McAuliffe gets $25,000 from businessman linked to former governor’s EB-5 visa scandal
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Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who's running for a second term this year, received $25,000 in campaign contributions from a businessman linked to his failed electric car company GreenTech that was probed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for its use of a foreign investor visa program.
Sudhakar Shenoy, who was board chairman of GreenTech's sister company Gulf Coast Funds Management, gave $25,000 to McAuliffe's campaign in March after giving $25,000 to McAuliffe's PAC Common Good VA in 2020. Shenoy has given $75,000 to Common Good VA between 2015 and 2019.
In 2013, the SEC subpoenaed records from GreenTech and Gulf Coast Funds Management. The inquiry was related to their use of a Department of Homeland Security program that grants permanent residency to foreign investors who invest $500,000 or more in economically struggling areas for ventures that create American jobs.
In this March 1, 2020, file photo, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe walks up to the stage as he prepares to introduce Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden during a campaign rally in Norfolk, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
"I left the company in December of last year, and I don't know anything about it," McAuliffe said in 2013.
GreenTech, with the aid of Gulf Coast, used what is known as the EB-5 program to attract overseas capital, particularly from China, where the company has its roots. Gulf Coast is one of hundreds of "Regional Centers" that pool investments from foreign nationals looking to invest in U.S. businesses or industries as part of the foreign investor visa program.
Documents posted on the website of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, show that the SEC's subpoena sought unspecified documents from GreenTech and banking records from Gulf Coast. The documents also indicate that GreenTech impermissibly guaranteed investors returns on their money.
"The SEC is looking into the Regional Center (Gulf Coast) for possible security violations. SEC has issued subpoenas on the Regional Center's bank records. The SEC also informed USCIS of a publicly posted (an) unsigned promissory note posted online which guarantees returns on the GreenTech Automotive investment," according to one official summary that found "fraud was possible but not fully verified."
The documents include a 12-page letter from Grassley to Alejandro Mayorkas, then-director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which oversees the EB-5 program, accusing Mayorkas of providing unusually preferential treatment to the politically connected McAuliffe to expedite EB-5 applications from foreign investors.
Among the documents Grassley references is an email from McAuliffe in which he complains about the deliberate pace of USCIS staff in approving an application and drops the name of Virginia's senior U.S. senator, Mark R. Warner, to drive home his point.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
"I have been extremely frustrated by the USCIS approval process," McAuliffe wrote to Doug Smith, a Homeland Security assistant secretary on July 28, 2010. "You should be aware that Senator Warner and other Members of Congress have made inquiries on this project."
Years' worth of emails and other correspondence between McAuliffe and other GreenTech executives and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership first reported by AP in December showed that VEDP staff under Democratic and Republican governors showed company officials a variety of sites in economically depressed Virginia regions. But the Virginia officials never got answers to questions about company operations and became skeptical of the investments-for-visas EB-5 program as a cornerstone of GreenTech's financing.
Issues from GreenTech lingered for McAuliffe as late as 2019, when a federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit from Chinese investors who said McAuliffe and Hillary Clinton's brother Tony Rodham tricked them out of $17 million, Politico reported.
McAuliffe and his fellow Democratic candidates in the Virginia governor's race will face off in a debate on Thursday night.
Fox News' inquiry to McAuliffe's campaign and Alyx Technologies was not returned at the time of publication.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.