By John J. Vecchione and Ryan Mulvey
A politically connected “green energy” vehicle company that never delivered on its promises is finally being taken to task. A state auditor in Mississippi is demanding GreenTech Automotive repay its public loans after taxpayers were taken for a proverbial ride — though certainly not in one of the company’s elusive vehicles.
The Associated Press reported earlier this month that Virginia Gov. Terry McAullife’s former electric car company has been ordered to “repay $4.9 million in state and local aid, plus $1.5 million of interest.” The auditor argues the company failed to deliver on promises to “invest $60 million and create 350 jobs in Tunica County.” If GreenTech’s debt is not paid off, the company could face a civil lawsuit for recovery of the public funds.
GreenTech’s troubles come as no surprise to anyone who has followed our organization’s extensive documentation of the shady venture and its dubious business practices.
In a series of investigations, which culminated in the publication of a comprehensive report in 2013, Cause of Action Institute explained how GreenTech used McAuliffe’s political connections to garner millions of taxpayer dollars in loans and tax incentives, yet failed to meet expectations for exaggerated projections of job creation and vehicle production.
GreenTech’s latest problems started last summer, when the firm missed its first repayment on a public loan from the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA). GreenTech had promised to invest at least $60 million in Mississippi and create at least 350 full-time jobs within three years of starting commercial production.
As early as May 2016, however, sources suggested that GreenTech only employed 75 people and had failed to sell a single vehicle. According to the auditor’s damning report, the actual number of full-time employees has since shrunk to a mere 10.
While the MDA did eventually receive GreenTech’s $150,000 payment at the end of last year, the failure to meet the initial deadline and the failure to make any additional payments casts serious doubt on the continued viability of the company.
Then, in early 2017, it was rumored that GreenTech would be shutting down altogether. Mississippi state employment service officials indicated as much in response to an announcement that the company was laying off roughly 20 workers at its Tunica manufacturing site.
Public filings with the Mississippi secretary of state show that GreenTech filed its intent to dissolve as far back as July 2011, yet the company persisted. Some local business leaders in Tunica County, including the head of the Chamber of Commerce, have argued that GreenTech is negotiating a merger, which seems to be the company’s official line.
GreenTech and Gov. McAuliffe have been embroiled in other controversies, too.
The company is still under investigation by the SEC for its participation in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program, through which it has received approximately $46 million in foreign capital, according to some reports.
The watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security reported that McAuliffe and friends — including Anthony Rodham, brother of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — benefited from political favoritism in the administration of the EB-5 program.
One of the regional centers operated by Rodham on behalf of GreenTech was terminated by DHS last year without having ever invested a single dollar into the EB-5 program.
Everything surrounding the venture reeks of political favoritism and unchecked cronyism. As the Mississippi auditor described it, GreenTech was never much more than “a game of smoke and mirrors.” Such waste of resources does not help the environment.