The campaign finds itself on the defensive after Konarka, a Romney-backed solar company, went belly up just a day after the governor sought to exploit the Obama administration’s loan to renewable energy company Solyndra. Konarka has filed for bankruptcy and is ceasing operations, laying off its staff of 85 and liquidating all of its assets.
In an effort to defend Romney’s deal, Gillespie said that the $1.5 million grant Romney gave to Konarka in 2003 was not supported by the governor, and was made by a committee independent of the governor’s control:
GILLESPIE: In Massachusetts, there is a board that does approve these loans. There is a big story about this Konarka, for example, that was in the news today. The fact is, that was approved before Governor Romney even took office. You don’t have control over what this board does.
WALLACE: He signed on to a bunch of these companies, you know that.
GILLESPIE: What I know is that when he was Governor of Massachusetts he said the state should not be investing in private enterprise and he tried to reprogram the money away that into other government spending in Massachusetts.
That’s almost the exact opposite from what actually happened. During an event in January 2003 at the headquarters of Konarka Technologies, Romney called for more grants to the renewable energy sector, and diverted money towards those companies, not away from them. “The trust fund has been growing for years, and I believe now is the time to refocus its assets in such a manner that it can become a major economic springboard for the Commonwealth by focusing on job creation in the renewable energy sector,” he said.
The Massachusetts legislature did create a $160 million trust fund in 1998 to promote “green power” energy projects before Governor Romney took office, as Gillespie suggested. But the fund was ineffective, doling out less than $30 million by the time Romney took office in 2003. Instead, Romney ordered $24 million from the fund to be shifted directly towards investments and loans for renewable energy start-up companies, including Konarka. Of that total, $9 million went to grants for Konarka Technologies and four other clean energy companies in Massachusetts. The other $15 million were diverted into a Green Energy Fund to provide loans and venture capital to companies invested in clean energy production across the state.
Despite his embrace of clean energy as governor, Romney now actively campaigns against job creation in the renewable energy sector and is “ready to concede the clean energy race and future jobs” to China.