New AFP ad: You want to talk about layoffs? Let's talk about Solyndra, then

Via Jake Tapper, who notes that this is conveniently timed to complicate any opportunistic Democratic messaging on Romney’s Bain record and that the spot is not, shall we say, strictly accurate in all its particulars. The Obama quote at the end, for instance, is truncated to make it sound like he’s talking about Solyndra specifically rather than Energy’s green-loans program generally.

Not sure about these objections, though:

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 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.

In other words, there were two rounds of layoffs — one, involving a small number of workers, right after the midterm election and then a purge of the entire workforce last August once the company finally went bust. The ad slyly conflates the two by hinting that the White House knew all along that second, massive round of layoffs was coming when really it only knew about the first. And even in that case, the only evidence we have that they knew is an e-mail from a Solyndra investor claiming that they did.

Or at least, that was the only evidence until today. New from Bloomberg:

The Obama administration knew before the 2010 election that Solyndra LLC, a solar-panel maker that received a $535 million U.S. loan guarantee, planned to fire workers, according to e-mails released today.

The messages don’t indicate that anyone from the White House directed Solyndra to delay announcing the layoffs until after the vote. Previously released e-mails, indicating the Energy Department urged Solyndra to postpone the cuts, have been cited by House Republicans who say politics influenced Solyndra’s award and last-ditch rescue bid that put taxpayers behind $75 million in private investment.

“Here’s the deal — Solyndra is going to announce they are laying off 200 of their 1200 workers,” Heather Zichal, a White House adviser, wrote to Carol Browner, then director of the office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, and other officials on Oct. 27, 2010. “No es bueno.”

That’s the first evidence that I’m aware of corroborating the bombshell claim from November that anyone inside the administration knew the layoffs were coming. It doesn’t prove that the White House, let alone the Energy Department, actually pressured Solyndra to hold off on the layoffs until after the election, but the White House had a much more obvious interest in preventing a Republican takeover of the House than some federal agency did. Can’t wait to see what the next Friday afternoon document dump brings!

As for the claim that the White House knew “all along Solyndra would have to fire their workers,” it’d be more accurate to say that they should have known much, much earlier, certainly long before they threw millions more into this sinkhole as part of a restructuring to try to keep it afloat. Remember, PricewaterhouseCoopers was ringing alarm bells about Solyndra’s viability in early 2010, months before Obama went out to the plant for his big green-jobs photo op. Months before that, one of Solyndra’s own investors was wondering why the federal government would throw more than half a billion dollars at a risky solar venture that wasn’t even pulling in revenues of $100 million a year. And months before that, OMB employees were complaining that the White House was rushing them to hurry up and approve the loan so that Obama could go get his picture taken already. So no, they didn’t necessarily “know” that Solyndra’s workers would all end up being laid off. They simply didn’t think much about it at all because they were too keen on impressing the left with their astounding generosity towards green companies, especially green companies whose big investors included top Obama bundlers. Much better, no? The pushback here from the White House, I take it, will be that not every investment succeeds and that they shouldn’t be judged solely by the turkeys on their balance sheet. To which Mitt Romney, alleged cold-hearted layoff specialist, replies: Exactly.

A $6 million ad buy for this, by the way. Coming soon to a swing-state TV market near you.

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