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President Obama and his campaign leadership have been consistently focusing their attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital, a firm with some dealings in private equity. This should come as no great surprise given that Romney has made his private sector experience the centerpiece of his campaign.
Despite the media's continued effort to insulate the president and shield his record, and despite the spin emanating from the DNC, Obama’s adventures in public equity using taxpayer dollars will not remain an obscure non-issue.
The president’s public equity record is fair game, and American Crossroads just released a devastating ad highlighting his disastrous “investment” achievements while playing fast and loose with the American people’s money:
If the president’s record in public equity investing was as successful as Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, a lot fewer people would be unemployed. President Obama would be wise to re-think his laser-like attacks on private capitalistic ventures and capitalism in general. This, however, is unlikely since the president is quoted as saying, “This is not a distraction, this is what this campaign's going to be about."
Bring it on.
Since taking office, Obama has invested billions of taxpayer dollars in private businesses, including as part of his stimulus spending bill. Many of those investments have turned out to be unmitigated disasters — leaving in their wake bankruptcies, layoffs, criminal investigations and taxpayers on the hook for billions.
Comparing Track Records: Mitt Romney's Private Equity vs Barack Obama's Public Equity
One could just utter the world Solyndra here, and all would be made clear. However, that is just the beginning. Here are some other notable public equity failings of the administration:
* Raser Technologies. In 2010, the Obama administration gave Raser a $33 million taxpayer-funded grant to build a power plant in Beaver Creek, Utah. According to the Wall Street Journal, after burning through our tax dollars, the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012. The plant now has fewer than 10 employees, and Raser owes $1.5 million in back taxes.
* ECOtality. The Obama administration gave ECOtality $126.2 million in taxpayer money in 2009 for, among other things, the installation of 14,000 electric car chargers in five states. Obama even hosted the company’s president, Don Karner, in the first lady’s box during the 2010 State of the Union address as an example of a stimulus success story. According to ECOtality’s own SEC filings, the company has since incurred more than $45 million in losses and has told the federal government, “We may not achieve or sustain profitability on a quarterly or annual basis in the future.” Worse, according to CBS News the company is “under investigation for insider trading,” and Karner has been subpoenaed “for any and all documentation surrounding the public announcement of the first Department of Energy grant to the company.”
* Nevada Geothermal Power (NGP). The Obama administration gave NGP a $98.5 million taxpayer loan guarantee in 2010. The New York Times reported last October that the company is in “financial turmoil” and that “[a]fter a series of technical missteps that are draining Nevada Geothermal’s cash reserves, its own auditor concluded in a filing released last week that there was ‘significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.’ ”
* First Solar. The Obama administration provided First Solar with more than $3 billion in loan guarantees for power plants in Arizona and California. According to a Bloomberg Businessweek report last week, the company “fell to a record low in Nasdaq Stock Market trading May 4 after reporting $401 million in restructuring costs tied to firing 30 percent of its workforce.”
* Abound Solar, Inc. The Obama administration gave Abound Solar a $400 million loan guarantee to build photovoltaic panel factories. According to Forbes, in February the company halted production and laid off 180 employees.
* Beacon Power. The Obama administration gave Beacon — a green-energy storage company — a $43 million loan guarantee. According to CBS News, at the time of the loan, “Standard and Poor’s had confidentially given the project a dismal outlook of ‘CCC-plus.’ ” In the fall of 2011, Beacon received a delisting notice from Nasdaq and filed for bankruptcy.
It gets worse:
A company called SunPower got a $1.2 billion loan guarantee from the Obama administration, and as of January, the company owed more than it was worth. Brightsource got a $1.6 billion loan guarantee and posted a string of net losses totaling $177 million. And, of course, let’s not forget Solyndra — the solar panel manufacturer that received $535 million in taxpayer-funded loan guarantees and went bankrupt, leaving taxpayers on the hook.