By Will Swaim | Watchdog.org
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A top federal immigration official testified Thursday that he met with Terry McAuliffe to discuss the visa applications of foreign investors in the Virginia gubernatorial candidate’s car company, GreenTech Automotive.
Denying accusations the meeting was inappropriate, Alejandro Mayorkas, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, told the Senate Homeland Security Committee, “I was asked to attend a meeting with (McAuliffe) so I could hear his complaints. I heard those complaints, and that was the extent of the interaction.”
He recalled that the meeting occurred “about two years ago.”
That surprise revelation came just hours after a GreenTech Automotive official denied the company has ever lobbied immigration officials to speed visas for its investors.
The company “does not (itself) interact with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service officials,” an unnamed GreenTech spokesperson told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The spokesperson said GreenTech handled visa issues through Gulf Coast Funds Management, an affiliated investment firm headed by Anthony Rodham, brother of Hillary Clinton.
McAuliffe, who is in a tight race for the Virginia governor’s office, was GreenTech’s chairman until his abrupt April resignation following media reports about his company’s use of the controversial federal EB-5 cash-for-visas program. He remains a part owner in the company.
Asked by Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., if he imposed any changes in the handling of Gulf Coast’s investor applications as a result of the meeting, Mayorkas responded, “Absolutely not.”
“I returned to my office and said I was tired of hearing complaints,” he related.
Mayorkas met with senators weighing his appointment to the No. 2 spot at Homeland Security. Acting on a tip from the FBI, the DHS Inspector General said it is looking at evidence that Mayorkas may have acted inappropriately to approve the denied visa application of a Chinese national seeking to invest in McAuliffe’s company.
According to the Tribune-Review, “GreenTech said it was not aware of the IG probe” until the Associated Press revealed it earlier this week.
Watchdog.org has reported that Rodham’s company pressed Mayorkas to fast-track visa applications for 81 GreenTech investors.
Documents obtained from the USCIS through a Freedom of Information Act request show McAuliffe went over Mayorkas’s head, appealing directly to Janet Napolitano, secretary of the powerful Department of Homeland Security.
In some cases, the company’s appeals were frantic.
“The investors are upset and threatening to withdraw their investments,” GreenTech attorney Dawn Lurie wrote to Mayorkas on June 28, 2011. “Reputation is critical in this industry and our branding is being hurt.”
A week later Lurie followed with another email warning of unhappy investors threatening a lawsuit.
The email apparently had little effect: a year and a half later a second attorney had the same message for Mayorkas. This time her words were more direct.
“This delay is having a detrimental impact on the ongoing operations of GreenTech Automotive and GTA’s ability to create and maintain American jobs,” Simone Williams wrote on Jan. 23, 2013.
GreenTech’s denial in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review may rest on its suggestion that Rodham’s investment firm is somehow independent. It’s not: federal documents show GreenTech Automotive is Gulf Coast’s only client. Outside observers, including Virginia officials reviewing the company’s business plan in 2009, have concluded there is no important separation between the two.
“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,” a commonwealth official wrote in his review. “Furthermore, having the principals benefit monetarily from the fees to be charged to the investors creates a conflict of interest.”
A photo obtained by Watchdog shows GreenTech CEO and president Charles Wang sleeping next to Rodham on a Chinese train. Sources said the two were traveling the country to solicit Chinese investors.
GreenTech sued Watchdog in April for $85 million, claiming its April 1 and April 3 articles defamed the company and damaged its relations with investors.
Reporting from Capitol Hill by Kenric Ward. Additional reporting by Tori Richards.
- VA: As he runs for governor, McAuliffe wheels and deals electric cars in Mississippi
- VA: Media echo Watchdog exclusive on McAuliffe’s electric car maneuvers
- No news here: PolitFact brands Terry McAuliffe’s electric-car claim ‘false’
- Experts question source of McAuliffe car-company funding
- Terry McAuliffe on business ventures: ‘Some work, some don’t’
- How McAuliffe’s car company failed the Virginia test, landed in Mississippi
- Virginia official wants probe of McAuliffe company ‘visa-for-sale’ program
- McAuliffe car company sues Watchdog in libel claim
- Barack Obama’s GreenTech connection: Rick Wade
- Silence, secrecy, cops follow GreenTech’s China deal
- McAuliffe hones China’s crony-capitalism model in U.S.
- Promises keep Tunica County afloat
- McAuliffe company’s China hook-up: Will it work?
- McAuliffe car lags in Domino’s delivery
- McAuliffe car co. parent in off-shore tax shelter
- Lawmaker gives feds one more week for EB-5 answers
- Bolling: McAuliffe’s Mississippi package ‘attractive’
- Inside, execs knew McAuliffe plan had ‘substantial risk’
- Union darling McAuliffe and his non-union car company
- Did Clinton aid the birth of ‘McAuliffe’ car company?
- McAuliffe feels heat over GreenTech resignation
- TV report: One year later, ‘party is over’ at GreenTech
- Months after he said he left company, McAuliffe kept talking GreenTech
- Clinton connection: More money for McAuliffe
- Terry McAuliffe used loophole to avoid key SEC oversight of his car company
- VA officials: McAuliffe green car more politics than biz
- McAuliffe car company announces it’s ready to roll — again
- Before Watchdog, McAuliffe blamed federal officials for money trouble
- McAuliffe gets cash from GreenTech exec, board members
- Watchdog report on McAuliffe spurs FOI request to Homeland Security
- McAuliffe leaves GreenTech questions hanging at debate
- Totally wired: McAuliffe went to Napolitano to expedite company funding
- McAuliffe bragged about GreenTech’s cash position while begging feds for faster processing of ‘cash for visas’
- Investigation targets Homeland official’s relationship to McAuliffe company
- Even before news of federal probe, McAuliffe ducked GreenTech questions
- McAuliffe company pressed Homeland official on 81 investor visas
- Rodham company sought visa for controversial Chinese exec
- Immigration official says he met with McAuliffe to discuss visas for foreign investors
- Whiners: Mayorkas says Gulf Coast ‘continues to complain’
- VIDEO: Ex-GreenTech employee says little happened at Horn Lake plant
- Online ad to Terry McAuliffe: Drop your lawsuit
- National security on ‘hold’: Lawmakers press McAuliffe for answers
- Citizens United documentary film delves into McAuliffe, GreenTech
- VIDEO: Terry McAuliffe’s 15 million-square-foot car plant … in China
- Feds call McAuliffe car company’s use of investment program ‘possible fraud’
- GreenTech courted Obama’s Solyndra aide
- GOP legislators call for McAuliffe to answer GreenTech questions
- McAuliffe ‘desperate’ over documentary, Citizens United says
- GreenTech weighed Fisker-style federal loan
- Group tells Terry: Follow ‘McAuliffe Standard’ on disclosure
- Car and Driver races into GreenTech controversy
- Congressman: McAuliffe owes Virginians explanation about White House meeting
- Feds loosen oversight as McAuliffe car company makes mysterious management change
- GreenTech execs use Times and ABC to throw McAuliffe under the (non-electric) bus
- Aide in union contribution swap hosts California fund-raiser for McAuliffe
- Despite denials, docs show McAuliffe company asked feds to fast-track visa for investor tied to spy list
- Former Democrat Party director was on GreenTech payroll
- More bad news for McAuliffe car company as GreenTech China venture stalls
- Clinton Foundation posts deficits on McAuliffe’s watch
- VIDEO: GreenTech record dogs McAuliffe at energy forum
- Auto industry expert labels McAuliffe electric car ‘preposterous’
- Democratic leaders have their own Bain pain in Mideast private equity deal
- Hillary PAC adviser served as GreenTech spokeswoman
- New emails add evidence McAuliffe pressed U.S. officials to approve GreenTech funding
- After endorsement, Post shrinks facts to cover Terry McAuliffe
- Ties that bind: Following the McAuliffe-Clinton money trail
- McAuliffe tilts at windmills; Chinese venture goes bust
- Federal investigations cast shadow over McAuliffe on Election Day
- DHS inspector over GreenTech-McAuliffe case is under investigation
- McAuliffe names former GreenTech employee secretary of commonwealth
- McAuliffe lawyers, accountants sort GreenTech stock amid federal investigations
- Nuking filibusters, Dems clear way for Mayorkas at Homeland Security