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. medianone

    Interesting how never mentioned is Solyndra applied for the Loan Guarantee under the 1703 program in December of 2006, and in January of 2009 the Bush Administration "in an effort to show it has done something to support renewable energy" tried to get the Solyndra loan approved BEFORE President Obama was inaugurated but failed because the loan "wasn't ready for conditional commitment".

    May 31, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  2. Aaron

    Axelrod's coments are disgraceful. In fact, loading up Solyndra with Debt and fronting taxpayers the bill is again exactly what this President did!

    May 31, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  3. Bob

    "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."

    You're exactly right, free enterprise means use your own money and if you fail you fail. And Obama and the WH used YOUR money and failed with it. Just as the article says, how will private investment increase if private investors are competing against the government and tax dollars. It makes no sense. Hold Obama accountable.

    May 31, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  4. Charlie from the North

    Bin Laden is dead, GM is alive. Obama 2
    GOP/Tea Party 0

    May 31, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  5. Rick in OP

    Nice move, stick it in Obama's face.
    I suggest his next stop should be MF Global. Maybe he can find the $1.6 billion that Corzine, Obama's big bundler seems to have "misplaced".

    May 31, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  6. Name

    Romney sucks but Obama sucks at least as much if not more.. This is proven by his extreme wasteful spending.. Look at acorn solyndra and who knows how many other projects were a complete waste.. Look at Obama and his Freddie Mac connections one of whom was a major influence to Obama's economic policies.. Why would he trust someone from a complete failed operation like Freddie and Fannie? Where is the "change" and "hope" he promised? Same old BS.. Same thing would happen if Romney was elected.. But at least he would reduce spending instead of spending tax payer $$ on non sustainable jobs an businesses which has put us into an even deeper hole with less money to work with.. I hate republicans and democrats.. But I find it funny that last vote we put republicans in the senate and house b/c we as a country wanted to stop the wasteful spending.. Then after the media and people ask for it and get it they blame the republicans for not bending.. But that is why we put them in office to no bend to the democrats wasteful spending and finding ways to reduce spending... How come we don't hear about why the democrats won't bend either? The way I see it is you have to be a complete IDIOT to be partial to one party since both suck and both won't work together.. Arguably the most bipartisan member of congress McCain was booed for Obama who ran largely by claiming to be bipartisan. Kind of funny.. Hope change and bipartisan... What a joke.. In my eyes we have nothing to lose with Romney.. Whereas Obama will just keep spending and spending.. Sad thing is I Hate them both equally.

    May 31, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  7. jubilirao

    President OBAMA is the president now and creating jobs and keeping the economy going under and ROMNEY says he can do a better job of creating jobs. How can we we believe him as a republican as what we experienced under Bush after trusting him. Romney's record as Governor is nothing to brag about except he dared to do one positive on Statewide universal healthcare. At least we should use our commonsense this time in the elections.

    May 31, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "And, we know that most of these Gender-Specific Abortions are done on GIRL babies. Talk about the REAL War on "
    Women! There it is!"

    Amazing how you can "know' something that is refuted by the data.

    May 31, 2012 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  9. Doc_Hollywood

    What's new? So the government loaned money to a company that was trying to get off the ground using a new technology. Did everyone cry when they did that with the auto industry in it's infancy? Or the oil companies? Or nuclear energy? How about the ethanol industry? Internet come to mind? Most all new technologies were established by companies that used government support/loans/subsidies. Some fail. It's quite different than raiding a company, cutting it up for a profit and tossing hard working people out on their asses.

    May 31, 2012 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  10. Rick

    Suspect Romney wants to see if they have any money he can steal. No other reason for the visit.

    May 31, 2012 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  11. mm

    This seals it – First the birther trash coming out of camp Romney earlier in the week, now Solyndra – he has absolutely nothing and is just going to blow smoke & mirrors now until Nov. 4. Did he say anything about George Bush approving the Solyndra loan while there today – probably no. Did he say anything about China flooding the market with solar panels – probably no. Smoke & mirrors, smoke & mirrors....

    May 31, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  12. Little Jimmy Truth

    Obama already killed green energy.

    May 31, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  13. Joe

    You only need to research Bain Capital's success rate to know that it has done more good than anything that Obama has done over the last 3 and a half years of propping up his friends. Bain's record has over a 75% success rate. Some of the most notable companies that it rescued are AMC Entertainment, Aspen Education Group, Brookstone, Burger King, Burlington Coat Factory, Clear Channel Communications, Domino's Pizza, DoubleClick, Dunkin' Donuts, D&M Holdings, Guitar Center, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), Sealy, The Sports Authority, Staples, Toys "R" Us, Warner Music Group and The Weather Channel.

    May 31, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  14. M

    Every year, we give billions in subsidies to big oil companys who make $40 billion annual profits and don't pay any federal tax. We need diversification in energy use.

    May 31, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  15. ghostriter

    So, in republican eyes, a loan guarantee is giving money away and if it goes to someone who happened to donate to a politicians campaign that then is crony capitalism.

    Fair enough. No one who has donated to a campaign is allowed to do business of any kind with the individual directly or indirectly. This seems to be a great way to handle the situation. Anyone wanna guess why this will never be brought up? Well, it will be brought up right after congress votes on term limits and getting rid of it's ability to get automatic raises unless voted down.

    May 31, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  16. Richard

    This guy is going to go down in history as the biggest liar ever in politics. When he speaks about anyone other than himself, every word out of his mouth is a lie. It makes one wonder, what kind of cult makes a guy a bishop, who spews lies all day long. Wait until September/October timeframe, I'll bet we see all those gingrich, santorum, paul ads speaking about the kind of guy romney really is. Can you imagine a man standing before millions of people on tv and saying his first name is Mitt, he smphasized he wasn't lying. Then he just released his drivers license id, and guess what is listed as his first name. You guessed it, it is Willard. I guess he did not want to be associated with Rats. I'd venture to bet if they could talk, they wouldn't want to be associated with him.

    May 31, 2012 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  17. mms55

    it won't work ,romney has failed.i would rather have a president who was investing in renewable energy than one who continues corperate welfare so they can continue the use of fossil fuels.they keep talking about debt were leaving or kids but i never hear about the mess their creating for our children who will run out of energy and probably have to go too war over or clean up the pollution from unregulated industries.

    May 31, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  18. Silent Majority

    Solyndra may have failed, but it was a worthwhile attempt to compete with Chinese solar panel production. Solar energy is one segment of future energy production, and the Chinese are leaving us in the dust. The biggest mistake would be to ignore development of this worthy enterprise simply because one company failed.

    May 31, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  19. Arch

    how sad it must be for romney, reduced to cheap political stunts to bamboozle the low-information dead-enders of the republican party. bravo to you, mittens: proud leader of the Very Silly party.

    May 31, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  20. James, AL

    Romnet please go somewhere and get a clue. The government has been subsidizing certain businesses for many years now and all of them do not succeed. So for Romney to come out like this is something new and a payback to an Obama supporter is laughable, especially when you know that the president had nothing to do with who was awarded the funds.

    May 31, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  21. yolanda

    @Charlie from the North
    Let me guess.
    1. You never served in the military.
    2. You are a union member.
    Follow the rest of the lemmings off of the cliff, but not until you have finished your Kool-Aid.

    May 31, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  22. Bill

    Charlie, how many times will the taxpayer have to save GM? This is the first time we bailed them out but not the first time GM was in trouble due to bad planning and not looking at the future. By your account Obama will have 0 when he losed twice in the SC this summer and Solyndra makes him -1

    May 31, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  23. Billy

    ...Sombody just mentioned GM... as if that was a very successful endeavor, well, well, well (deep subject), GM and Chrysler are still over 23 billion in the whole, which means, WE are over 23 billion in the whole because those people got their jobs thanks to you and me. Why didn't Obama come and help the businesses that were about to fail around my state? Aren't we Americans also? ...well, we're not unions. When I hear ignorant people claim that GM is such as success, all I have to ask is where are the 23 billion dollars they still owe us? Tens of thousands lost their jobs for GM and Chrysler, those lucky ones who stayed got their deal because the government screw the investors (people like you and me) over big time!!! You think that is fair? if you do, then F U.

    May 31, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  24. Tony

    Romney's campaign is going to be a bigger waste of money than Solyndra. Even though Governor Walker leads his Democratic opponent in the Marquette University poll, the same poll has Romney trailing Obama by 8 points in Wisconsin.

    May 31, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  25. Jowl

    I understand the need for secrecy, obamas campaign does send out 'activists' to disrupt things they want to 'control the narrative on'

    May 31, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
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