By Tori Richards | Watchdog.org
Emails between Alejandro Mayorkas and attorneys working for GreenTech Automotive show the company pressed the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director to speed processing of 81 investor applications in a federal “cash-for-visas” program after each invested at least $500,000 in the hybrid car company.
The Inspector General’s Office says Mayorkas is the subject of an investigation for allegedly helping Gulf Coast Funds Management secure a visa for at least one GreenTech investor, according to the Assoicated Press. Mayorkas is President Obama’s nominee for the No. 2 position in the Department of Homeland Security.
One of the visas sought by Gulf Coast is for an official with a Chinese telecommunications firm that has been investigated by the House Intelligence Committee over claims it has close ties with Chinese intelligence, NBC News reported. The company in question, Huawei Technologies, denied such charges, NBC said.
Gulf Coast officials forcefully denied the AP report to an NBC affiliate in Richmond and claimed that they are not a part of any federal investigation.
“Gulf Coast Funds Management (GCFM) has not sought assistance from USCIS to resolve a rejected appeal. In fact, we are not aware of any investor visa applications associated with our Regional Center being denied,” said Gulf Coast attorney Simone Williams. “GCFM is not part of any investigation by Department of Homeland Security.”
The GreenTech controversy is magnified because of its many political connections to the federal government. It’s owned by Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who announced his resignation as company chairman in April amidst an intense investigation by Watchdog. The company’s fundraising arm, Gulf Coast, is headed by Bill Clinton’s brother-in-law Anthony Rodham. USCIS authorized the company to solicit investors through the government’s EB-5 program, which awards visas to foreign
But apparently the USCIS wasn’t working fast enough to suit Gulf Coast and GreenTech. Two years ago a Gulf Coast attorney emailed Mayorkas, asking him to expedite
processing of 81 investor applications.
“Is there anything we can do to have the (applications) adjudicated and direction provided on the remaining cases?” asked attorney Dawn Lurie in a July 7, 2011 email. Then on Jan. 23, 2013, Mayorkas received another email from a second Gulf Coast lawyer.
This time she said 31 petitions were pending, but singled out two applicants for special consideration.
“Undue delay by USCIS in reviewing our (petitions) has jeopardized our marketing efforts, as prospective investors are reluctant to invest in GTA without seeing our petition approval record,” wrote Simone Williams.
A week later, Rodham followed with his own email, complaining that he was inundated with questions from the USCIS seeking additional information.
Back in 2009, McAuliffe sought the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s help in building a home for GreenTech in the state where he was running for governor. But VEDP officials were skeptical of the EB-5 funding mechanism that now has Mayorkas at the center of the IG probe. One Virginia official said the project appeared to be a “visa-for-sale scheme with potential national security implications.”
Virginia officials also worried about the close ties between Gulf Coast and GreenTech. “We believe that having the principals of the Regional Center be the same as the principals of the company benefiting from the investment creates a conflict of interest,” wrote VEPD Chairman Jeffrey Anderson to Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Patrick Gottschalk.
The legal database Lexis/Nexis shows GreenTech and Gulf Coast are related, sharing the same McLean, Va., address through February 2013.
“Until questions regarding the plant are answered and a complete financing solution is identified, we recommend that the Governor decline the opportunity to support the expansion into Virginia of the Gulf Coast Funds Management LLC Regional Center affiliated with GTA,” Anderson wrote in 2009.
Virginia government officials finally nixed the idea of a plant there. McAuliffe ultimately located the plant in Mississippi and has yet to construct the building that he says will be its permanent facility.
Kenric Ward contributed to this story.
Contact Tori Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @newswriter2
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