Politics

Sunrise Solar founder: Politicians must ‘work hard to earn my trust back’

Sunrise Solar founder and president Bill Keith says he no longer trusts America’s political leaders to do what’s best for small businessmen and America. Instead he sees them caving to special interests and not honoring the pledges they made to the country.

“I don’t trust any of them anymore,” Keith told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Someone is going to have to work hard to earn my trust back as an American small businessman, and as a citizen.”

“I want to be a patriot, I want to love my country,” he continued. “I want to stand there with my hand over my heart as I’m saying the pledge of allegiance or I’m singing the national anthem, and I want to be able to think that as I’m standing there, that I’ve got leaders in Washington that are equally interested in seeing me succeed as an American and I just don’t feel that right now.”

Keith became a sort of a poster child for American small businesses and for the solar industry because of the success of his company, Sunrise Solar, which makes solar-powered attic fans that are made with American-made parts without taking government handouts.

The Obama administration was attracted to his story, vetted Keith in 2008, and was asked him to attend a townhall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana shortly after the president was inaugurated. At the meeting, Keith stood up and asked Obama what he planned to do for small business owners like himself.

The question made Keith an idol for the solar industry and he began to be sought out for media interviews from places like ABC, and attracted him attention from both sides of the aisle as Republicans and Democrats heralded Keith’s story as an American success. Environmentalists even reached out to him and asked him for appearances at events. He also invited to many upscale political events.

“They were continually inviting me to these things called ‘advocacy days’ where they wanted me to meet with senators and congressmen,” Keith told CNN, noting how lawmakers would talk about “how I created a solar product, how it’s good for the environment, for business.”

However, now Keith feels he was just used as a political prop.

“When they invited me to these functions, it was flattering,” Keith told the DC News Foundation. “If I’ve done anything wrong it’s being a little bit naive and not realizing it seemed like they just wanted to use me.”

“They didn’t make me successful, I was already successful,” he added.

Keith has a reason to be frustrated as his business is now under threat from a recent Obama administration tariff against Chinese-made solar panels which the U.S. Customs Department accuses him of using solar cells made in China.

“To add insult to injury the White House knows I’m a small solar guy, they know me very well obviously. They didn’t even have the courtesy to send me a notice before this tariff got put into place, so I would have time to plan.”