The Campaign Spot

McAuliffe: Don’t Ask Me About GreenTech, I Was Just the Chairman

Terry McAuliffe, the Democrats’ candidate for governor in Virginia, offers an op-ed in tomorrow’s Washington Post, kinda-sorta answering questions about his GreenTech Automotive company, but insisting he knows nothing about any of the issues currently being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General.

McAuliffe writes:

I’ve not been contacted in any way by those conducting the investigation and have no knowledge of it beyond what has been reported. From what has been reported, the investigation appears to be looking at a document allegedly prepared for potential investors — something I was not responsible for as chairman.

That is . . . hard to believe.

The SEC’s investigation focuses on GreenTech’s promissory notes, which told investors that under the deal, the investor either received preferred stock worth $555,000, or GreenTech would buy back its preferred stock for $500,000. It’s a sweet deal, meaning investors only risk the $55,000 in administrative fees . . . that violates the terms of the EB-5 visa, because the investors have to actually risk some capital to qualify.

Is McAuliffe really asserting that as chairman of the company, he never looked at or reviewed the promissory note? Seriously?

He continues:

Republicans have also criticized the company for employing only about 100 people. Of course, that’s about 100 people who would not have had jobs if we had not taken a risk on this company.

Actually, Republicans are scoffing at McAuliffe’s wildly overoptimistic — some would say unrealistic — promises going back to the beginning of this project. Back in 2011, he was saying, “I have my first factory in Mississippi and I’m gonna announce another major plant this year, which is going to be three to five thousand jobs.” Surely a man’s inabilty to offer the public realistic assessments and forecasts, along with a tendency to overlook problems, overpromise and underdeliver is relevant to evaluating him as a potential governor, right?

McAuliffe continues:

The company has taken longer to develop than many people expected, including me, but taking a risk on an innovative company is a critical part of the American system, and most business leaders I speak with agree that it’s not uncommon for a company to face challenges meeting its goals.

Now it’s just babble. Which business leaders he speaks with disagree? Which ones think it’s rare or unheard of for a company to face challenges reaching its goals?

Like every start-up during the Great Recession, the company faced headwinds. Those included a bureaucratic slowdown in a bipartisan visa program known as EB-5, which brings capital from overseas to create jobs here in the United States for many companies. I joined a variety of business and political leaders from both parties who expressed frustration to officials at the agency overseeing the program.

My, what generic language. Yes, but the Homeland Security Inspector General is investigating to see whether officials gave special treatment to GreenTech because of McAuliffe’s political connections. McAuliffe was central to GreenTech’s effort to get DHS to reverse decisions on visas:

When Department of Homeland Security officials balked at certain visa requests, McAuliffe and [GreenTech business partner Anthony] Rodham tried to go over their heads to keep the endeavor — called Project Mastiff — going. In a December 2010 letter, McAuliffe complained to then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that her underlings ‘halted Project Mastiff in its tracks.’

According to Senator Chuck Grassley, a senior career employee at DHS wrote in response to a question from the press office about whether Greentech had received special treatment:

We absolutely gave special treatment to Green Tech at the directive of D1. D1 was working directly with the R[egional] C[enter]’s atty. . . . Additionally, I would call a wholesale rewrite of the AAO’s decision by the front office special treatment.

“D1″ is an apparent reference to Alejandro Mayorkas
, director of DHS’s Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In short, McAuliffe’s op-ed doesn’t shed much more light on the subject of GreenTech Automotive — other than his insistence that as chairman, he had no idea about any of the matters under investigation.

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