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. lolo

    Only Bully Romney would pull this trick. This man is a wimp. Now he is using his wife's MS problems to get elected. How low can this man go.? Your wife gets the best care that money can buy, but what about the people with MS who can't? Mittens you still don't get it. Quit hiding behind your wife's skirt.

    May 31, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  2. Rosslaw

    I bet their waiting with bated breath and brass bands for his visit to Massachusetts.

    May 31, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  3. Bill

    Romney will lose in November. End of story.

    May 31, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  4. Dave

    Half a billion dollars vaporized by the Obama administration. Thank-you Mitt for standing up for every day Americans who need jobs and not failed investments from the President.

    May 31, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  5. Fair is Fair

    "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.'
    What this poster won't tell you is that the Bush Administration would not make the loan because Solyndra had an unworkable business model. The Obama Administation didn't care.

    May 31, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  6. Fred

    Re: Ohio man – then at least Solyndra would be in business and employing people, even if a number of them are overseas. There would also be a number of jobs here in the U.S. That alternative is better than having a business shut down and headquarters sitting empty like it is now.

    Why are you bitter that Mitt Romney profited from trying to help companies (he was 88% successful with the companies)? Am I bitter if you get paid a wage for your work (or that you collect disability or social security)? No.

    May 31, 2012 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  7. myron8160

    Sonethig about this ronney guy that rubs me the wrong way

    May 31, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  8. V in Chicago

    CHEAP SHOT ROMNEY!! Should we all now hear from the folks that lost their jobs because of you??? You're Pathetic!

    May 31, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  9. wgf

    Or, we could look at what happened with the investment in GM. Maybe he should stand in front of their headquarters and drone on about how the economy really works, and how GM should be dead and gone.

    May 31, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  10. MissyinAL

    What do the Solyndra headquarters look like?

    May 31, 2012 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  11. Expat American

    And the world is still waiting for the Republicans to acknowledge and admit that they, as a Party, lied to the American people, lied to the United Nations and wasted billions and billions of dollars beginning with their shock and awe genocide assault on unarmed Iraqi civilians while they collectively pleasured themselves under the table.

    Romney – once a bully and a coward, always a bully and a coward.

    May 31, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  12. Governor 47th in Job Growth

    Solyndra was taking advantage of a loan program fast-tracked by Bush that started in July 2005, the 1703 loan program. Bush tried to squeeze Solyndra in under the wire before Obama was sworn in.
    Things that go un-reported.

    Speaking of not knowing how the "free economy works". Taking MA backwards from 37th to 47th in job growth at a time when the rest of the country outpaced Willard's free economy in MA by 3.5 times. That's simply staggering. In no uncertain terms, the evidence shows that Willard's private sector experience translates into backwards movement when he gets into the public sector. Willard: bad for MA, bad for business, bad for the US of A.

    May 31, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  13. EddyL

    Why doesn't the vulture go visit the companies he looted and closed down? How about sitting down with some of the thousands of American workers he put out of business?

    May 31, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  14. once upon a horse

    I thought one of the risk of capitalism is something like this. Sometimes you make an investment and it doesn't pan out. Maybe that analogy only counts if you're a Republican.

    May 31, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  15. Don

    The government did exactly what Bain would have done. Tried to save thenm but failed. The only problem was there was nothing to skim off like Bain got.

    May 31, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  16. Person of Interest

    Wasn't part of this started during the Bush years? Let's just say failure is failure. How many companies did you bankrupt at Bain, Mr. Romney? I'm pretty sure you of all people should know that you have to risk to get the reward and you don't always end up on top. So why did profitable companies like Ampad & GSI go bankrupt during your tenure at Bain? Oh that's right, you used them as capital so you could pay dividends to investors and eventually they folded from too much debt lol.

    May 31, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  17. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Lady Fair – The energy Policy Act of 2005, under Bush, made thew loan guarantees to Solyndra. The Obama administration restructured the loan in 2009. I believe you are once again incorrect.

    May 31, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  18. wgf

    @Fred "Why are you bitter that Mitt Romney profited from trying to help companies "

    Are you kidding ? You make it sound like Romney was doing pro-bono work for the local Goodwill. He was not "trying to help companies", he was trying to make a profit for his company, by any means possible. That's his whole point.

    May 31, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  19. Governor 47th in Job Growth

    @ Fair is fair.
    Fair is Fair

    "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.'
    What this poster won't tell you is that the Bush Administration would not make the loan because Solyndra had an unworkable business model. The Obama Administation didn't care.
    Wrong again.
    January 2009: In an effort to show it has done something to support renewable energy, the Bush Administration tries to take Solyndra before a DOE credit review committee before President Obama is inaugurated. The committee, consisting of career civil servants with financial expertise, remands the loan back to DOE “without prejudice” because it wasn’t ready for conditional commitment.
    March 2009: The same credit committee approves the strengthened loan application. The deal passes on to DOE’s credit review board. Career staff (not political appointees) within the DOE issue a conditional commitment setting out terms for a guarantee.
    Bush Administration tried to conditionally approve the loan right before Obama took office. Rather than “pushing funds out the door too quickly,” the Obama Administration restructured the original loan when it came into office to further protect the taxpayers’ investment.

    May 31, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  20. Dave

    Funny, but all we hear from this clown are attacks and lies. So he shows up at Solyndra. Big deal. What we don't hear are Mitt's plans other than the same tired, old Republican garbage that got us into this mess to begin with. What will he do? He thinks he's so smart, yet he can't seem to articulate anything other than the usual Republican attack lines.

    May 31, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  21. Critical Thinking

    Thats what happens when you have a record, so unlike what Obama had in 2008. It was all so easy back then, armed with no experience and no idea of how to run a business, the task of making something successful was so easy on paper. Now reality hits, and now the fingers start pointing in every direction from this adminstration. But someone should remind the president that when you point a finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you.

    May 31, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  22. Morgan Hill, Ca

    The out of touch wanna be president, romney is out spreading lies again. He doesn't want Americans to know how many people he put out of a job when Bain took over those companies. He raided and ran with their profits and left the employees penniless. This is the heartless wanna be president, DOWN WITH ROMNEY
    OBAMA/BIDEN 2012

    May 31, 2012 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  23. brian

    Yes Solyndra failed, but this technology is working and needs to implemented for our energy needs. How come people who love to tout about how much this loan cost taxpayers, never mention the Billions every single year that oil companies get from taxpayers? That happens every year. Solyndra was an attempt to stimulate growth that failed in a really crappy economy. Oil companies have been profiting billions, all from us.

    May 31, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  24. PAW

    If you are going to commit the lowest, most vile political act ever, you certainly do have to keep it secret. Romney just does what his handlers tell him to, and we all know that the handlers stop at nothing. I'm looking for a leader, not a follower.

    May 31, 2012 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  25. Patriot Awesome

    I pleased to see so many Republicans posting on this board in favor of ending oil subsidies. I mean if you're against the government picking winners and losers in the energy industry then you must also be for ending oil subsidies. You're not hypocrites, right?

    May 31, 2012 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
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