Virginia Republicans on Monday called on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe to reveal more information about his former car company’s ties to a federal official under investigation about his role in a visa financing program.
In particular, state Sen. Tom Garrett singled out a 2009 email from state economic development official Liz Povar saying that “[I] still can’t get my head around this being anything other than a visa-for-sale scheme with potential national security implications that we have no way to confirm or discount.”
The Lynchburg Republican has repeatedly — and unsuccessfully — petitioned the federal government for answers about the EB-5 program, in which foreign investors put up between $500,000 and $1 million for American companies in exchange for legal status.
Mr. Garrett made clear Monday that there is no evidence of wrongdoing, but said he still wanted answers.
“What were the Virginia Economic Development directors wrong about when they called EB-5 funding at GreenTech a potential cash-for-visa scheme with [potential] national security implications? How were they wrong?” he said. “It would behoove, I think, Mr. McAuliffe to give some answers to Virginians.”
A complaint being investigated by the federal government alleges that Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), 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 Inc.Mr. McAuliffe founded GreenTech in 2009 and quietly stepped down as chairman in December — a fact only revealed in response to an inquiry from a Politico reporter in April.
Delegate Israel O’Quinn, Washington Republican, said someone running for governor should be able to come up with answers on such an issue, whatever they may be.
“How he’s going to handle this current situation — this sticky wicket — is going to tell us a lot about how he’s going to operate as governor,” Mr. O’Quinn said.
Mr. Mayorkas, President Obama’s nominee to become the No. 2 official at the Department of Homeland Security, testified last week that he has never exercised “undue influence” to affect the outcome of a case, and that when he learned of a concern about the program he referred it to the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate. He was asked to meet with Mr. McAuliffe a few years ago to hear his complaints.
“I heard those complaints, and that was the extent of the interaction,” Mr. Mayorkas said. “I do remember returning to the office and complaining about the fact that I had to hear complaints. That is all.”
Documents released last week said that as recently as March, 21 pending visa applications associated with Gulf Coast were being scrutinized by the federal government because of fraud or national security concerns.
Mr. McAuliffe’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment Monday, but has said the investigation doesn’t involve him and that it is hoped it’s completed in a timely manner.
“Our management abides by all regulations under USCIS, and GCFM’s contact with USCIS has been limited to procedural inquiries,” Gulf Coast said in a statement. “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. GCFM is not part of any investigation by Department of Homeland Security.”
Whether all of this will sway the minds of voters, however, is unclear, said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.