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Terry McAuliffe’s business past again raises questions

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Questions about Terry McAuliffe's business dealings resurfaced Tuesday after the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee's former car company was dragged into a federal investigation involving a prominent Obama administration appointee and a program that grants visas in exchange for foreign investments.

Alejandro Mayorkas, President Obama's selection to hold the No. 2 post at the Department of Homeland Security, has been named as a target in an ongoing federal probe into a program in which investments of $500,000 to $1 million in U.S. companies are rewarded with EB-5 visas and, potentially, citizenship.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the primary complaint against Mr. Mayorkas, currently the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), was that he assisted in approving an investor visa application submitted by McLean-based financing company Gulf Coast Funds Management LLC, even after the application was denied and an appeal was rejected.

Gulf Coast is run by Anthony Rodham, the brother of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and is the finance arm of GreenTech Automotive, a controversial company founded by Mr. McAuliffe, the former Clinton fundraiser and Democratic National Committee chairman.

Mr. McAuliffe in 2009 founded GreenTech, which shares a McLean address with Gulf Coast. The company's website lists GreenTech as "our current project."

Republicans, who have seized on Mr. McAuliffe's ties to the underperforming car company and his decision to locate a plant in Mississippi rather than an economically distressed area of Virginia, seized on the latest disclosure.

"I think it's time for Terry McAuliffe to come forward and answer questions about this serious matter," Republican candidate Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II said. "Virginians deserve to know the truth about McAuliffe and GreenTech's potentially inappropriate solicitation of EB-5 visas."

Coincidentally, the Republican Governors Association on Tuesday launched its first television advertisement of the campaign, one that accuses Mr. McAuliffe of "betting on China."

"Instead of fulfilling his promise to create jobs in Virginia, Terry McAuliffe decided to look out for his own wallet and bet on China — leading many to believe the financing of his car company was in fact a 'visa-for-sale' scheme for Chinese investors and a poor business model," association spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said.

A McAuliffe campaign spokesman said Mr. Cuccinelli was just trying draw attention away from his own liabilities.

"The investigation does not involve Terry and we hope that it is completed in a timely matter," Josh Schwerin said.

For its part, Gulf Coast challenged that assertions that were made in a report to lawmakers from the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general Monday.

The company, founded in 2008 and described by officials as a federally approved EB-5 regional center that supports job-creation programs in Louisiana and Mississippi, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon.

"Our management abides by all regulations under USCIS, and [Gulf Coast's] contact with USCIS has been limited to procedural inquiries. [Gulf Coast] 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. [Gulf Coast] is not part of any investigation by Department of Homeland Security," the statement said.

The FBI has been concerned about the EB-5 program since at least March, according to AP.

Mr. McAuliffe revealed after he was asked by a Politico reporter in April that he had resigned from his role as GreenTech chairman at the beginning of December.

After taking criticism over the visa program from Republicans, the McAuliffe campaign in an April statement accused Mr. Cuccinelli of "attacking a program supported by every US Senator, all but three members of the US House, the McDonnell administration and Fortune 500 companies like Hilton and Marriott."

"We already knew Ken Cuccinelli was bad for business, but to attack a universally supported program that has created billions of dollars in investment and created tens of thousands of jobs is a stunning rejection of mainstream policies to create jobs," Mr. Schwerin said. "Ken Cuccinelli needs to explain why he is the only elected official in Virginia who opposes this job creation program."

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