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Solyndra hearing becomes giant waste of time

November 17, 2011: 4:55 PM ET

My eyes have glazed over. I'm hungry, dumber than I was this morning and very angry with myself.

Don't be coy, you know what I'm copping to having done: I spent almost the entire workday watching yet another Congressional hearing on the Solyndra "scandal."

This is at least the third such hearing, all in a flailing effort by GOP reps to prove that Solyndra wasn't simply an honest loan gone bad, but rather an example of corruption and self-dealing in the Obama White House. For all the talk about this deal, there still has not yet been any actual evidence -- including cherry-picked emails released by the Republican-led committee -- that Solyndra received its $535 million government loan because of crony capitalism. And that remains the case, after five hours of testimony from U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu.

For example, here was the day's dumbest question, courtesy of Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.): "Knowing what you know today, would you approve that loan?" Seriously? That's like asking someone who just broke their arm: "Knowing what you know now, would you have still run down the escalator?"

And then some additional brilliance from Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who kept asking Chu if DoE had ever asked Solyndra for data on its financial situation -- as if somehow that wasn't a condition of the loan in the first place. Democrats also asked some silly things, but it was mostly an attempt to pander rather than make headlines.

As for actual substance, there was nothing new. Chu steadfastly insisted that the original loan guarantee was approved due to the application's merits, not because of political pressure or because one of Solyndra's indirect investors was a major fundraiser for President Obama.

He also repeated past statements that the subsequent decision to subordinate part of the Solyndra loan to private investors -- as part of a restructuring to stave off bankruptcy -- was considered legal by Department of Energy attorneys. Chu also added that a private law firm, Morrison Foerster, also had agreed with DoE's legal opinion (based on this email). That sparked some back-and-forth with Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), who argued that the law firm's suggestion that DoE was using a "reasonable interpretation" of the law was somehow different than an endorsement.

The only possible scandal here is political, based on previously-published emails between a DoE official and Solyndra about postponing planned layoffs until after the 2010 election. Chu said he only recently was made aware of the emails, feels they were inappropriate and that they will be investigated.

As I've written before, there certainly is something awful about the federal government making a bad decision that costs more than half a billion dollars. But there remains no actual evidence of corruption. Just a lot of innuendo. Today's hearing didn't change that.

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About This Author
Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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