On May 31, Mitt Romney went to the site of the Solyndra Plant in California for the express purpose of using the failed green-energy development company as the background to lie about the Obama administration:
ROMNEY: “An independent inspector general looked at this investment (Solyndra) and concluded that the administration had steered money to friends and family—to campaign contributors.”
Accusing the president and his administration of corruption was a vicious lie. It is not true that an inspector general said anything of the sort.
Later, when pressed to cite the source for this lie, the Romney campaign was quoting a Newsweek article by Peter Schweizer, but this citation is fatally flawed. First, the piece in Newsweek was not a article, it was an excerpt from the book “Throw Them All Out,” a Coulteresque right-wing propaganda screed by Schweizer, a former foreign policy adviser for Sarah Palin (!) and speech-writing consultant for the George W. Bush administration, who is currently a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution.
Romney’s lie about the Solyndra investigation has been disproved and disputed by every media source that bothered to look into it. However, at least in part because this fact checking has been censored by right-wing media, the Romney turned the lie into a television ad which it is running in swing states with impunity. Here is the transcript for the false ad:
Announcer: President Obama is spending your tax dollars to create jobs. How’s he doing? You’ve heard of Solyndra. They took $535 million in taxpayer loan guarantees and went bankrupt. But that’s not even half the story. Obama’s Department of Energy has handed out billions of dollars in loans and grants. First Solar: Three billion dollars in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees. Now they’re cutting jobs and their stock is near all-time lows. ECOtality: Received $126 million in taxpayer money. Lost $45 million, and currently under investigation. SunPower: More than a billion dollars in loan guarantees. Lost half a billion last year. Laying off workers. More than $16 billion have gone to companies like Solyndra that are linked to big Obama and Democrat donors. The inspector general said contracts were steered to “friends and family.” Obama is giving taxpayer money to big donors. And then watching them lose it. Good for them. Bad for us.
Maddow has devoted several segments to this audacious lie. Here is some of the other fact-checking:
- Associated Press:
THE FACTS: There is no proof—and it appears unlikely—that Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman was talking about Solyndra when he testified in March 2011 about stimulus contracts. Friedman said his office was investigating whether such contracts were steered to friends and family, presumably of government officials in charge of spending stimulus money. Romney cited a Newsweek article that referred to Friedman’s testimony.
But Friedman did not say that such claims had been proved, and there is no evidence he was including Solyndra in his comments. The testimony came nearly six months before the company declared bankruptcy. And there is no evidence that family members of top federal officials received any favors. Friedman’s office is among several federal agencies that are investigating Solyndra.
- Fortune Magazine:
Small problem: No inspector general ever “concluded” such a thing, at least not based on any written reports or public statements…
In response to my inquiry, a Romney spokeswoman forwarded me a link to a Newsweek piece that mischaracterized Friedman’s “friends and family” line (albeit without linking it specifically to Solyndra). She also noted that Obama supporter George Kaiser was the “single largest investor” in Solyndra, even though it actually was the private equity arm of a nonprofit, anti-poverty foundation founded by Kaiser.
When I wrote back for further clarification – or perhaps a retraction – the Romney spokeswoman went radio silent.
It’s one thing to spin something to one’s advantage. It’s another to simply make things up to make the other guy look bad. Romney’s Solyndra speech was an example of the latter. Disgraceful.
- Jake Tapper at ABC News:
The charge is simply false.
An ad from the Romney campaign strains facts to make its point that federal grants and loans to green-energy companies were improperly steered to Obama’s political backers, and that federal money was wasted on failing companies that are now laying off employees.
- • It claims the “inspector general said contracts were steered to ‘friends and family.’ ” But that’s not exactly what the inspector general said. And in the year since he said he was investigating such alleged “schemes,” no public charges have been made, at least not yet.
- • The ad highlights the struggles — company losses, nose-diving stock and layoffs — at several companies that received substantial Department of Energy loans and grants. The ad fails to note, however, that most of the layoffs at those companies were overseas, or that the projects backed by DOE are largely moving along as planned. An independent review of the DOE program says its failure rate has been better than anticipated.
- • The ad uses an inflated figure from a partisan source to quantify loans and grants that went to Obama donors.
Not so long ago, it was a big deal among media types when a politician accused his opponent of corruption — and an even bigger deal when the politician who made the charge was revealed to be a liar.
Stories like that used to be front-page news, lead stories on network and cable news. Now, however, falsely accusing your opponent of corruption barely warrants mentioning.