On Thursday, the Franklin Center for Public Integrity’s Watchdog.org reported that Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to “expedite adjudication of EB-5 applications of GreenTech investors” in a December 2010 letter. At the time, McAuliffe was chairman of GreenTech Automotive Inc.’s parent corporation, WM GreenTech Automotive.
In 2011, the Mississippi Development Authority agreed to loan $3 million to GreenTech Automotive and an additional $2 million to Tunica County, Mississippi for the purpose of building an electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Tunica. Under the terms of that agreement, GreenTech Automotive promised to invest an additional $52 million in the project and provide 350 jobs at the location by the end of 2014.
An important element in the GreenTech Automotive financing plan was the participation by foreign nationals in the EB-5 investor program. This program, established by law in 1990, allows foreign nationals to obtain permanent resident green card visas over a four year process that begins with an investment of a minimum of $500,000 in an American company.
In August 2009, Gulf Coast Funds Management LLC, circulated a Private Placement Memorandum (PPM) to raise $50 million from EB-5 investors for its Gulf Coast Automotive Investment Fund A-1, whose sole purpose was to invest in GreenTech Automotive. Under the terms of the PPM, foreign investors who subscribe to the minimum $500,000 investment in the fund can choose to keep their investment in an escrow account until their I-526 petition (the first step taken in the EB-5 program which grants participants a temporary green card visa) has been approved by the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS).
It is unclear how much money GreenTech has raised through this financing mechanism.
According to the Watchdog report, “[t]he USCIS documents obtained by Watchdog reveal that McAuliffe went over [USCIS Director] Mayorkas’ head to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. In a Dec. 15, 2010, letter, McAuliffe advised Napolitano that ‘USCIS should … expedite adjudications of all EB-5 petitions for (GTA) investors….’ .” Watchdog did not include copies of the USCIS documents it says it obtained in its article.
Breitbart News received an emailed statement from GreenTech Automotive Executive Vice President Marianne McInerney in response to our request for a comment about this report on Thursday. “I haven’t seen the letter you’re talking about, so you’ll need to talk to Terry about any letters he may have sent,” read the statement. “Every company that interfaces with a government agency wants that agency to work faster, though, and it would be normal practice to send a letter encouraging them to do so.”
Breitbart News contacted the communications director of the McAuliffe campaign Thursday morning to either confirm or deny this report, but as of the time of this story’s publication had not received a response.
On Tuesday, Bill Wright, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security’s USCIS (United States Customs and Immigration Services), which has the statutory authority to grant I-526 petitions, told Breitbart News, “the request [for expedited processing] is pending and we don’t comment while adjudication is ongoing.”
In April, GreenTech Automotive sued the Franklin Center for $85 million in the Northern Federal District of Mississippi based on the reporting in its Watchdog.org series on Terry McAuliffe and GreenTech Automotive. One of GreenTech Automotive’s allegations in the complaint was that the Franklin Center’s WatchDog made false statements in their articles, including “[f]alse assertions that EB-5 funding is GTA’s chief source of funding and it’s long term plan for continuing capital.”
On Wednesday, Jeff Rent, director of communications at the Mississippi Development Authority sent this email to Breitbart News. “GreenTech is in operation in Mississippi, and is ready to construct in Tunica as soon as the EB-5 approvals are received. We continue to work with this company and are hopeful that approvals of their EB-5 applications will occur soon and construction of the Tunica facility will no longer be delayed by administrative hurdles.”
Also on Wednesday, GreenTech Automotive announced in a press release that after spending $6.6 million it had completed site preparation at its proposed Tunica County, Mississippi manufacturing facility, and was beginning construction of the plant.
GreenTech Automotive Chairman and CEO Charles Wang said, “After more than a year of planning, testing and site preparation, we are excited for GreenTech’s permanent home to start taking shape in Phase 2. The new facility is being designed for a production capacity of 30,000 vehicles per year.” According to Wang, construction will be completed in early 2014. “We are looking forward to completing the new facility early next year and continuing to create new jobs in northern Mississippi.”
Mr. McAuliffe has been criticized for failing to locate the plant in Virginia, the state in which he is currently running for governor.
McAuliffe resigned as chairman in December 2012, but according to a 2012 Statement of Economic Interests filed by his campaign with the Virginia State Board of Elections, he still owns stock in GreenTech Automotive with a value greater than $250,000.