If one wants to go shopping for government subsidies for failing green-tech firms, one would naturally choose the man with the track record in that regard, right? Franklin Center’s Watchdog.org continues its probe into GreenTech, helmed until recently by Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, by perusing the White House visitor logs. In October of 2010, McAuliffe and three GreenTech advisers met with Barack Obama’s “green energy” aide Greg Nelson, a figure in the Solyndra scandal:
Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe and three top GreenTech advisors met with the key White House aide responsible for helping bankrupt solar-panel maker Solyndra win federal loans and high-profile presidential support, a Watchdog investigation has revealed.
What they discussed in the Oct. 12, 2010, meeting with Obama “green energy” aide Greg Nelson is a mystery – the White House visitors log offers no details. But the confab came seven months after a stock transfer made McAuliffe a GreenTech majority owner and company chairman. …
In addition to Nelson and McAuliffe, the White House meeting included GreenTech finance director Gary Yi Tang, immigration and EB-5 attorney Steve Yale-Loehr and Northwestern University economist Michael K. Evans.
Yale-Loehr was on retainer for Gulf Coast Funds, which raises EB-5 funds for GreenTech. Evans had written a report detailing the impact of locating a GreenTech manufacturing plant in Tunica, Miss. He has also analyzed other projects seeking EB-5 funding.
Whatever they discussed, it apparently didn’t help much. Nelson, whose involvement in the Solyndra deal was mainly focused on spinning news to make the White House investment look rosy, didn’t get much done for McAuliffe. Eight months later, with no assistance on the horizon for GreenTech coming directly from the White House, GreenTech turned the efforts toward Alejandro Mayorkas at DHS to get foreign investors into the country:
Whatever happened in the White House meeting apparently wasn’t enough to stave off some misfortune. Eight months later a GreenTech lawyer was emailing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Director Alejandro Mayorkas, begging his agency to fast track approval of visa applications for the company’s foreign investors under the federal EB-5 program.
It seems GreenTech had more success with Mayorkas. He’s currently the appointee to be the #2 official at DHS — and under investigation by the department’s Inspector General for overruling denials on GreenTech investor visa applications. A separate probe the by the SEC has targeted both GreenTech and Gulf Coast Funds for its representations to investors and for its involvement in the EB-5 visa program. Gulf Coast Funds, by the way, has its own connection to Democratic power politics: Hillary Clinton’s brother Anthony Rodham runs it.
What may be more remarkable about this story is that GreenTech didn’t get a Solyndra-style handout from the White House under the green-energy stimulus programs that funded disasters like Solyndra and A123, among others. Perhaps wiser heads prevailed, given all of the political connections the company had acquired, and someone did some long-range thinking about what a failure would look like. That doesn’t mean that wheels weren’t greased at DHS as an alternative strategy, and the two investigations will be very interesting to watch as they unfold. What this does demonstrate is the way in which personal political connections can get exploited to gain access to government in order to distort markets in favor of cronies. It’s an excellent argument for limited government that eliminates these market distortions and crony spoils systems, even if in this case no one actually pulled the trigger.