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Homeland Security nominee under scrutiny over foreign investor's visa

By Bill Mears, CNN
updated 7:36 PM EDT, Tue July 23, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, who runs Citizenship and Immigration Services, is under investigation
  • He is accused of OK'ing a visa request for a foreign investor after it was denied
  • The visa request came from a firm run by Anthony Rodham, Hillary Clinton's brother
  • Mayorkas was nominated to the No. 2 post at the Homeland Security Department

(CNN) -- The nominee for the No. 2 job at the Department of Homeland Security is under investigation amid allegations he helped obtain a special visa for an international investor after the initial application was denied by the U.S. government.

An e-mail sent to congressional lawmakers from the department's inspector general and obtained by CNN said Alejandro Mayorkas is being investigated, but at this point, "we do not have any findings of criminal misconduct."

Mayorkas was tapped by President Barack Obama to be the second-ranking official at DHS. He currently runs the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which conducts the foreign investor program known as EB-5.

The inspector general "is investigating Director Mayorkas," the e-mail said. "Director Mayorkas was not specifically named in the initial complaint; however, the DHS (office of inspector general) is now investigating allegations concerning the actions/conduct of Director Mayorkas and other USCIS management officials."

The department said its inquiry was launched after a referral from an FBI analyst in the Counterintelligence Unit.

The DHS said Mayorkas allegedly helped approve a visa application on behalf of Gulf Coast Funds Management, run by Anthony Rodham, brother of former Sen. and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A call to GCFM for comment was not immediately returned.

The Associated Press -- which first reported the investigation -- said the visa application was made by GCFM on behalf of a Chinese executive. The unnamed applicant was initially found to be ineligible for the EB-5 program, and a subsequent administrative appeal upheld the decision.

The EB-5 program grants expedited visa approval for foreigners who invest up to a $1 million in a business that creates American jobs. The visa approval also allows eligible foreigners to gain naturalized status and eventual citizenship.

White House spokesman Jay Carney had no comment on the DHS investigation but confirmed Tuesday it was ongoing.

Mayorkas was scheduled to have a confirmation hearing Thursday, but a spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, said the lawmaker does not want the nomination to move forward until the inspector general report is completed.

The internal DHS e-mail also shows the inspector general is investigating whether other U.S. government officials obstructed an audit of the EB-5 visa program by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

There was no word if any charges would be filed against Mayorkas or any DHS officials.

Recent media reports indicated GCFM had helped finance a green energy company formerly run by Terry McAuliffe, who is running for governor of Virginia as a Democrat. McAuliffe is a former top political adviser and fundraiser for President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. He also ran the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005.

McAuliffe reportedly cut ties with the energy firm GreenTech late last year.

McAuliffe's Republican opponent said the allegations were serious. "I think it's time for Terry McAuliffe to come forward and answer questions about this serious matter," Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said in a statement. "Virginians deserve to know the truth about McAuliffe and GreenTech's potentially inappropriate solicitation of EB-5 visas."

McLean, Virginia-based GCFM specializes in securing visas for foreign investors. Its website offers a pitch to such investors: "We will use our knowledge of the region to make investments in projects that will create enough jobs for you to receive your permanent residency status and provide strong opportunities for capital preservation and potential capital appreciation."

The DHS noted it started an internal audit into the EB-5 program last August and that it is in the final states of its field work.

CNN Senior Capitol Hill Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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