May 31st, 2012
01:27 PM ET
11 years ago

Romney makes surprise visit to Solyndra

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"

Also see:

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

Filed under: 2012 • Energy • Mitt Romney
soundoff (408 Responses)
  1. chaing

    President Bush started the solyndra deal and at the time had some merit. Romney avoided protests so he moved in secrete. Sounds pretty transparent don't you think? If this guy gets close to the WH we are in trouble folks! This guy is so out of touch with most of America it's a shame. Stop being manipulated!!!

    May 31, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  2. yuhmad

    Obama 2012!!!!

    May 31, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  3. RNC is out of touch with Latinos, Women and Middle Class Americans

    Romney thinks Pres.Obama was the CEO of Solyndra and he was never the CEO of Bain. Romney made the daily decisions at Bain to take companies into bankruptcy, outsources jobs, slash workers pay, pension,health care benefits while stashing millions in his Swiss accounts. Romney is a bucket with a big hole in the bottom. Romney claims on Solyndra won't hold water.

    May 31, 2012 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Hahaha, Romneys says 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....Too bad there is no evidence of any large campaign donations to Obama from Solyandra. Nice try

    May 31, 2012 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  5. Drstelly2870

    Mittens looks like a darn fool standing outside that empty building. Is this what our political system has become? A horrible roadshow version of an old Jerry Springer episode (Mittens being Jerry Springer of course). This guy is not the ONE (sorry CON-servs) he is an alien clown who thinks that this was an appropriate thing to do and all he looks like is tacky pathetic clown. He needs to come and stand in front of AIG (my employer) and see what government did do. Hopefully he's nowhere near my bumper should he decide to come.

    May 31, 2012 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  6. judith

    Mittens stole workers pensions from companies he raided and the government had to make up the difference. He also took millions in government money when he "saved" the Olympics. Obama was merely 9nvesting in clean energy. As Mittens well knows, not every company is successful. So what's his basis for attacking the President? Mr. Etch-a-Sketch once gain shows his vast hypocrisy.

    May 31, 2012 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  7. Martin

    So here's a thought. Instead of criticizing the President's handling of this company's issues, why didn't he offer to have his rich corporate finance buddies help them out in the style of Bain Capital?

    If he had of been able to turn this company around and rehire those workers, THAT would be something to campaign on.

    May 31, 2012 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  8. Martin

    Free enterprise to Mitt Romney means taking money from companies in trouble like Solyndra and giving it to his friends.

    May 31, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  9. 2loose2trek

    Big deal. we probably spent $535M in Afghanistan this week and at least Solyndra didn't hurt anyone.

    May 31, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  10. liberal disease

    Obama"s entire Presidency is a gimmick concocted by the media

    May 31, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  11. Richard Komi

    Green energy is something we must invest in. Investments don't always succeed the first time but when they do, we never regret our investments. If Romney is elected president he too will want to invest in green energy. This is not a campaign issue. Romney should tell the American people what he would do better than president Obama because as of now we the American people are yet to hear from Romney what he can do for us.

    May 31, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  12. Moby49

    Crossroads GPS, an independent conservative group. Independent?? Really, you want us to believe that?

    May 31, 2012 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  13. rep

    Solyndra was a part of a portfolio of companies under the Clean Energy Program (a program started under Bush, btw). It's always the overall success of the many companies in that portfolio, not any individual company, that matters for the success of the program.

    Romney's Bain investments essentially DID THE EXACT SAME THING–only worse. They only cared about making a profit on the overall portfolio, even if it was only a single company that had great success while all the others failed! That's how VCs make money. They fully EXPECT many companies to do poorly or to fail outright while a minority will be successful enough to make a profit.

    May 31, 2012 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  14. yuhmad

    Obama is not a stalker, different mind, responsible grown man.

    May 31, 2012 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  15. dnick47

    Hey there they are the goose stepping authoritian Repubs who are for total government or else... you can spot the with the first word out – I hate! (well, OK, the 2nd word)

    May 31, 2012 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  16. George

    Haha well played Mitt! Can't wait to vote for you in November!!

    May 31, 2012 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  17. RS, CA

    Great move, Romney - SHOW them with pictures. That's something the hypnotized Libs almost, probably, could be, just maybe, but-then-again-probably-still-not understand.

    May 31, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  18. Tucker0300

    “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.”

    Well, unless you count GM. But you can't count GM, because then Obama would be a corporate raider, and as he's not a corporate raider, GM can't be counted.

    May 31, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  19. Build Bridges Not Walls

    If he had half a brain, he would be standing in front of a new business or factory hiring by the thousands, paying good wages, 401K and medical benefits. A business he single-highhandedly started with his own money. That photo-op would have proven at least three things: 1. he really does know how to create jobs 2. he isn't the stupid, out of touch, elitist , religious kook everyone says he 2. the "trickle-down" theory actually works and giving tax breaks to the rich really does create jobs and wealth for the country

    May 31, 2012 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  20. Stephen in VA

    Oh, big deal. Every administration in trackable history has provided loans and grants to various types of research, and–other stuff. Remember when George Bush made federal grants available to religious charities? At least Solyndra had promise of providing some help with an energy solution. It failed, but it certainly isn't the only company to have failed recently.

    May 31, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  21. Mark

    Watch your wallets/retirement funds seniors. Here comes Mitt. He has plans to raise defense spending. Cut taxes for the 'job creators' and close a trillion + budget deficit. With our biggest expenditures being SS, Medicare/aid and Defense guess where he's going to be looking for his money? YOU spent your lives living responsibly, paying higher taxes to pay for programs, living in smaller homes with more children. All so we could have a stronger America. This generation has gutted this nation so they could live high on the hog. larger homes with less children, luxurious vacations, playing 'keeping up with the Jones' and now the bill has come due. They were told back in the '80's we could have whatever we wanted and not have to pay for it. That we'd 'grow ourselves' out of every deficit. Well it didn't work. And now the bill has come due. And they're looking for you to pay it so they can keep the party going. Don't let them get away with it.

    May 31, 2012 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  22. scmom

    Please stop with the big government crap. At one time or another everyone will need something from the government, i.e. ss or medicare. You don't have the big money because you are on here blogging. One step away from a catastrophic illness that can leave you sick and unemployed and theres that safety net that you paid into helping you survive. Keep thinking that mitt and his crew got all the answers because they want to take that away. No common sense just crazy blind ideology.

    May 31, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  23. Blindersoff

    This guy is unbelievable and the worst of all, is his base. The ones who are most likely to vote for this guy.

    May 31, 2012 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  24. James

    "Solyndra, which received a $528 million federal loan before it closed abruptly in 2011, was "a symbol of gross waste ... and serious conflict of interest" by Obama officials involved in what he called "crony capitalism."


    May 31, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  25. connieb

    Well Jeez Mitt, maybe you can buy the company, suck every once of money you can out of it, and then say "too bad you lose" to all the workers.

    May 31, 2012 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
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