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POLITICS: PennAve

Michigan Democratic Senate candidate backed company that outsourced

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Politics,Betsy Woodruff,2014 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,Michigan,Carl Levin,Solar Energy,Fred Upton,Terri Lynn Land,Gary Peters

Rep. Gary Peters’ role in securing an earmark and a tax credit for a now-bankrupt solar panel company could become a point of contention in Michigan’s hard-fought Senate race.

In 2009, Peters, the presumptive Democratic nominee, worked with fellow Michiganders Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Mark Schauer to secure a $1.2 million earmark for United Solar Ovonic, a now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer. Peters also supported the company’s successful efforts to secure a $13.3 million tax credit from the stimulus program.

A celebratory press release from the company said the tax credit would help it invest in a facility in Auburn Hills, Mich., and ultimately help create 600 new jobs in the state. Mark Morelli, the CEO of United Solar Ovonic’s parent company Energy Conversion Devices, praised President Obama as well as Peters, then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Levin for backing the move.

“These elected officials do an important job in Washington and here in Michigan of delivering a consistent message of support for American manufacturing jobs and business in Michigan,” he said in the press release.

The backers of that loan might have meant to support Michigan jobs. But United Solar Ovonic, after getting the earmark and the loan, proceeded to furlough 400 workers and eventually went bankrupt. Meanwhile, Green World Investor reported that Energy Conversion Devices was “joining the rest of its peers as it cuts down jobs in the USA and increases production in Mexico” — in other words, outsourcing. Heather Swift, a campaign spokeswoman for presumptive Republican nominee Terri Lynn Land, had sharp criticism for Peters.

“Not only is Gary Peters responsible for Michigan’s Solyndra, this is just another example of his willingness to give taxpayer dollars to companies that outsource,” she said.

Haley Morris, a spokeswoman for Peters’ campaign, argued support for the earmark and tax credit as bipartisan.

"This was a Michigan manufacturer championed by the Bush administration and all of the Michigan Republicans in Congress including now Energy & Commerce Chairman Fred Upton. The Michigan delegation worked together in a bipartisan manner to try and create jobs when Michigan was hit harder than almost anywhere else in the country by the economic crisis. The truth is that Terri Lynn Land cannot defend her Koch brothers-backed agenda would give new tax breaks to the two oil billionaires bankrolling her campaign, but let Michigan manufacturing and our middle class fail."

The company’s efforts to get federal dollars drew bipartisan support. In 2009, every member of the Michigan delegation except Democratic Rep. John Conyers (and including Republican Reps. Dave Camp, Fred Upton, Pete Hoekstra, Vern Ehlers, Mike Rogers, Candice Miller and Thaddeus McCotter as well as Peters) signed a letter supporting the company’s efforts to secure a loan through the stimulus.

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