ByKenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
RICHMOND, Va. — Gov. Terry McAuliffe has named a director of GreenTech Automotive’s funding arm to be deputy chief of the Virginia Lottery.
The appointment of Randy Wright comes a year after a federal investigation began into Gulf Coast Funds Management and money raised for the electric-car company McAuliffe says he founded in 2009.
Wright, of Norfolk, sits on Gulf Coast’s three-member board, though McAuliffe’s announcement did not mention that fact.
Anthony Rodham, Hillary Clinton’s younger brother, is president and CEO of Gulf Coast, which shares McLean, Va., executive offices with GreenTech.
Watchdog.org and other media outlets reported last year that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had subpoenaed documents and financial records from GCFM and GreenTech. A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) memo said the investigation centered on “possible security violations.”
“I’m starting to wonder if the FBI is going to be able to keep up with all these appointments that Terry McAuliffe is making,” said Pat Mullins, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.
Though the Lottery’s deputy director position was left vacant for four years by Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, agency spokesman John Hagerty said Wright will be “highly visible.”
“He’ll be making lots of public appearances and handing out those oversized checks,” Hagerty said.
Wright’s annual salary will be $115,000. Executive Director Paula Otto earns $161,000.
Wright served on the Norfolk City Council for 18 years. His efforts to bring The Tide light rail system to the city — and controversy over the project’s multimillion-dollar cost overruns — contributed to his defeat in 2010.
The proclaimed “Father of Light Rail” told the Virginian-Pilot that state officials had asked him to keep mum about the overruns.
“I was protecting my city, and I would do it again,” he said.
As a director at Gulf Coast Funds Management, Wright helps oversee investments in GreenTech. Under the federal EB-5 program, USCIS issues green cards to qualified foreign investors.
Based on figures in an email by then-Gulf Coast general counsel Simone Williams, GCFM raised at least $46 million for GreenTech by early last year.
GreenTech, on its website, says it will begin producing its low-speed electric MyCar “in late 2014” at a plant to be built in Tunica, Miss.
GreenTech has sued Watchdog for $85 million, claiming that its news coverage damaged investor relations.
The SEC declined to comment on the status of its investigation. USCIS spokesman Chris Bentley said only, “We’re constantly cooperating with the SEC regarding the EB-5 program.”
Mike Thompson, president and chairman of the nonpartisan Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, questioned the timing of McAuliffe’s announcement.
“It would have been better to wait for the SEC investigation to run its course, especially under the current charged political atmosphere here in Virginia,” he told Watchdog.
Kenric Ward is a national correspondent for Watchdog.org and chief of its Virginia Bureau. Contact him at [email protected] or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward