Correction: An earlier version of editorial mistakenly said Terry McAuliffe is GreenTech Automotive’s largest shareholder. Mr. McAuliffe (D), who owns a 25 percent stake, is the firm’s largest individual shareholder; a corporate entity, Capital Wealth Holdings Ltd., owns a larger stake. This version has been corrected.
TERRY MCAULIFFE, the Democratic nominee for governor of Virginia, launched an electric-car company shortly after his failure to win the same nomination four years ago. Over the years, he made lofty predictions about the pace of hiring and production at the firm, known as GreenTech Automotive.
The company remains a fledgling, unproven venture with a modest payroll of 100 people and no significant production capacity; whether it takes off in the coming year, as company executives insist it will, is anyone’s guess. Judging by the evidence to date, laid out by The Post’s Fredrick Kunkle, things don’t look promising.
GreenTech relies heavily on financing from wealthy foreigners, many of them Chinese, who pony up at least $500,000 each through a federal program designed to attract overseas investors. In return for their investments, they receive U.S. visas and may become eligible for permanent residency green cards.
TheEB-5 visa program is legal; it’s been operating since 1990 with bipartisan support. The troubling question is whether GreenTech, as conceived by Mr. McAuliffe, is a serious and viable automotive enterprise or mainly a scheme to attract foreign investment capital and serve Mr. McAuliffe’s political agenda.
The fact that production has ramped up so slowly — to date, just a few hundred golf-cart-sized electric cars have rolled off the assembly line — feeds those suspicions. So does a federal investigation focusing on whether a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security gave Mr. McAuliffe special treatment, based on his political connections, in approving EB-5 visas for GreenTech’s foreign investors.
Equally disconcerting is GreenTech’s refusal to allow journalists to tour its factory in Mississippi. According to former GreenTech employees who spoke to The Post, the plant is a Potemkin manufacturing facility, where managers stage a semblance of production for the benefit of visitors. Company officials deny that. If it’s untrue, they should allow journalists to see for themselves.
Mr. McAuliffe resigned quietly as GreenTech’s chairman in December; he remains the firm’s largest individual shareholder. His Republican opponent for governor, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, has pounced on GreenTech’s so-far spotty record, raising an array of questions in the hope that something sticks.
Many of the accusations Mr. Cuccinelli’s campaign has leveled at Mr. McAuliffe are nonsense, particularly the suggestion that there was something scandalous about locating the venture in Mississippi (which offered financial incentives) rather than Virginia (which didn’t).
A more serious allegation, which has prompted an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, is that GreenTech made improper promises to investors, suggesting they would receive guaranteed returns on their investments.
Mr. McAuliffe is a renowned fundraiser and a wealthy man. He’s leveraged his extensive political network with some of his money-making ventures, and he tried to do the same with GreenTech.
That’s not particularly disturbing. But if the company is mainly smoke and mirrors — if it is little more than a visa mill launched to serve Mr. McAuliffe’s political ambitions — that is disturbing. Virginians are right to press him for answers.
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