WASHINGTON – One of Mitt Romney’s top advisers works for a lobbying firm that once represented Solyndra, the now-bankrupt solar energy firm that has come under scrutiny for the federal loans it received – and has been criticized by Romney himself.
Dutko Worldwide, where Romney adviser Ron Kaufman has been a top employee for more than 15 years, was hired by Solydra in 2008 to help the company with its loan application and other issues, according to federal lobbying records.
Dutko was paid $50,000 that year for its services, a tiny amount of the $20 million the lobbying firm made in 2008. Kaufman’s name is not on the lobbying report, and only one individual from Dutko – Deana Perlmutter – is listed as having acted as a lobbyist for Solyndra.
“I honestly didn’t even know we represented them until” recently, Kaufman said in an interview. “As far as I know [Perlmutter] is the only one in the firm that touched it.”
“I had nothing to do with it,” Kaufman added.
Several months after being listed as a lobbyist on behalf of Dutko, Perlmutter filed paperwork for another firm, Holland & Knight, and Solyndra then began using Holland & Knight instead of Dutko.
Solyndra is being investigated by Congress, and Republicans have criticized President Obama and his administration for granting a $528 million loan to the company in 2009, only to see the company go bankrupt two years later.
Romney has been among the critics, saying the company was recklessly spending money that belonged to taxpayers.
“Their corporate headquarters looked like the Taj Mahal,” Romney said in a speech in Exeter, N.H., earlier this month. “They had showers that looked like spa showers. Oh, these guys were living high because it was government money. That’s the difference between the private sector and the governmental sector.”
Kaufman is a senior adviser at the company – now known as Dutko Grayling -- and has worked there since 1994. He is also one of the most well-connected Republican operatives in Washington, having served as a top adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He is also one of the Republican National Committee members from Massachusetts, and has long been a top adviser to Romney.
Kaufman’s role as a lobbyist caused Romney problems during his last presidential campaign when Romney tried to claim that he did not have lobbyists working for him.
Kaufman said that he decertified as a lobbyist a year ago.
The Kalamazoo Gazette in Michigan reported yesterday about Solyndra hiring Dutko, highlighting that the director of staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee – which is now investigating Solyndra -- formerly worked at Dutko. The aide, Gary Andres, told the newspaper that he was unaware of the lobbying effort.
“I never heard of the company until (Energy and Commerce) oversight staff started looking into it,” Andres said.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.