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.
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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"
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Okay, so Dems – do some campaign stops at the businesses that Bain stole millions from and then shuttered.
All is fair, and Solyndra is nothing compared to the thieves at Bain, including Mittens!
What Willard fails to mention is that the Solyndra loan guarantee was a multi-year process that the Bush Administration launched in 2007. Tell the FACTS Willard!!! Stop distorting the truth.
Romney – help us clean up this Obama mess!
Mitt, you are a gutless Bully!
Obama should retort by visiting a few of the many businesses Romney ran out of business.
More stupidity from Etch-a-Sketch Mitt Romney!
The US govt put in money into just about anything...into GM, BIG OIL incentives, CORPORATIONS tax cuts, 2 WARs in GW BUSH funded, GW TAX CUTS, etc...you name it!!!!!
Etch-a-Sketch Mitt Romney BAIN CAPITAL is only in business to RAID & BANKRUPT companies 4 Profits, NOT TO CREATE JOBS! Remember that!!!!
The daily cost of the Iraq War was $720 million !
Romney is the reason why china is #1 one in solar panel sales.
We used to #1. Let Detroit go bankrupt !
Etch-A-Sektch doesn't have a clue how ANYTHING works, much less the economy.
All he did was get rich sucking the life blood out of companies.
Let's talk Dick Cheney and Halliburton if you want to talk crony capitalism. THAT Was a crime.
How about Obama makes a visit to all of the companies that are out of business after Bain Capital raided them? The list would be very long.
Plus why isn't Romney touting his job record as governor of Massachusetts? Oh right, he doesn't have one. Romney's record as governor should be a bigger issue than his record at Bain because being a governor is more comparable to being a President than being the head of a Venture Capital company.
The media needs to pound him on his record as governor. They need to ask him why he isn't running on that and why he is constantly attacking Obama but not saying what great things he accomplished as governor.
i hope he visits the companies he shut down with bain takeovers
No wonder this guy is going to lose – stupid campaign stunts like this are the reason we can in no way consider this guy credible.
You are not President Obama, Mitt. Take those two brain cells of yours and come up with an original idea. You look pathetic.
Solyndra is a drop in the bucket compared to the TRILLIONS that Bush and GOP spent on O-peration I-raqi L-iberation. We didn't ge the oil and we lost thousands of lives as well in Iraq. With Solyndra no live were lost and the money was spent here at home on Americans.
Mittens has a failed public record as governor of MA. He used the same business credential campaign in 2002, in MA, about running the state as a business. He let the people of MA down, as he created few jobs, raised taxes on numerous occasions, and left MA with a bigger debt. In return, he stopped being a governor half way through his term, but continued to draw a paycheck. At least Sarah Palin quit outright. He has no record of job creation, and his claim to fame is "Let Detroit go bankrupt."
I think democrats should visit the Cayman's and point out where Mittens keeps his money to avoid paying his fair share of taxes.
"A Romney adviser told reporters the campaign had concealed the event location for fear the Obama administration would somehow prevent them from staging it..."
These guys are amateurs.
Meanwhile, is there any truth to the report that (a) Romney is planning a surprise visit to the Cayman Islands and Switzerland to visit his money, (b) Obama is planning to visit the old offices of Bain Capital or (c) the White House is going to have a media event with Irish Setter Rescue of Boston?
I bet the money he stole from the people when he was CEO was more than 535 million.
Solyndra is the perfect example of Democrats/Liberals/Progressives attempt to create something, "green energy".
What any sane person should know is this: If "Green Energy" was a great marketplace, there would be many investors in the privite sector and the Government would and should have nothing to do with this.
But because we are led by a bunch of Progressive Jackasses, we have to "force" "Green energy" because that's what the Progressive Jackasses think we need. Same with Obamacare, you are "forced" to do something, buy insurance.
Step by step, day by day your freedoms are being taken away, and don't be fooled for a minute, this is all about the Democrat party and has nothing to do with the Republicans.
Good for Romney. Tell it like it is and show America that Big Government and there give aways are so harmfull to the free enterprise system that made America #1. Obama want this to CHANGE and I HOPE he does not get his way, as his record for the economy is so wrong. Plain as a nose on your face. Get a budget and stick with it and live within your means. Enough of the entitlements and pork barreling.
I'm certain Romney is quite sorry he didn't get a chance to rape this company and throw the workers into the street without their pension. He "Likes to fire people"!
When compared to the Bush wars launched because of huge lies, the $500 +/- billion loss Romeny is egging on is spit. Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands more have been permenantly maimed and the cost of that will reach trillions upon trillions. And why, cause Cheney's company need some fat lucrative government contracts that they did have to bid on.
Good for Romney, Tell it and show it like it is. Government that picks and chooses who gets free money is as corrupt as it gets.
What is it with these Republican conspiracy theorists who think President Obama could, or would, somehow prevent Mittens & Co. from visiting the Solyndra campus? As others on this board have suggested, the Obama campaign should visit some of the company campuses that Bain Capital put out of business. And if Mittens really wants to be objective, then list all of the companies that have failed after receiving venture capital funding.
Hmmmm maybe Mitt is looking to buy the company and ship it overseas and make a profit...Im sure he has already looked into it
Fred: "How about Obama makes a visit to all of the companies that are out of business after Bain Capital raided them? The list would be very long."
Actually the list of successes has 88 on it and the list of companies out of business is only 12 long (these are ones that declared bankruptcy up to 7 years after Bain's involvement but they might still be in business). An 88% success rate is phenomenal with the troubled businesses Bain invested in (every investment Bain made was very risky for Bain). Without Bain's involvement, at least 50 of those successes would have failed, probably more.