes with the risk of doing business. 

"The nature of these programs are going to be ones in which, you know, for every success, there may be one that does not work out as well. But that's exactly what the loan guarantee program was designed by Congress to do, was to take bets on these areas where we need to make sure that we're maintaining our lead," Obama said during a White House press conference.

Several of the president's biggest backers have been tied to Solyndra, including George Kaiser, a big investor in Solyndra and a big fundraiser for the president. Kaiser said he did not intervene on Solyndra's behalf.

Another presidential backer, Steve Spinner, raised about $500,000 for candidate Obama back in 2008 and got a top job in the Energy Department, where he reportedly used his post to push for Solyndra to get the $535 million loan guarantee. Spinner's wife worked for a law firm representing Solyndra at the time. Spinner has since left the Department of Energy and is at a Democratic think tank now. 

"Solyndra is a story of political interference, picking winners and losers. It's salacious because, quite frankly, there were a lot of people giving to President Obama's campaign," Issa said. 

Issa also defended his letters to the administration on behalf of constituent energy companies looking for backing in the way Solyndra did. 

"The request was, they have a loan application and would you please give them a yes or no," he said. "There's a big difference between sending a letter in for an existing pot of money for a program I voted against and having the ability to actually pick winners or losers, which we don't have."