McAuliffe lobbied Obama aide in charge of Solyndra

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Brendan Bordelon Contributor
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Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia and former owner of an electric car company now under federal investigation, once paid a visit with three other advisers to the same White House “green energy” official who helped secure more than $500 million in guaranteed loans for Solyndra, the now-bankrupt solar panel manufacturer backed by a prominent Barack Obama fundraiser.

White House visitor records reviewed by Watchdog.org indicate that McAuliffe met with Greg Nelson, the former associate director for energy, environment and technology, at the White House on Oct. 13, 2010.

While the substance of the meeting is unknown, the individuals involved make it all but certain that the subject was GreenTech Automotive, a green energy car company founded by McAuliffe in 2009.

At the time, McAuliffe was energetically seeking assistance for a “green” car company that was funded by a bizarre scheme involving visas for Chinese investors and appears not to have produced any automobiles. The Obama Energy Department was also eager to provide taxpayer assistance to alternative energy gambles, such as the cylindrical-row solar panels for which Fremont, California-based Solyndra failed to find a market.

With McAuliffe and Nelson at the meeting were GreenTech finance director Gary Yi Tang, immigration attorney Stephen Yale-Loehr and economist Michael K. Evans.

Yale-Loehr worked for Gulf Coasts Funds Management, a firm run by Hillary Clinton’s brother that helps foreign nationals obtain EB-5 visas in exchange for investing $500,000 to $1 million in American companies. Virginia lawmakers and others have dubbed the EB-5 program a “visas-for-sale” scheme. (Related: Virginia lawmakers pressure McAuliffe over GreenTech scandal)

GreenTech is Gulf Coast Funds’ sole client and the recipient of millions of dollars from Chinese investors seeking visas. The FBI has been investigating whether the EB-5 program represents a threat to national security since at least March of this year.

Evans is also an EB-5 expert and one of the co-owners of Evans, Carroll & Associates, an EB-5 consulting firm. He also wrote a report on the economic impact of GreenTech’s manufacturing plant in Tunica, Miss. (Related: McAuliffe’s GreenTech company skirted state process for acquiring land, failed to produce a single car)

In the heady days of 2010, when McAuliffe took his meeting with Nelson, the Energy Department was rapidly awarding assistance, mostly in the form of taxpayer-guaranteed loans, to companies that subsequently ran into trouble or failed outright. Among the little-remembered beneficiaries: LightSquared, Ener1, Abound Solar, A123 Systems, SoloPower, SunPower, Solar Power Project, Beacon Power and even a Tennessee-based truck terminal.

But Solyndra — a company funded by influential Obama donor George Kaiser that received a 2010 presidential visit during which Obama announced, “companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future” — drew the most attention.

Nelson achieved brief notoriety when his name and email trail figured prominently in the investigation of the massive loss of public funds on the private company. He had been intimately involved in Solyndra’s lobbying activities, pushing the Energy Department to approve the company’s loan request, which was put on hold by the Bush Administration but rapidly approved by Obama in 2009.

“Any word on O.M.B.?” Nelson asked an Energy loan official in an early 2009 message. “I have the [office of the vice president] and [the White House] breathing down my neck on this.”

Nelson also spoke to the ill-fated company directly. “It looks like a great product,” he wrote Solyndra’s CEO in March 2009, calling the plans “inspiring.”

Less than two weeks later, the Energy Department publicly announced $535 million in loan guarantees for Solyndra.

Solyndra went belly-up two and a half years later, leaving American taxpayers holding the bag.

Unlike Solyndra, GreenTech never received green energy loans from the Energy Department, and there is no evidence that Nelson or the White House ever lobbied the department to provide these loans.

But the meeting does indicate that some White House officials knew about McAuliffe’s scheme to fund GreenTech through EB-5 visas some years before the program became a concern to the FBI and other investigative agencies.

McAuliffe at the time was seeking help from Homeland Security officials, including Secretary Janet Napolitano and Citizenship and Immigration Services head Alejandro Mayorkas, in order to expedite the visa applications of GreenTech investors that were delayed or denied due to national security concerns.

A few months after the meeting with Nelson, McAuliffe wrote a letter to Napolitano advising that she “expedite adjudications of all EB-5 petitions for [GreenTech Automotive] investors.” The Daily Caller News Foundation reported that McAuliffe later met face-to-face with Mayorkas and convinced him to push the applications through.

Virginia Republican state Sen. Tom Garrett previously told TheDCNF he did not understand how McAuliffe, “a private citizen,” was able to schedule a meeting with the head of a major Homeland Security component.

Mayorkas, who was recently tapped by President Obama to run Homeland Security after Napolitano’s retirement, is now under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general for approving a GreenTech visa petition that may have endangered U.S. national security.

The Washington Post reported last week that the SEC is also investigating GreenTech Automotive over its use of the EB-5 visa program.

Although he resigned from GreenTech earlier this year, the firm’s troubles continue to dog McAuliffe and his campaign remain. Virginia Republican lawmakers continue to call on McAuliffe to answer questions regarding potential wrongdoing he may have engaged in while in charge of the company.

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Brendan Bordelon