(CBS News) Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney attacked President Obama Thursday for his decision to provide loan guarantees for a California solar company that later went bankrupt, pushing back against the president's accusations that Romney led a private equity firm that took money out of several companies before they failed.
"I think it's a conflict of interest of some magnitude to have an administration and a president take taxpayer money, a half a billion dollars of taxpayer money, and devote it to a business which is owned by major campaign contributors. That's a real problem," Romney said in an interview with CBS' Jan Crawford, though he offered no proof of that charge.
Fact checking organization PolitiFact has labeled this charge, often repeated by Republicans against Mr. Obama, as "mostly false."
Solyndra received more about $535 million in loan guarantees from the Energy Department in 2009 before it went bankrupt in 2011. The loan guarantee program was started under the administration of former President George W. Bush.
Asked if he thinks the U.S. economic system is fair to the working and middle classes, Romney said it is "the only system that's ever been shown to lift people out of poverty."
"This for me is about helping middle income people get good jobs with rising income. And the president thinks that the way to do that is to have government make investments and to have government choose winners and losers. Or in his case, choose losers. That-- that's not the right way for an economy to work," Romney charged.
After pointing out that he had also chosen winners and losers when he was running Bain Capital, the Boston-based private equity firm he co-founded in the 1980s, Crawford asked Romney what he had learned from that experience.
"I think being in the business world, as I was and having success and failures teaches you a great deal about how business works, why companies decide to locate in one place or another, why they decide to hire people, why they decide to let people go, why it is that-- that incomes rise and benefits improve. And when they go the other direction, why that occurs. That kind of fundamental understanding I think the president is lacking," Romney said.