‘McConnell’s Solyndra’: Tea Party Attacks Mitch For Clean Energy Loan Bid

A conservative group pushing to oust Mitch McConnell is bashing the Senate Republican leader over his past support for federally-backed clean energy loans in Kentucky.

“Mitch McConnell’s Solyndra Double-Standard,” blared the latest attack from FreedomWorks, which is supporting McConnell’s conservative challenger, Matt Bevin, in the GOP primary.

The tea party group dug up a 2011 article in the New York Times which reported that McConnell sought to steer clean-energy projects to Kentucky, making two personal appeals to the Obama administration in 2009 seeking up to $235 million in government loans for a Kentucky plant to build electric vehicles.

“I hope you will realize the importance of such job creation to Kentucky,” McConnell reportedly wrote to erstwhile Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a July 2009 memo, on behalf of an application from Zap Motor Manufacturing in Franklin, Ky. The Times also reported that McConnell backed the project after the company hired a Kentucky lobbyist who was a contributor to the Republican leader’s campaigns.

Solyndra is the California-based solar energy manufacturer which went bankrupt in 2011 despite receiving more than $535 million in federally-backed loans (largely from the 2009 stimulus package), and has since endured as a Republican punchline about government waste and alleged cronyism.

FreedomWorks’ national political director Russ Walker declared in a statement Friday, “Clearly, Mitch McConnell’s considers equal opportunity in the marketplace to be more of a guideline, rather than an actual principle. Federal loans for me, but none for thee.”

It should be noted that Zap Motor, unlike Solyndra, hasn’t gone belly-up.

A McConnell campaign spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Before the tea party rose to prominence in the Obama era, requesting federal funds for constituents was commonplace among lawmakers. McConnell himself has a long history of proudly securing “earmarks” for his home state. But the vilification of the practice by the tea party movement, which McConnell reluctantly went along with, has turned a once-mundane practice into a conservative attack line.

One year ago this month, McConnell invoked Solyndra to bash President Barack Obama’s infrastructure proposals. “We all know that Washington uses tax increases to fund even more spending – on things like robosquirrels, and Solyndra – not to reduce the deficit,” he said on the Senate floor. “That’s what history shows us. It’s how we got in this mess in the first place. So we’re not going to play that Washington game.”