Candidate Romney vs. Gov. Romney, redux

Mitt Romney had an op-ed in the Orange County Register this week, hoping to score some cheap points off the Solyndra story.

[T]he U.S. government shouldn’t be playing venture capitalist. It’s not merely that government bureaucrats are bad at picking winners. The very process invites cronyism and outright corruption.

And once again, there’s Romney’s record in public office, always ready to bite him in the butt.

…Romney is a private-sector venture capitalist by vocation, and during his tenure as Massachusetts Governor he set up a program almost exactly like the ones he’s now denouncing.

In 2003, Romney launched the Massachusetts Green Energy Fund, a $15 million project aimed at providing “an opportunity to capitalize on two emerging trends: the growing level of investment interest in clean energy and the importance of Massachusetts’ academic and corporate R&D in forming clean energy technology companies,” according to its website.

At the time, Romney called the fund a “springboard for the commonwealth by focusing on job creation in the renewable energy sector.”

When the Obama administration made the exact same kinds of investments in the exact same industry, some of the companies did well and some didn’t. It’s just the nature of the risk.

And when Romney’s gubernatorial administration did the same thing — “playing venture capitalist” and “picking winners” — several of the companies that received taxpayer investments failed.

The fuel cell company CTP Hydrogen, for example, closed its doors in 2008 and laid off most of its 10-person staff. Protonex Technology Corporation recently delisted from the London Stock Exchange, laying off a third of its employees and shuttering its Colorado location. And Konarka Technologies, Inc., is staying afloat but its slow progress and growth have prompted questions about its viability.

For Konarka, which received $9 million in grants and $1.5 million in loans from the state in 2003, the only products on the market so far are a solar bag and solar umbrella. The company intends to eventually produce solar power-generated material that would be used in roofs or walls.

If Romney sees Solyndra as an example of what not to do, shouldn’t he have some explanation for having made the identical errors during his only experience in public office?