Virginia state legislators are calling on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe to come clean on his involvement in a “visas-for-sale” scheme, following news that a financing firm closely connected to his former company is under federal investigation.
“After the last debate, Terry is pretty much hiding out and only giving one-word answers to questions on this topic,” said Virginia Republican State Delegate Israel O’Quinn during a press call on Monday.
“That’s not really leadership,” he continued. “When issues like this come up, have an answer, whatever the answer may be.”
The firm in question, Gulf Coast Funds Management, helps foreign nationals obtain what’s known as EB-5 visas, which allow foreigners who invest between $500,000 and $1 million in American companies to live and work in the United States. Its president and CEO is Anthony Rodham, the brother of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Related: Cuccinelli leads in one poll as McAuliffe scandal mounts)
GreenTech Automotive, a green-energy car company founded and run by McAuliffe until at least April of this year, is Gulf Coast Funds’ sole client and the recipient of money from Chinese investors seeking EB-5 visas.
National security concerns led the EB-5 applications from at least one Chinese investor working through Gulf Coast Funds to be denied by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and an appeal of the decision was also later rejected.
But the Virginia lawmakers believe that McAuliffe may have used his ties to the Clinton family and contacts at the Department of Homeland Security to schedule a face-to-face meeting with Alejandro Mayorkas, the head of USCIS and President Obama’s choice to replace retiring Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
After the meeting, Mayorkas approved the visas over departmental objections. He is now also under investigation for potentially facilitating the scheme.
“I was going to send the USCIS another request for investigation letter in August,” said Republican State Sen. Tom Garrett, “but now I have no idea who to send it to, because the very director of that organization is implicated in the investigation into Gulf Coast Funds Management, which is connected to GreenTech.”
Garrett expressed frustration that when he and other Virginia legislators sent multiple letters to USCIS regarding the visa scheme, “All we got back is one perfunctory letter from Mayorkas.”
“Those individual [legislators] represent over 600,000 Virginians,” he said. “But McAuliffe, a private citizen, gets to contact Mayorkas for a sit-down meeting.”
The McAuliffe campaign claims that Gulf Coast Funds is unconnected to GreenTech Automotive, but Garrett and O’Quinn aren’t buying it.
“To say unequivocally that there’s no connection defies logic,” Garrett said, pointing to Gulf Coast Funds’ website, which displays GreenTech Automotive as it’s only “current project.”
The legislators also explained why USCIS initially pegged the Chinese investors as national security concerns.
“One of the individuals [who received an EB-5 visa through Gulf Coast Funds] first solicited a visa through a company called Quality Technologies,” O’Quinn said. “Obama blocked that firm from building a wind farm near a Navy site in Oregon due to national security concerns.”
“Why would Terry McAuliffe and GreenTech be so desperate for cash that they’d take it from someone tied to that stuff?” he wondered.
The FBI has been investigating the EB-5 visa program, particularly in relation to Chinese investors, since at least March. The inquiry into Mayorkas, which may have begun more recently, is under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General.
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