GreenTech has sought overseas investors through a federal program that allows foreigners to gain special visas if they contribute at least $500,000 to create U.S. jobs. Gulf Coast, which is run by Anthony Rodham, the brother of former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, seeks investors for GreenTech and arranges the visas.
In recent months, the SEC has stepped up its scrutiny of companies that use the visa program, largely over concerns that investors may have been misled or defrauded by the companies seeking their money. The visa program has also raised national security concerns from some lawmakers worried that suspect individuals are using it to gain entry into the country.
The full focus of the SEC investigation into GreenTech and Gulf Coast is not known, and SEC officials declined to comment.
A spokesman for McAuliffe’s campaign said that the candidate “has no knowledge of any investigation,” which appears to have started in early 2013, according to Homeland Security Department documents. McAuliffe resigned as chairman of GreenTech in late 2012 as he began his run for governor, although he did not publicly reveal that he had done so for several months.
Some of the details about the SEC’s concerns are contained in nearly 100 pages of internal DHS documents and e-mails that were obtained by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), a critic of the visa program.
Representatives of GreenTech and Gulf Coast, which share office space in Tysons Corner, confirmed Thursday that they had received subpoenas from the SEC for documents and said they planned to cooperate with the investigation. They declined to elaborate.
The new issues surrounding GreenTech are likely to create fresh political problems for McAuliffe, who launched the company after his failed 2009 bid for governor in part to burnish his credentials as a businessman and job creator.
McAuliffe initially pledged to build a factory “right in the heart of Virginia,” but the company instead set up shop in Mississippi after getting generous incentives from that state and local governments. Joining McAuliffe for the July 2012 ribbon-cutting were a top DHS official, then-Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) and president Bill Clinton.
McAuliffe’s close ties to the Clintons have fueled his political career — during the Clinton presidency, he was often referred to as “first friend.”
McAuliffe said last year that he thought GreenTech could build 10,000 cars in 2013. A fraction of that number has been built, and McAuliffe rarely mentions the company on the campaign trail.