By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — As political cronies Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe are campaigning together across Virginia this week, their close coupling shows how money can be thicker than blood.
McAuliffe — the self-described “Godzilla” of fundraising — helped Clinton get elected and re-elected to the White House. As booking agent for the Lincoln bedroom, he raked in cash and tightened connections for the Clinton political machine.
McAuliffe even put up $1.35 million toward the purchase of a New York home for Bill and Hillary in 1999, when the Clintons were burdened by legal debts from the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal and Hillary needed to establish residency for a U.S. Senate run from the Empire State.
Bill and Terry have been exchanging favors ever since.
Last year, Clinton was in Mississippi for the unveiling of the electric “MyCar” prototype developed by GreenTech Automotive.
Burnishing his claim as a “job creator,” gubernatorial candidate McAuliffe boasted that he “bought” GreenTech and “brought it over from China.”
In fact, Clinton got the wheels rolling — and opened a cash spigot for McAuliffe’s run for governor in 2009.
A Watchdog investigation revealed that GreenTech’s creation had less to do with McAuliffe than with the former president, whose William J. Clinton Foundation installed the Democratic Party fundraiser as one of its directors while exploring Asian business ventures.
Charles Wang — owner of GreenTech’s forerunner, Hybrid Kinetic Automotive, and current president of GTA — called Clinton “active in the (car) project, traveling to Hong Kong and introducing company representatives to heads of state.” Clinton was paid $300,000 for his Hong Kong speech.
A top Hybrid Kinetic official donated $25,000 to McAuliffe’s 2009 gubernatorial campaign. That accompanied a $50,000 contribution from Hybrid Kinetic on May 27, 2009, and $10,000 a week later from a second company executive.
Today, Clinton cronies are found throughout GreenTech, where McAuliffe now holds the title of “chairman emeritus.” Hillary Clinton’s brother, Anthony Rodham, heads GTA’s funding arm, Gulf Coast Funds Management. Clinton’s IRS commissioner, Margaret “Peggy” Richardson, sits on Gulf Coast’s board of directors.
Like the Clintons, Richardson hosted a fundraiser for McAuliffe this year. Bill Clinton wrote a $100,000 check to McAuiffe.
“Terry is basically bought and paid for by the Clintons right now,” Tim Miller, executive director of the conservative America Rising PAC, told the Washington Post this week.
Miller suggested that the Clintons are working so hard for McAuliffe as “a big payback.”
It’s also an exercise in paying it forward.
Governors are their states’ chief political organizers, and Hillary, who ran for the Democrat’s presidential nomination in 2008 (her campaign was chaired by McAuliffe), is an all-but-announced candidate for 2016. A swing state, Virginia will be a prime battleground.
As the Clintons and McAuliffe trade political and financial favors, there have been bumps along the way.
GreenTech (the company discovered by Clinton) and Gulf Coast (headed by Hillary’s brother) are under federal investigation over use of a controversial immigration program in which foreign nationals can obtain green cards in exchange for $500,000 investments in the United States.
Also under investigation is U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services director Alejandro Mayorkas, with whom McAuliffe had numerous personal meetings to press for quicker agency approval of GTA investors.
Before GreenTech ran into its series of scandals, Clinton’s foundation was bleeding red ink while McAuliffe served on its board. In two straight years, the foundation burned through $317 million in donations and grants and ended up with a $43 million deficit.
Mississippians, meanwhile, wonder where the GreenTech money has gone. Since Clinton appeared at the gala “unveiling” in July 2012, GTA’s promised assembly plant has not been built and the company, said to employ fewer than 100 workers, has not divulged production or sales figures.
Still, Clinton remains in the picture, literally. A March confidential memorandum to prospective GTA investors includes photographs and references to McAuliffe’s close ties to the former president.
“That’s the way that the Clintons operate, in a very clubby, insider, ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’ D.C. manner,” Miller said.
Kenric Ward is chief of Watchdog’s Virginia Bureau. Contact him at [email protected] or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward
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