Seeking to Muddy Waters on Layoffs, Conservative Group Unleashing $6 Million Ad Campaign Against President Obama* and Solyndra

Jan 13, 2012 5:13pm

Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group that promotes lower taxes and fewer regulations for businesses, is unleashing a $6 million ad campaign against President Obama leading up to the State of the Union on January 24, ABC News has learned.

The ad contains claims that are not tethered to facts. It seeks to capitalize on one of the more uncomfortable spectacles of the Obama administration – a major loan that went through, to a company tied to financial supporters of the president, despite repeated warnings that it was not a good use of taxpayer dollars.

The campaign will be the first multimillion-dollar TV ad buy of 2012 attacking President Obama, in what will no doubt prove a long year full of nasty political attacks.

The campaign will focus $5 million in TV ads that will start running Monday afternoon on network and cable outlets in battleground states Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. The group thought about running the ads in Florida, but decided against it since the Sunshine State’s airwaves are saturated with ads about the January 31 GOP primary. An additional $1 million-plus will buy ads on social media websites.

This ad picks up where AFP’s last ad left off. Last Fall the group launched a $2.4 million ad campaign against President Obama also focusing on the Solyndra controversy.

The 60-second TV ad seems an attempt to muddy the waters amidst the charges against GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney and his tenure at Bain Capital, a firm that engaged in leveraged buyouts of companies that sometimes cost American workers their jobs, a fact that Romney’s opponents both Democrat and Republican are pouncing upon. In the new AFP ad, the president is depicted as backing $535 million in loan guarantees to Solyndra because campaign contributors ran the company.

“We wanted to roll this out before the State of the Union,” AFP president Tim Phillips told ABC News. “We anticipate that the president is going to launch back into this class warfare/envy assault that he’s been doing for several months now. We want citizens to know he’s the one taking care of his very-well heeled donors and contributors with taxpayer money. It’s a good counterpoint for folks to know that.”

“We all know about Solyndra,” the ad begins. “The White House emails. The FBI raids.”

The ad depicts the president as giving “Solyndra half a billion in taxpayer money. Politics as usual. Within the administration, the company’s potential collapse had long been discussed. Knowing all along Solyndra would have to fire their workers. But Solyndra held off until after the 2010 elections.”

That White House officials “knew all along” that Solyndra would have to fire their workers isn’t true. The ad is referring to an email released two months ago indicating that an adviser to the company’s main investor, Argonaut Equity, wrote on Oct. 30, 2010, that officials from the Department of Energy “did push very hard for us to hold our announcement” of layoffs “to Nov. 3rd – oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date.”

The 2010 midterm elections were November 2, 2010.

(After this blog was posted on Friday afternoon, another email indicating White House knowledge of pending layoffs was reported, by Bloomberg News. On October 27, 2010, White House adviser Heather Zichal wrote to other White House advisers: “Here’s the deal — Solyndra is going to announce they are laying off 200 of their 1200 workers. No es bueno.”)

The ad says: “1,100 workers had no idea that they would be fired, but the Obama administration knew. All that mattered was the 2010 election – ‘optics,’ not workers.”

While it may be that White House officials wanted the announcement to be made after the November 2010 elections – the only proof of that is that one e-mail, and the White House denies the charge — the layoffs that were announced were not as AFP describes. What is true: the day after the 2010 elections, on November 3, Solyndra announced it would lay end its contracts with more than 100 contractors, lay off 40 employees, and close one of its factories.

It wasn’t until nine months later, in August 2011 that Solyndra filed for bankruptcy protection, laying off 1,100 full-time and part-time workers.

At the time that email was released in November, Energy Department spokesman Damien LaVera told ABC News: “The Republican report cites internal email from Argonaut about the timing of a press release. But as the 180,000 pages of documents that the Department of Energy turned over to the Committee indicate, the Department’s decisions about this loan were made on the merits, based on extensive review by the experts in the loan program — and nothing in this Republican Committee memo changes that.”

“It’s not about people, it’s politics,” continues the ad, describing the Solyndra workers as feeling “betrayed,” with 90% of them remaining unemployed.

The ad features George Stephanopoulos asking President Obama in an October 2011 ABC News/Yahoo interview  if he regretted holding up Solyndra as a model for jobs and clean energy.

In the ad, the president replies, “No I don’t…overall it’s doing well.”

The full quote is: “No, I don’t, because if you look at the overall portfolio of loan guarantees that have been provided– overall, it’s doing well.”

“Tell President Obama American workers aren’t pawns in your political games,” the ad concludes.

You can watch the video here:

 

Americans for Prosperity is partially funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, who have spent millions of dollars in recent years to advocate for politicians who share their conservative views. In 2010, the Obama team and Democrats tried to make a campaign issue about the Koch brothers and independent groups that don’t have to disclose their donors, to little avail.

That year we interviewed Phillips and asked him why he wouldn’t disclose his donor lists.  “When you have the President of the United States attacking your organization, which he’s doing, it’s fair game, but if he attacks individual Americans, then that’s wrong,” he told us. “And if we disclose our financial supporters, that’s exactly what would happen.”

In June 2011, Charles Koch referred to the 2012 elections this way:  “We have Saddam Hussein, this is the Mother of All Wars we’ve got in the next 18 months.”

-Jake Tapper

*This post has been updated with the information about the October 27, 2010 Zichal email.

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