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. Tao Te Ching

    It would be beneficial if the authors of these stories included all relevant information about the Solyndra deal.

    Green Energy expert Van Jones described the sequence of events regarding Solyndra about as succinctly as a person could in my opinion.

    His version of events:

    A) – In an effort to stimulate the US Green Energy sector, the Obama administration committed funds to help Solyndra proceed with solar panel manufacturing in the U.S.

    B) – Hearing of this, China, wanting to dominate the U.S. solar panel market, flooded the U.S. solar panel market with cheap solar panels using predatory-pricing market strategies similar to what happened to the U.S. color tv market in the 70's and 80's.

    C) – Republican politicians in Washington see this happening, but rather than do anything about it to support U.S. Green Energy initiatives, sit back instead, do nothing, and let it happen for political reasons at the expense of the future of Solyndra employees and other potential future U.S. solar panel manufacturers.

    And that coming from a person who has made great strides in creating Green Energy jobs in this country.

    Paints an entirely different picture of what happened with Solyndra than what Romney and the authors of such biased stories would have everyone believe doesn't it.

    May 31, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  2. ThinkAgain

    All you righties out there harping on Solyndra, do a little checking and you'll find that GW Bush signed into law the
    Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was intended to address a variety of developing energy problems in the United States. Among other things, the bill authorized the Department of Energy to offer loan guarantees to help finance promising energy projects – to companies like Solyndra.

    May 31, 2012 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  3. ThinkAgain

    It's interesting to research Bain Capital. Here are some tidbits I've found:

    Josh Kosman, in his book about private equity companies (like Bain Capital) and how the devastating effect they have had on our economy, described Bain Capital as "notorious for its failure to plow profits back into its businesses."

    Bain was the first large private-equity firm to derive a large portion of its revenues from corporate dividends and other distributions. "The revenue potential of this strategy, which may 'starve' a company of capital, was increased by a 1970s court ruling that allowed companies to consider the entire fair-market value of the company, instead of only their "hard assets", in determining how much money was available to pay dividends."

    In other words, Mittens and Bain would inflate the value of a company on paper, then borrow against that value, pay themselves huge sums, then leave the company saddled with huge debt. At times, this debt lead to the collapse of what had been financially stable businesses.

    You want this for America? I sure don't! Because that's how Mittens see our country: Assets to siphon off for his and his cronies' gain at the expense of the rest of us.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    May 31, 2012 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  4. Ben

    Romney will say and do anything that will get him votes and that is just a shame! .
    This whole Solyndra energy company is a big joke becuase please correct me if I am wrong (something that politicians need to embrace.. being corrected when they are wrong!) The Bush administration was behind the DOE loan for Solyndra!! why is nobody talking about this!!

    May 31, 2012 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  5. JOHN

    Fools.... anyone who understood the solar business realized we could not compete with the Chinese. The Pres. had no idea what he was doing... but after all it wasn't his money, now was it. Yet, many Americans continue to support him, in spite of his failed policies. Thus, if this is the type of leadership America desires, then they will pay the price of further confusion and sadness.

    May 31, 2012 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  6. Cindy

    This was a cheap shot. This goes to prove there will be no new ideas coming from this man. This company was less than 1% of the energy department budget. You have to take chances. This company went under because the Chinese government was subsidizing the Chinese in making solar panels. I am gland people like Romney was not around when we went to the moon. This first explosion and he would have quit.

    May 31, 2012 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  7. Brian

    Anyone complaining about Solyndra proves that he doesn't understand the concept of high-risk research and development. You go in knowing there will be failures, but do it because a success could be a huge game-changer. Plus the Bush administration was behind Solyndra. Apparently Republicans take pride in proving their ignorance.

    May 31, 2012 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  8. Bob

    “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."

    Maybe not, but I can tell you for a fact what Obama DID do: to get elected, he sold the country a bill of goods promising "change you can believe in," he loaded the country up with TRILLIONS in debt, and bankrupted the country. His cronies [campaign contributors, union thugs and freeloaders] walked off with BILLIONS [not millions] of dollars, while the creditors, the fewer-than-50% of the working stiffs paying taxes, and our children's children's children were left holding an empty bag. Romney has nothing to be ashamed of. If Obama & Axelrod want to cast stones, they should move out of that fancy glass house. Hopefully, that'll happen come next January.

    May 31, 2012 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  9. fairpol

    Obama doesn't have a clue how to run a successful business, let alone a successful country. Solyndra is just one example how a community organizer thinks about a good business investment. We need some one who understands how to makes businesses successful in America to create desperately needed jobs. A community organizer cannot lead a corporation. So why count on him to lead the superpower of all superpowers? Americans need to smarten up or the country will join the PIGS group of Europe.

    May 31, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  10. Loop

    Axelrod is right. The President never did buy a company, saddle it with debt, watch it go bankrupt and then wlak away with millions. However, the President has taken OUR money made some very questionable investments with it (to his supporters) and is bankrupting our country and he too will walk away with millions. So what's worse, a company or a country? I know where my vote stands.

    May 31, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  11. jocko

    There are important differences between Solyndra and Bain. In one case, the goal was to profit at all costs including killing jobs or sending them overseas. In the other, the goal was to work toward making the USA energy independant and bringing jobs to the USA. One was an attempt to bring profit and jobs to the US economy......the other was aimed at lining the pockets of a few profiteers with no regard to the people working at the company.

    May 31, 2012 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  12. alpg49

    The government and Bain sometimes bet on losers. The big difference: At Bain, the investors always won, and the workers sometimes lost everything.

    May 31, 2012 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  13. kramer

    Romney Brags about his " 80% " success at Pain Capital and RMoney's many, many failures
    – But then fakes " Outrage " at the President's 99% Success..!???

    May 31, 2012 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  14. Ben

    Obama should go to Massachusetts and highlight how Mittens was a failure as governor.

    May 31, 2012 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  15. Melo-D

    Well it shouldn't be too hard to find a Bain company that went under during Willard tenure. I'm sure they can find quite a few actually.

    May 31, 2012 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  16. Marie MD

    For a moment there I thought he had gone to Afghanistan or Iraq to brush up on his nonexistent foreign experience.
    Can this bishop get any more pathetic? What is the point? Does he know that he cost hundreds of American their jobs and that is more important than one failed company? How many did he bankrupt and closed?
    What an idiot!

    May 31, 2012 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  17. Paul Price

    "Less an entrepreneur than an executive running an investment operation,
    Romney was skilled at presenting and selling the deals the company made."
    Mr. Romney's experience at Bain Capital was as a financier, not as a businessperson.

    May 31, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  18. ohreally

    Romney blatantly lied about the Inspector General conclusions. He is a CEO who made a career out of lying and he thinks he can continue that practice all the way to the WH.

    May 31, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  19. Paul Price

    Romney was never a business man, he was a finance manager, like the one at the car dealership

    May 31, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  20. Pa Mom

    Romney is projecting. He's the one sending paid staffers to disrupt events. The man is showing his true colors, those of the school yard bully. He can dish it out, but he sure as heck can't take it! Is that really what we want in the WH?

    May 31, 2012 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |

    Hey Mittens, tell us more about Evergreen Solar... you know the company that you bank-rolled with tax-payer dollars when you were Governor of Mass. The company that was filled with big Romney campaign donors. How did that work out for them??

    May 31, 2012 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  22. Mark

    Wow Mitt. Lying so badly and the campaign hasn't even really begun. Are you that desperate to check the President box on your bucket list that you would resort to bald faced lies? I voted for you for Governor of Massachusetts. After 1/2 a term you started running for President and barely finished your term in office. You were such a bad Governor your handpicked replacement lost to a relative unknown Democrat. You should be ashamed of yourself, but people like you feel no shame. Your thirst for power overwhelms your sense of reason.

    May 31, 2012 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  23. go

    republican wasted 3 trillion dollars building refinerie,s roads and bridges in iraq-what about america

    May 31, 2012 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  24. GI Joe

    Romney caught in another blatant lie today at Solyndra - President Obama has not been accused by ANYONE of any authority anywhere of sending money to his friends and then Solyndra going bankrupt.

    That was written in a book by Breitbart (you remember him) and has been debunked by all news everywhere - except FOX. Brietbart was God to FOX. Romney is quoting a lie by Brietbart - Look at the eggs and grits on Mitts face. h aa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha aha It's everywhere – even on the internet. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha DEBUNKED.

    Robme is a blatant liar. TRUE

    May 31, 2012 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  25. PD Gupta

    Taj Mahal was never a symbol of any waste like all the Mormon Churches in this country. Mitt Romney will soon find that all his million dollars campaign was nothing but a waste too! Mitt Romney got confused with Taj Mahal in Atlantic City and Taj Mahal in India. Taj Mahal in Atlantic City needed bailout by the bankers in a year or two after its opening. With similar kind of bailout money Solyndra would have survived without any doubt at all! The waste was Iraq war. The waste was Afghan war. The waste was all those money Mitt Romney had been spending as an unemployed hopeful for the White House since 2008.

    May 31, 2012 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
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