By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
HOT SPRINGS, Va. — Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli repeatedly mocked Democratic rival Terry McAuliffe on Saturday for the decision to locate GreenTech Automotive in Mississippi.
McAuliffe, former chairman of the electric-car company, tried to deflect the criticism, touting his goal to bring “21st” century jobs” to Virginia.
“Not many people would have started an electric car company. Nissan took 18 years. Our company has done it in four,” McAuliffe said during a debate hosted by the Virginia Bar Association and moderated by PBS’ Judy Woodruff at The Homestead resort. It was unclear what he meant by the comparison.
Beyond that, McAuliffe had little to say about the firm he says he founded.
In a short encounter with reporters after the 90-minute debate, McAuliffe defended GreenTech’s decision not to place a plant in economically depressed Martinsville, Va., while he chaired the company.
“A lot of people make the decisions on the plants,” said McAuliffe, who reportedly stepped down Dec. 1. “I would certainly hope in future expansion plans that (Martinsville) would be included.”
In fact, McAuliffe reiterated during the debate that he had a “fiduciary responsibility” to take the company where it could obtain the most favorable terms.
McAuliffe left without responding when a Watchdog.org reporter asked what he thought about his former company suing the news organization over coverage of GreenTech.
In all, McAuliffe spent barely five minutes with reporters. Amid a scrum of jostling journalists, Cuccinelli entertained questions for roughly 15 minutes.
During the debate, “Cuccinelli scored points early on by invoking McAuliffe’s time with GreenTech,” Politico reported.
“OK, so you picked Mississippi; so run for governor in Mississippi,” Cuccinelli said to laughter and applause.
“You walked over the people of Martinsville on the way to Mississippi,” the GOP attorney general added.
Cuccinelli then drove home the theme that McAuliffe has failed to deliver on job-creation promises.
“(McAuliffe) promised 900 jobs by end of 2012. It wasn’t true when he said it. It wasn’t true at the end of 2012,” he said.
And ridiculing the Democrat’s reputation as a businessman and political fund-raiser, Cuccinelli said McAuliffe “went to Mississippi for its tax money. He thinks that’s how government is supposed to work.”
Branding the former Democratic National Committee chairman a “Washington insider and Virginia outsider,” Cuccinelli concluded the debate with a final salvo at GreenTech – this time over the company’s use of the little-known EB-5 visa-investor program for financing.
According to documents obtained by Watchdog, 92 EB-5 investor petitions had been approved for GreenTech by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services as of January 2013. That would yield a total of $46 million.
“We should be able to know how much of the money he’s getting,” Cuccinelli said. McAuliffe did not respond.
Kenric Ward is chief of Watchdog’s Virginia Bureau. Contact him at [email protected] or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward
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