By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s choice for the No. 2 job at the Homeland Security Department is under investigation for his role in helping Gulf Coast Funds Management secure an international investor visa for a Chinese executive, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas was named by the DHS Inspector General’s Office as a target in an ongoing investigation about the EB-5 foreign investor program, the AP said.
Gulf Coast, which is headed by Anthony Rodham, Hillary Rodham Clinton’syounger brother, is a funding arm of GreenTech Automotive. Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe was company chairman until April, when the company abruptly announced that he had resigned four months before. He is still an owner.
The financial and political links between the two ventures has been the subject of aseries of investigative articles by Watchdog.org over the past eight months. In April, GreenTech filed an $85 million lawsuit against Watchdog.org, alleging libel and saying the news organization’s reporting jeopardized millions of dollars in investments.
An email obtained by the AP said the primary complaint against Mayorkas was that he helped Gulf Coast win approval for an investor visa after the application was denied and an appeal was rejected.
According to the email from the DHS Inspector General’s Office, the investigation of the investor visa program also includes allegations that other USCIS Office of General Counsel officials obstructed an audit of the visa program by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The email did not name any specific official from the general counsel’s office.
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent the FBI a lengthy letter Tuesday asking for details of its review of the foreign investor visa program and Chinese investment in U.S. infrastructure projects, the AP said.
GTA Vice President for Sales and Marketing, Marianne McInerney, told Richmond’s NBC-12 that the report of an investigation was news to GreenTech.
“GreenTech Automotive was not aware of any investigation of the EB-5 program by the Department of Homeland Security before it was reported by the Associated Press,” she said. “GTA has not been contacted by the Inspector General’s office.”
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, McAuliffe’s Republican opponent, pounced on the news. In a statement, he said:
“Over the past several weeks, a series of news reports have raised serious questions about the manner in which Terry McAuliffe and GreenTech Automotive sought out and obtained EB-5 visas. While the growing list of questions remain unanswered, that’s largely because my opponent has been unwilling or unable to come forward and set the record straight.”
“I think it’s time for Terry McAuliffe to come forward and answer questions about this serious matter. Virginians deserve to know the truth about McAuliffe and GreenTech’s potentially inappropriate solicitation of EB-5 visas,” Cuccinelli said.
Virginia state Sen. Tom Garrett, who has made repeated inquiries to Mayorkas about the administration of the EB-5 program, said, “Based on today’s revelations, it appears that perhaps Mr. Mayorkas is not someone we can count on to investigate Mr. McAuliffe’s alleged wrongdoing involving EB-5 visas.”
Mayorkas is scheduled to appear Thursday for a confirmation hearing at the Senate Homeland Security and Government Relations Committee. Nominated by the president to be deputy secretary of DHS, Mayorkas would be in line to assume Secretary Janet Napolitano‘s duties after she leaves to preside over the University of California system next month.
A spokeswoman for Homeland Security Committee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., said Mayorkas’ confirmation hearing was still on Thursday’s calendar.
Obama administration officials deferred comment to the Department of Homeland Security, which did not reply to Watchdog’s inquiry Tuesday afternoon.
McAuliffe campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin told NBC-12: “The investigation does not involve Terry and we hope that it is completed in a timely matter.”
Kenric Ward is a national reporter for Watchdog.org and chief of the Virginia Bureau. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward