Mitt Romney and his allies invested quite a bit of energy last week attacking Solyndra and Solyndra-related investments, which they see as inherently wasteful. As the Romney campaign put it, President Obama “has given billions of taxpayer dollars to companies that later failed,” which is scandalous because the White House has tried to pick “winners and losers,” rather than letting the free market function on its own.
At a policy level, the attacks are kind of silly. Both parties have made an effort to support America’s burgeoning clean-energy sector, and Solyndra is an example of a company that got federal loan guarantees – from Bush and Obama – that didn’t work out. Some companies thrived after receiving federal assistance; some didn’t. It happens.
As Michael Grunwald put it, “That’s capitalism. That’s lending. That’s life. As one Obama aide told me: Some students who get Pell grants are going to end up drunks on the street.” It’s not as if those failures discredit the entire Pell grant program
But Romney’s not just wrong on the substance; he’s also remarkably hypocritical. Soon after the Republican hosted a campaign stunt outside a Solyndra office, we learned that a Massachusetts solar panel company that received a state grant while Romney was governor also filed for bankruptcy.
Romney personally awarded a $1.5 million renewable energy subsidy to Konarka Technologies, based in Lowell, a short time after he took office in 2003, the paper reported.
That company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and laid off 85 workers.
At the time, Romney called for more grants to the renewable energy sector, saying such investments shouldn’t be left to free enterprise alone. Indeed, Romney loved picking winners and losers with public funds – even when it meant loan guarantees to firms that supported his campaign.
Making this just a little more entertaining, there’s also Evergreen Solar, which received millions from the Romney administration before filing for bankruptcy – and ending up as anti-Obama data point in an attack ad from Karl Rove’s smear operation.
The point isn’t that all, of even some, of Romney’s loan guarantees are problematic, but rather, the point is this guy has a lot of nerve making Solyndra’s bankruptcy one of the centerpieces of his campaign. Look for more on this on tonight’s show.