Mississippi’s Return on Cronyism

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Virginia Governor elect Terry McAuliffe has lots of political buddies to work with, according to a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, and several of those associates have connections to Mississippi.

Virginia Governor elect Terry McAuliffe has lots of political buddies to work with, according to a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, and several of those associates have connections to Mississippi.

McAuliffe’s recent bid for governor of Virginia harks back to a 2009 primary loss. Around that time, McAuliffe geared up for his future run by starting an electric car company called GreenTech Automotive. He planned to make use of the EB-5 program, where foreigners get visas for investing $500,000 or more in a company.

This didn’t go over well with at least one official in Virginia’s state development agency, who called EB-5 “a visa-for-sale scheme with potential national security implications.” The agency turned down GreenTech’s request for state incentives.

Not so in Mississippi:

“Mr. McAuliffe turned to Mississippi, where he landed $5 million in state incentives to build a factory on the promise of creating 350 jobs by 2014 and producing thousands of cars. Mr. McAuliffe’s business partner, GreenTech co-founder Charles Wang, got another of his companies, Gulf Coast Funds Management, certified as a regional center for EB-5 visas for Mississippi and Louisiana.

Mr. McAuliffe and Co. then began leveraging political connections to accelerate the visa process. The Washington Post … has reported that government documents show that Mr. McAuliffe, Mr. Rodham and others at GreenTech and Gulf Coast had a dozen email and telephone conversations with senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security, including director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Alejandro Mayorkas.”

Questions have since arisen on whether GreenTech (McAuliffe resigned in December 2012 but still invests in it) was given unfair advantages getting visas through. Interestingly, it was reported that one applicant who may have been tied to GreenTech was part of another company considered to be a potential U.S. security threat.

Ethics and safety aside, how has Mississippi fared?

According to the op-ed, “Meanwhile, GreenTech’s Mississippi site sits largely vacant, with a mere 80 employees and nary a car produced.”

Does that sound like a good return on $5 million in state incentives?

>>Source: “The Clinton Show Returns: Terry McAuliffe’s GreenTech fiasco recalls the 1990s’ scandals.” The Wall Street Journal. 3 Nov. 2013.

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