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. Joseph Smith

    Amercia, Amercia, God shed his grace on thee...

    May 31, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  2. Joseph Smith

    If you don't have a plan...DIVERT attention. Only in Amercia!

    May 31, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  3. James

    From every report of people that know Romney–neighbor, business associate, church member, investigative reporter, etc.–these people say he's honest, concerned for others, and keeps his word. The Solyndra debacle is a good example of the cronyism and hypocrisy of Obama. We need to stop this business of taking taxpayer money and giving it to friends!

    May 31, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  4. Four and The Door

    The CEO's of Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin had a combined income of $78 million in 2011. We all know what these masters of industry produce...
    Peace through strength. American national strength. Don't pretend your ability to post on this site is not a result of that.

    May 31, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  5. Joey

    80% of businesses that Bain sought to help were successful. What percentage of businesses have failed because of this administration?

    May 31, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  6. Roadrunner2

    energy is a clearly a defense issue, the main obligation of the fed gov. Just as in private enterprise , people in the governmenmt make deciisions to back certain investments based on the best info they have. Romney admitted Bain's investments were not always successful either.

    May 31, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Mitt Romney has this narrative about his "economic record". He points to 80% of investments at Bain turned a profit. Good for him. There are many fools who believe that means 80% of the time he created jobs, while ignoring the facts of what he says. He turned a profite 80% of the time, not he created jobs. He has even stopped using the word "jobs" when speaking about himself, which in itself is quite rare.

    May 31, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  8. Rachel

    That's too funny. Just go right to the building and stand in front of it and give a speech. Way to point out Obama's biggest failure! LOL

    May 31, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  9. Jason

    Willard plundered the pension funds of the workers to make his millions. The victims of willards vulture capitalism and pirate equity were not even able to send their kids to their designated schools so that Robmey sould build elevators for his cars. Robmey is the fabled white horse of the mormon church and a trojan horse for the christians. Hoover was a busniness man waho gave us the republican depression of the 30's Bush was anopther businessman that gave us the current Bush depression. Bush had a track record of bankrupting companies and Willard has a track record of plundering companies. Willard will make the Cheney admin look like angels in comparison.

    May 31, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  10. Woman In California

    @ ThinkAgain

    Yes, I know they are using this as a way to scare people and label our president as a mobster, gangster and hoodlum but I still have faith in the American people to see through this and understand what Willard is doing here. Willard has a history of abusive, nasty behavior and has used his status, power and money to step on American people his entire life and most people don't like that. However, I do believe the republicans dug their own graves when they nominated this fool. Willard is still not getting the national scrutiny he should about his plans for this country and his background. All we have to do is hold out until the debates start and the republicans will once again regret their actions and their lack of sending yet another clown to try and "take back" their country.

    May 31, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  11. Are you kidding me?

    This so-called presidential candidate disgusts me. If he is such a businessman how should know full well that not all business ventures work. His business dealings at Bain are a pure example.

    What he also would NEVER admit was the this solar company was a victim of Chinese currency fixing that made the imported panels much cheaper.

    I am republican and I am not blinded by such stupid and petty antics. If he was a good candidate he would stand in front of our automobile headquarter and admit he was wrong about the bailouts.

    May 31, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  12. OnetermBama

    Yeah it's only fair to go after Obama's own record as POTUS.

    Good Job!

    May 31, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  13. Are you kidding me?

    I want him to take his covert campaign to the headquarters of the American automakers and say yhat he was right that they should not be bailed out. Oh wait there are people still working there.

    May 31, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  14. drod

    Fact – The program was started under President George W. Bush.

    May 31, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  15. Jason

    "From every report of people that know Romney–neighbor, business associate, church member, investigative reporter, etc.–these people say he's honest, concerned for others, and keeps his word."

    Similar group of people also used to have similar beliefs about Charles manson.
    honest...I like to fire people
    concerned for others--sure robbed workers pensions so he could build elevators for his cars.

    May 31, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  16. Joey

    It's about the economy and jobs. The president has proven he fails at helping both....he only helps his donor friends with money for companies that fold. Where did all that Solyndra money go? The pockets of his friends.

    May 31, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  17. drod

    If you’re new to the Solyndra story, start with our fact-check of the Americans for Prosperity ad. The ad says that President Barack Obama gave "half a billion in taxpayer money to help his friends at Solyndra, a business the White House knew was on the path to bankruptcy." We rated that Mostly False. Part of what the ad says is correct, but the charges of political cronyism aren’t supported by the existing evidence.

    May 31, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  18. kwb

    Mittens was bemoaning a lost opportunity. If the company was going to go bankrupt, they could have at least let Bain know first so Bain could buy them and make $40 million in one month before they fired everybody. That's how Kapitalism works in Romneyville.

    May 31, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  19. Harry

    Should we then give it to his friends at exxon, on wall street. Free enterprise means, use your own money and if you fail you fail. That is not what is going on in this country. Record profits should mean no tax payer hand outs. The right wants to start drug testing for welfare recipients, start at Goldman Sachs.

    May 31, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  20. drod

    Romney is a Unicorn.

    May 31, 2012 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  21. drod

    Romney is so poor he can't afford a spellchecker.

    May 31, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  22. Debby

    Well that was alot of money down the drain. Romney makes a good point.

    May 31, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  23. Yawn

    One company failed, therefore all solar and 'green jobs' are invalid. That is logical(sarcasm). Yet there continue to be other solar manufacturers in the United States that have not failed. One reason they are not failing is because they just introduced a 30% tariff on cheap Chinese panels that were flooding the market, because the Chinese are producing these panels below the cost of manufacturing, as they are heavily subsidized.

    Solyndra went under, in part, because of these cheap Chinese solar panels. By Mitt Romneys logic, we shouldn't have provided $381 million in government funding to help construct the Dragon Capsule, or the $1.6 Billion contract from NASA to deliver astronauts to the space station.

    But I guess the government should never spend money to promote a new industry, *cough cough* shale gas....
    How many BLM areas where transferred to gas/oil companies at below market rates?

    May 31, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  24. Bob

    This is about Obama and the failed Solyndra investment, yet everyone on here talks about Romney this and Romney that. Fact of the matter is, 500M of YOUR tax dollars were wasted, and you still won't hold Obama accountable. He apparently can do no wrong!

    May 31, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  25. beegee

    If a compant fails under the Flipster, it's part of capitalism but under Obama it's cronyism! Go figure!

    May 31, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
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