Is Konarka Mitt Romney’s Solyndra?

Another government-backed U.S. solar power company is in bankruptcy. More trouble for the Obama administration and fodder for the Romney campaign? Actually, it might be the other way around.

Konarka Technologies filed for bankruptcy last week, about the same time presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney stood in front of the shuttered Solyndra plant in California, denouncing the Obama administration for its support for the failed solar manufacturer.

Mitt Romney, Solyndra, Konarka

image via Romney for President

The irony, according to the Boston Herald, is that Konarka itself had received public assistance from Massachusetts during Mitt Romney’s tenure as governor.

“The demise of Konarka could become a hot topic on the campaign trail because Romney personally doled out a $1.5 million renewable energy subsidy to the Lowell startup in 2003, shortly after taking office on Beacon Hill,” the Herald reported.

The funding in question was actually in motion before Romney took office, according to the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust. But indeed, it was Romney himself who delivered a check from the state to Konarka in January 2003. And, remarkably, Konarka wasn’t the only doomed solar company to benefit from the largesse of the commonwealth that day: according to Politico, Evergreen Solar also “won $2.5 million for a major expansion and to cover operating losses as it tried to become profitable.”

Evergreen would go on to file for bankruptcy in August 2011, just a few weeks before the end came for Solyndra, whose half-billion-dollar federal loan guarantee and subsequent bankruptcy quickly became a cornerstone of Republican attacks against President Barack Obama’s economic and energy policies.

The GOP has been saying the government’s role in developing new technologies should be limited to supporting basic research and calling the administration’s backing of individual companies a misguided attempt at “picking winners.” It’s an argument that could run into trouble given Romney’s approach as governor, which apparently extended beyond Konarka and Evergreen.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UJSPITWHHRT4NRMA3LGLMUQHTA Delaware Jack

    Pete Danko = Obama panty sniffer ….. LMAO !

    • http://twitter.com/hutami12 hutami

      Delaware Jack = Romney panty sniffer ….. LMAO !

  • Bill Tse

    this is a terrible stretch and forcing a connection like this will only serve to dry up any funds for cleantech companies. take the political blinders off, solyndra wasn’t just about using tax dollars to fund a company, it was about blindly baking the wrong company because of the political connections. Konarka got 1.5m in tax credits 10 yrs ago, then raised another $185m in private equity.  Solyndra got a half a billion in tax dollars, despite warnings about the viability of the technology. 

    • Pete

      Bill,
      I think a lot of people are just trying to figure out what Romney believes when he says green energy companies shouldn’t get assistance from the government.Pete