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PolitiFact.com | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact: No stimulus money was used to fund Finnish electric car project

The statement

Says stimulus money went to buy electric cars from Finland as a payback to Obama supporters.

Mitt Romney, in a campaign commercial

The ruling

In the presidential battle over who sent more jobs overseas, Mitt Romney and his supporters are fond of citing the example of Fisker Automotive, the maker of a high-end plug-in electric sedan. In an ad called "Where did all the money go," the Romney campaign suggests President Obama has a lot of explaining to do.

"Where did all the Obama stimulus money go? Friends, donors, campaign supporters, special-interest groups. Where did the Obama stimulus money go? Solyndra. $500 million taxpayer dollars. Bankrupt. So where did the Obama stimulus money go? Windmills from China. Electric cars from Finland."

Did stimulus money go to Finland?

In 2009, an American car company, Fisker Automotive, won a total of $528 million in loan guarantees to build two high-end electric hybrids, the Karma and the Atlantic (originally named Nina). The ultimate goal was to build the Atlantic at a defunct auto plant in Delaware. Work on the Atlantic is currently on hold, and the Delaware plant has yet to open.

The engineering and design for the Karma was done in the United States, but according to the U.S. Energy Department, the plan from the beginning was to build the cars in Finland. Fisker Automotive told ABC News this work employed about 500 Finnish workers. Company spokesman Roger Ornisher told PolitiFact that the plant has produced over 1,500 Karmas so far.

But the claim about American stimulus dollars paying for jobs in Finland is flawed in several important respects.

First, the money did not come from the stimulus. That money came as a loan — not a grant or a tax credit — through the Energy Department's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. That program predates the Obama administration. It was not part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus. In fact, it's a program signed into existence by President George W. Bush in 2007 and first funded by legislation Bush signed in 2008. The only reference to this loan program in the stimulus is that it received $10 million for administrative expenses.

The Bush administration was in charge when Fisker filed its application. The Obama administration was in charge when the loan was approved. The stimulus bill had nothing to do with it. Even as a loan, Fisker has not received anywhere close to half a billion dollars. So far, Fisker has drawn down about $193 million.

For those who would say there's no guarantee that some of the federal dollars were not used to pay Finnish workers, Fisker says PriceWaterhouse­Coopers audits its accounts to ensure that all federal dollars are spent in the U.S.

We rule the claim False.

Jon Greenberg, Times staff writer This ruling has been edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: No stimulus money was used to fund Finnish electric car project 07/28/12 [Last modified: Saturday, July 28, 2012 4:33am]
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