September 28, 2011
(CSPAN) Executives from the solar power company Solyndra were on Capitol Hill today to testify in front of a House Energy Committee. CEO Brian Higgins and Chief Financial Officer Bill Stover invoked their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent anddid not answer any questions asked by the members of the committee. Solyndra got more than $535 million in loan guarantees from the federal government, and President Obama visited the company’s factory in Fremont, California, to express support for their efforts to create “green” jobs. Solyndra filed for bankruptcy and laid off over 1,000 workers at the end of August. The FBI later raided their headquarters. A criminal investigation is currently underway into whether Solyndra misled the government about its financial situation in order to receive a refinancing loan earlier this year.
Misusing the Fifth Amendment at the Solyndra Hearing:
(National Review) Waxman’s assertion that it was inappropriate for members to continue asking questions is… legally incorrect. The Solyndra executives sought to use the Fifth Amendment as a broad shield to refuse answering any questions. However, the Fifth doesn’t work that way.
You can use the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions designed to criminalize, but not political questions in a political forum. Subcommittee members MUST establish whether they were properly invoking the privilege or misusing it as an over broad shield to avoid answering non-incriminating, but politically embarrassing questions.
) Rep. Diana DeGette (D., Colo.) unwittingly confirmed this misuse when she accused the Republicans on the Subcommittee of “a cheap gimmick to lob out political questions designed for press and not to actually get to the bottom of an investigation.”