Commentary Magazine


Konarka Is Not Romney’s Solyndra

After trying and failing to pin the Solyndra debacle on the Bush administration, the left is trying another dubious spread-the-guilt tactic. Think Progress breathlessly reports that a solar company that Mitt Romney gave a government grant to as governor has just declared bankruptcy:

On Thursday, Mitt Romney campaigned at the headquarters of Solyndra — the first renewable energy company to receive a federal loan under the stimulus — and reiterated his debunked claims that its bankruptcy symbolized the corruption and cronyism of the Obama administration. But just one day later, a solar panel developer “that landed a state loan from Mitt Romney when he was Massachusetts governor” went belly up, the Boston Herald reports, creating an inconvenient storyline for the GOP presidential nominee.

The company, Konarka Technologies, “filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and will cease operations, lay off its 85 workers and liquidate.”

Here’s a rundown of the case: As governor, Romney granted Konkara a $1.5 million state subsidy, about 350 times less than the half-billion dollar loan guarantee the Obama administration gave Solyndra. Konarka declared bankruptcy nearly a decade after Romney’s grant and five years after he left office, while the Obama administration’s investment tanked within two years.

There’s a debate to be had about whether government (either federal, or in Konkara’s case, state) should use taxpayer money to prop up individual companies, and in effect bet against others. But while that’s part of the conservative case against Solyndra, it’s not the main reason why the investment is controversial. The Obama administration’s efforts to rush through the Solyndra loan, despite red flags that the investment was rickety, smacked of crony capitalism — particularly as the largest private Solyndra money man, George Kaiser, is also a key Obama supporter.

Unless evidence surfaces that Romney had his own George Kaiser at Konkara, and that he ignored financial perils to prop up the company, the comparison is moot. The only thing the Konkara comparison shows is that the Obama campaign is petrified of the Solyndra issue, and desperate for ways to redirect attention.