It took less time than we thought.
In commenting about Mitt Romney’s Orange County Register op-ed yesterday hitting the Obama administration for playing (and failing) at venture capitalism, we noted:
While we obviously agree with Romney on this point, we shudder to think of what deep dark government-venture-capitaling Romney might have engaged in as Massachusetts Governor.
Twenty-four hours later, we’ve learned from Politico that:
But 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’s 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.”
And it is in the nature of venture funds that some of their projects fail. That’s why the private sector funds can get such high returns, and why some energy projects seen as having a huge public upside — from nuclear to solar — have convinced government officials to back them.
And so while Romney has criticized Solyndra on the campaign trail as a major failure of the Obama administration, his Green Energy Fund invested in several companies that have since failed or not lived up to expectations.
Of the six companies listed in the fund’s portfolio, three are either struggling or have shut down completely. 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.
Candidates that live in glass houses…