- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2012

President Obama’s first campaign advertisement of the election year pushed back against criticism of the federal subsidy for solar panel maker Solyndra and praised his energy record, even as condemnation mounts over his rejection this week of a $7 billion oil pipeline.

The ad, airing on TV in key swing states Thursday, sought to rebut an advertisement funded by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, which accused the president of supporting the $535 million loan guarantee for the failed solar energy company to help campaign contributors. Americans for Prosperity is partially funded by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

“Secretive oil billionaires attacking President Obama with ads fact-checkers say are not tethered to the facts, while independent watchdogs call this president’s record on ethics unprecedented,” the president’s campaign ad states.

AFP President Tim Phillips said the Obama campaign has launched an “attack a grass-roots group for simply telling the American people about the administration’s failed economic record, in an attempt to divert attention and shrug off blame.”

California-based Solyndra has been a political headache for the administration, abruptly shutting its doors and firing nearly all its employees in September 2011, just months after Mr. Obama visited the plant to tout his green energy policies.

The Obama campaign’s ad contends the president has added 2.7 million clean-energy jobs while reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, calling the president’s record on ethics “unprecedented.”

The ad ends with the message, “President Obama kept his promise to toughen ethics rules and strengthen America’s energy economy.”

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz denied Thursday that the president’s debut ad of the election year was “defensive,” saying in an interview on MSNBC that the spot was designed to point out the sharp differences between the two parties on environmental policy.

The campaign released the ad Wednesday night, the same day Mr. Obama rejected the proposed route for the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline, raising criticism that he was appeasing environmentalists at the expense of an estimated 20,000 jobs the pipeline would create.

Mr. Obama contended a Feb. 21 deadline for a decision demanded by congressional Republicans did not give him enough time to evaluate the impact of a revised route for the pipeline around sensitive environmental lands in Nebraska. He did not rule out eventually approving the pipeline along the new route.

But Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican who opposed the pipeline’s initial route through his state, said he was “very disappointed with the actions of President Obama and his decision to deny a jobs-creating pipeline, leaving thousands of Americans unnecessarily unemployed.” TransCanada, the Canadian firm that would build and operate the pipeline, is working with Nebraska officials on an alternative route to skirt a sensitive aquifer in the state’ Sandhills region.

“President Obama should be focused on putting Americans back to work, and could have done so by issuing conditional approval of the pipeline,” Mr. Heineman said. “The president’s decision is disruptive and we are now going to review in detail what this means for Nebraska.”