Politics makes for strange bedfellows.
When Terry McAuliffe, BFF of The Clintons, decided to burnish his business reputation as preparation for a run at the governor’s office in Virginia, he went to none other than our own Gov. Haley Barbour. According to the latest political gossip release, This Town, Barbour, Clinton (the former Prez) and McAuliffe, hooted it up backstage at the ribbon cutting in Horn Lake for GreenTech Automotive in July, 2012.
McAuliffe bought the company from the Chinese, rebranded it, and brought it to Mississippi with the backing of Mississippi taxpayers. With a little help from his friends, McAuliffe secured $5 million in taxpayer subsidized loans, among other things. Of course, the promise was jobs, jobs, jobs. 5000 of them, in fact. Today, 78 people work in the plant.
GreenTech’s product is MyCar, an affordable electric car. The idea was to build cars designed for everyday use that would be part of the solution to our energy concerns. That Mississippi would get to participate in such a venture seemed unbelievable.
McAuliffe resigned from his top position in the company in December to hit the campaign trail. I’m told grass is growing up around the plant in rural Mississippi, and it’s hard to find one of their model cars on site. Now, McAuliffe and GreenTech are being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for abuses of the EB-5 visa program.
EB-5 is a fast-track program for immigrants to gain visa status. All they have to do is participate to the tune of $500,000 in a business venture that promises to create at least 10 jobs in a rural area. It’s a little loophole created by Congress that rewards wealthy foreigners with legal status in the blink of an eye (or the cha-ching of the cash register).
And GreenTech fit the bill. Rural and big, all wrapped up in “green” technology to make everyone feel good, it was the perfect way to take advantage of the system. Foreign investors were happy to ante up for the promise of legal status and guaranteed returns, and Mississippi politicians were happy to ante up for the promise of much-needed jobs. Now, taxpayers and investors are left holding the bag.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The lines between red and blue politics get blurred when “green” takes over.
» Nancy Lottridge Anderson, Ph.D., CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc. in Ridgeland — (601) 991-3158. She is also an assistant professor of finance at Mississippi College. Her e-mail address is email@example.com, and her website is www.newper.com.