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. Marcia Greenwood, IN

    Soy]lyndra failed because we put in a few million and China put in 40 million to drive the US out of the field -we are not investing-China is.Willard only wants to invest in millionaires tax breaks-not bridges, highways, trains or even education

    May 31, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Loan guarantees were made to Solyndra in 2005 under the Energy Policy Act.

    May 31, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  3. Rosslaw

    So going to Solyndra is Mittens idea of a profile in courage? I guess he figured there might be a drone predator with his name on it since the drones are programmed to take out people who want to destroy everything this country does and should stand for.

    May 31, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  4. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Plutocrats should not be running our country. Say, "No" to Mittens.

    May 31, 2012 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  5. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Hey GOP, can you say Energy Policy Act of 2005?

    May 31, 2012 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  6. Governor 47th in Job Growth

    @ mj
    Incorrect. Bush tried to fasttrack it right before leaving office. And one of the largest "cronies" on the project? The Walton family of WalMart fame......a Republican "crony" if you will.
    Can't change history, no doing a Donald and calling facts opinions.

    May 31, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  7. CSM

    This is desperation by the Romney campaign.

    May 31, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  8. apb

    Here's the real news, kiddies : 5 million people now out of the labor force with true unemployment at 11%, 383K people lost their jobs last week, and GDP growth revised down to 1.9%. Romney's merely pointing out Obama's corrupt culture of making taxpayers the victims while his bundlers walk. The amateurs have now been in control for 3 1/2 years and it shows. Sorry to dash your Hopes; time for another Change.

    May 31, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  9. cf

    Solyndra was "wasteful" but the billions upon billions of dollars Romney and his ilk gleefully hand over to the oil industry in exchange for screwing us all over, is okay?

    If Republicans really want to make an issue of Solyndra, tell the full story: the funds allocated to them were agreed upon in 2005, before Obama was even in office. Do you remember who was President in 2005? Hmmmm?

    May 31, 2012 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    ""Who wants to put money in a solar company when a government puts a half a billion into one of its choice?" "

    Really? What a load of malarky. When is Dynamic Steel going to pay the taxpayers back for all the millions in subsidization it received while Mittens was managing it through Bain?

    May 31, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  11. bill

    To: Governor 47th in Job Growth

    You forgot to mention that two weeks before uhbama took office, the Energy Department showed emails that indicate the panel evaluating the loans had made the unanimous decision to shelve Solyndra's application two weeks before Obama took office. You can only blame President Bush for coming up with the idea, not implementing it.

    May 31, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Solyndra. How many times has Mitt Romney said that some investments fail, and some do not? Considering how many companies that the federal government did invest in, and have not gone belly up, this one failure is an aberration. Romney claims his record at Bain was 80% of their investments were profitable, which is worse than this *one* bad investment by the Obama administration.

    May 31, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  13. CaliforniaBC

    And if Obama did something like this it'd be called a cheap political stunt. But of course with republican hypocrisy....everything they do is okay.

    May 31, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  14. bosk567

    Sorry libs, you can't lie any longer and blame Bush. It's time to accept the fact that Obama is pretty much a failure. November should be a pretty easy decision. Vote the succesful capitalist or the failed communist.

    May 31, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  15. KingAZ

    You're all incorrect about the Energy policy Act of 2005. The real source of the funding came from the stimulus bill that the democrat held congress passed in 2008. The program was STARTED by earlier policies but the funding was fast tracked by Obama so he could tout it.

    May 31, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "We knew, if word got out, that Solyndra would do everything in their power, and the Obama administration would do everything in their power, to stop us from having this news conference,"

    That's absolutely disgusting. What a low, dirty, cynical, manipulative accusation to levy. It can't be proven nor disproven. Rather, it simply has absolutely no evidence to support it and therefore should never ever have been said. It's just red meat encouragement for all the paranoid delusional tinfoil hatted conspiracy theorists in the conservative base to continue their nonsensical rantings about Obama wanted to be a socialist dictator. Screw Mittens for that. What a lowbrow, filthy, opporunitistic political move.

    May 31, 2012 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  17. JustAO

    If you wanna make statements about taxpayer money poorly spent, I got two wars and those sacred tax cuts to the job creators. Where are the freakin jobs with all these tax cuts we have in place? Let the oil companies run wild, we don't need any alternative sources researched right, conservatives? I guess sending a man to the moon was too much to handle as well.

    No need to worry fiscal/social conservatives...your arguments will eventually become irrelevant when our kids become old enough to vote. I don't seem them viewing the world as one big flat earth anymore. They seem to be more intune with facts, fairness, and inclusion instead of whatever bigoted/tough talk nonsense most conservatives preach about.

    May 31, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "Crossroads GPS, an independent conservative group. "

    Whose principles meet with Mittens and his campaign behind closed doors and at fundraising events. What a load of nonsense. Insert the word "allegedly" in there or you're just carrying their water, CNN.

    May 31, 2012 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  19. Bill in Jax

    So under Romney there would be no investment in innovation? Innovation is the number one driving economic force in the USA and Romney is campaigning against it? I can't believe this guy is so close to becoming the president. Very scary.

    May 31, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  20. Arun

    Why doesn't this idiot stand outside of businesses he helped close. Mitt stop this crap and tell the people how you plan on reducing the deficit without raising taxes. Oh by the way, why don't you get rid of all the subsidies for your cronies. Why is it always against the things you don't like, namely the working people of the US??

    May 31, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  21. Debra From Georgia

    you just trying to make this up, this is Bush crap, handed over to President Obama, stop your lying,

    May 31, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  22. drod

    Here are the real facts.
    1. The failed Bush-Republican experiment caused the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
    2. Obama has been working on the recovery despite the Obstructionist Republicans.
    3. The Recovery is working.
    4. Obama will be reelected.

    There you have it.

    May 31, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  23. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Obama has turned the country around without a single republican vote, after the amateurs destroyed our economy 2001-2009.

    May 31, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  24. tony

    Mitt would have taken it over the instant they got the 535M and laid off everyone them, while keeping the money to be an even bigger "job-creator" in China

    May 31, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  25. bosk567

    Solyndra was a money laundering scheme for Obama fat cat donors. It's the Chicago way. I'm glad Romney is there to emphasize the difference between successes and failures. Solyndra is just the tip of the iceburg of Obama failures.

    May 31, 2012 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
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