Fremont, California (CNN) - In a tightly-guarded surprise campaign stop, Mitt Romney visited failed energy company Solyndra Thursday and invoked the building as a symbol of what he called President Obama's misuse of taxpayer dollars.
The visit - kept a secret by the campaign until shortly before the candidate and the press arrived at the site - offered a hulking visual to accompany Romney’s repeated criticism of Obama over the Solyndra scandal.
– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
Standing on a gritty embankment across the street from Solyndra’s edifice, Romney called the glass-fronted building the “Taj Mahal” of corporate headquarters and a symbol “gross waste” and accused the president of cronyism.
“This building, this half a billion-dollar taxpayer investment, represents a serious conflict of interest on the part of the president and his team,” Romney said. “It's also a symbol of how the president thinks about free enterprise. Free enterprise to the president means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends.”
The solar energy company based outside San Francisco went bankrupt less than two years after receiving a $535 million loan in 2009 from the Department of Energy.
The Thursday visit was kept a tight secret by the Romney campaign, which told reporters they needed to travel in a campaign bus to an undisclosed location.
A Romney adviser said the campaign had concealed the event location for fear the Obama administration would somehow prevent them from staging it.
During his news conference, Romney alluded to protests organized by Democratic activists that have disrupted several previous campaign events, and said his campaign had wanted to head off any efforts by his rivals to keep him from speaking.
“I think that there are people who don’t want to see this event occur, don’t want to have questions asked about this particular investment, don’t want to have people delve into the idea that the president took a half a billion dollars of taxpayer money and devoted it to an enterprise that was owned in large measure by his campaign contributors,” he said. “I think there are a number of people among the president’s team that don’t want that story to get out. We wanted to make sure it did.”
Obama administration officials have called the failed Solyndra loan a disappointing result in their ongoing support of innovative technology and have vowed to continue investing in clean energy.
“Over the course of this first term, we will have doubled the use of renewable energy in this country,” David Axelrod, Obama campaign senior adviser, said Thursday in an interview to air on CNN’s “John King, USA.”
He added Romney was simply using the Solyndra stop as a “diversion” from recent attacks against his corporate career in private equity
“One thing the president never did was buy a company, load it up with debt, bankrupt that company, and walk away with millions of dollars while the creditors and the workers were left holding an empty bag,” Axelrod said, taking a shot at Romney’s former firm, Bain Capital. “The president’s never done that.”
Romney's visit to Solyndra was the latest step in a continued push from Team Romney and Republicans to paint the president as harmful for job creation, which has used Solyndra as its central argument. The Republican National Committee released a video Thursday, which followed similar efforts from the Romney campaign and Crossroads GPS, an independent conservative group.
– Watch the full interview with Axelrod at 6 p.m. ET on CNN's "John King, USA"
Obama campaign launches assault on Romney's Massachusetts record
Obama campaign releases third set of Spanish ads
Gonzales says Romney must make personal connection to Hispanics
Wisconsin guv up in third straight poll
Romney had the exact same failure as Governor of Massachusetts that he accuses Obama of with Solyndra. What a hypocrite. Romney has no moral character.
Some people will believe ANYTHING that comes out of the Obama White House–the same group that WOULDN'T believe anything that George Bush had to say. FACT: If you count the number of people who have left the work force and are no longer looking for work, the unemployment rate is over 11 per cent. Add also the under employed and those with 2(or more) part-time jobs and it rises to over 13 per cent! FACT: Obama called Bush unpatriotic for adding $4 trillion to the national debt in 8 years–he has added more than that in less than 3 1/2 years. Of course, HIS is explainable while Bush's is inexcusable. FACT: This is the slowest recovery from a recession in memory, and while the Dems insist on throwing money at every situation that presents itself, Obama's promise to cut the deficit in half during his first term is virtually forgotten. Insisting these very real situations are all the GOP's fault is nothing but election year demogogery. No wonder true statesmen no longer seek office!
Mittens, how about your priest hood in a religion that believes that God is an alien man,with a wife, and we too can become gods. Therefore, there are many gods. And that we can have wives in heaven. And that Jesus and the Devil are brothers. And that blacks are cursed.
You did not only sit in that religious organization for 20 years, you have been in it all of your life.
Any Christian that thinks that he is the better choice because of gay marriage needs to get into the word. Mormonism is a false doctrine, that does not line up with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I guess Obama can stand in front of all Bain/Romney closed businesses.
So all the money lost on Solyndra came from our pockets? Solyndra is in bankruptcy which means they are in a forced restructuring which hopefully will get them back on track and get loans repaid. Where do you think the money comes from to make up for the taxes that coporations don't pay? You know where, and we will never get THAT back.
Romney's 'team' is staffed with a bunch of college dropout knuckleheads. Now we will get a plethora of "paid commercials" – filmed in front of every company that Bain brought down. This was a very stupid political move. Bad marketing all the way around.
On the ohter side of the coin... where is the substance in this campaign?? Very little has been presented as to what Mitt will do. Seems he is trying to win simply by trying to make the other guy look worse. A kindergarten tactic at best.
Romney is really starting to rattle President downgrade. Everyone should be concerned about Solyndra because it wasn't just the gov't investing in new technology it was Obama giving taxpayer money to his friends. If a republican did this you would all be having a complete and total meltdown. Go Mitt!
Funny how you lobs keep trashing Mitt's wealth yet you have no problem with the wealth of the Kennedy's or Kerry or Pelosi or any of the rest do the dems who are beyond loaded.