President Barack Obama’s pick to be the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is currently under investigation for helping Anthony Rodham, a close business partner of Terry McAuliffe and brother of Hillary Clinton, secure foreign investments for his investment firm.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) director Alejandro Mayorkas was one of the targets of a federal investigation into the USCIS EB-5 visa program, which allows foreigners to receive a visa in exchange for a sizable investment in a U.S. company.
According to the Associated Press, the DHS inspector general’s office announced that the primary complaint against Mayorkas is that he assisted Rodham’s financing company, Gulf Coast Funds Management, win approval for an EB-5 visa even after an application was denied and an appeal was rejected.
Gulf Coast Funds Management (GCFM), which specializes in securing EB-5 investments, has become best known as the fundraising arm for McAuliffe’s much-maligned electric car company GreenTech Automotive.
The headquarters of GCFM and GreenTech (GTA) are in the same Mclean, Va. office complex. Rodham also traveled to China along with GreenTech supporters Bill Clinton and former Gov. Haley Barbour (R., Miss.) to secure investments for the venture.
Rodham was in direct contact with Mayorkas as recently as Jan. 29, 2013, according to correspondence obtained by Watchdog.org.
Rodham complained in the email that multiple investment petitions for GreenTech were yet to be approved.
"USCIS undue delay in issuing a decision in our cases continues to threaten the ongoing operations of GTA because GTA relies on EB-5 investors as a key source of funding for its projects and the delay is hampering our ability to bring in new EB-5 investors," Rodham said.
The main complication addressed by Rodham was in regards to a part of the EB-5 program that lowers the minimum investment threshold from $1 million to $500,000 if the company is located in a "targeted employment area."
USCIS was not satisfied that GreenTech’s Horn Lake, Miss. plant is located in one of the specified areas. Rodham argued that because its pending "permanent facility" in Tunica, Miss. had already been verified to be one of the targeted areas.
"GTA has not changed its plan to build a manufacturing facility on 100 acres of land it owns in Tunica, MS. GTA will transfer all its employees at the Pilot Production Facility to the Permanent Facility once it is complete," Rodham wrote. "Accordingly, it is not necessary to demonstrate that Horn Lake is located in a TEA."
However, there has been little to no progress on the Tunica plant.
Investigators who visited the Tunica site earlier in the year found nothing but a flat gravel lot littered with overgrown grass despite the fact that the plant was intended to be operational by the beginning of this year.
GreenTech officials have long claimed that the Tunica project was underway, including McAuliffe himself.
"We’ve also started construction on a $60 million plant in Tunica, Mississippi that the bulldozers are moving on today," McAuliffe said at a July 2012 promoting GTA in Mississippi.
It is unclear what action was taken by Mayorkas in response to Rodham’s message, and also whether this instance of communication is what is being investigated.
However, this was not the only attempt by Rodham and McAuliffe to get assistance from the Obama administration for their business venture.
McAuliffe sent a letter in December 2010 directly to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, McAuliffe complained that USCIS was "standing in the way of creating thousands of jobs for U.S. workers."
McAuliffe wanted all of the company’s pending EB-5 investors to have their petitions expedited by DHS so that GreenTech could quickly advance one of its upcoming projects.
"USCIS should also expedite adjudication of all EB-5 petitions for investors in Project Mastiff," McAuliffe said. "GTA has more than 200 EB-5 investors already committed to invest in Project Mastiff. Investors cannot file their petitions, however, until USCIS approves GCFM’s amendment."
McAuliffe and Rodham have long run into image problems due to their use of the EB-5 program.
Officials at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership were wary of McAuliffe’s EB-5 fundraising plan, which they saw as a "visa-for-sale scheme" and worried that it could eventually "give the Commonwealth a black eye."
McAuliffe's gubernatorial opponent Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli released a statement today regarding the investigation.
"Over the past several weeks, a series of news reports have raised serious questions about the manner in which Terry McAuliffe and GreenTech Automotive sought out and obtained EB-5 visas. While the growing list of questions—including today’s revelations that a top Department of Homeland Security official is under investigation for his role in securing a visa for a GreenTech sister company—remain unanswered, that’s largely because my opponent has been unwilling or unable to come forward and set the record straight," he said.
"I think it’s time for Terry McAuliffe to come forward and answer questions about this serious matter. Virginians deserve to know the truth about McAuliffe and GreenTech’s potentially inappropriate solicitation of EB-5 visas."