It is Department of Energy policy to ignore the federal government’s own criminal investigations into companies applying for taxpayer funding. The admission came from a DOE official who testified at a congressional hearing Thursday.

The hearing focused on federal support for Ecotality, a company that manufactures electric vehicle charging stations. DOE awarded Ecotality $99.8 million in 2009 to install 15,000 such stations across the country.

Shortly after that award, the Securities and Exchange Commission began investigating Ecotality for insider trading. It subpoenaed the chief executive of the company’s North American subsidiary, requesting communications with 18 individuals associated with the company.

Despite the ongoing investigation, DOE awarded Ecotality a $26 million contract in October 2011 for electric vehicle testing.

At Thursday’s hearing, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency Kathleen Hogan said it would be “improper” for DOE to consider subpoenas served as part of federal criminal investigations into companies applying for federal money in deciding whether to award taxpayer dollars to those companies.

Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.): Do you think a company should be disqualified from applying for a contract for the government, a grant from the government, because they have received a subpoena?

Hogan: We believe it is actually improper for the Department of Energy to take the presence of an SEC subpoena into account at the point of running a competitive award process.

Scribe has reported extensively on Ecotality’s government support as well as its extensive political connections to secure such funding.