Democrats are highly selective about the things that send them into high dudgeon.
Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said this past week that Congress should end the EB-5 visa program that grants visas to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in job-creating projects in the U.S., calling it a “citizenship-for-sale” program.
Her umbrage was prompted by reports that President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s sister mentioned the visa program to potential Chinese investors in a family-owned project.
Where was the outrage four years ago when Nevada Sen. Harry Reid twisted arms at Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reverse a decision that was blocking EB-5 visas for Chinese investors in a Las Vegas casino with ties to Reid’s son Rory?
An ethics complaint was filed against Reid, then Senate Democratic majority leader, but it was buried in the bureaucracy.
In fact, four days after that complaint was filed, the Senate voted to confirm the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to become the second in command at the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas was the one who granted the visas after personally talking to Reid. The vote was 54-41. Had Reid not just nuked the Senate filibuster rules the nomination would have failed to achieve the previously required 60 votes.
Mayorkas was confirmed despite the fact he was under investigation at the time for expediting visa applications for certain applicants despite the rejection of those visas by career staffers.
Reid had made a personal call to Mayorkas in January 2013, according to the Washington Times, and Mayorkas promised him his agency would take a “fresh look” at the SLS hotel and casino visa request. Soon after that, the agency expedited visas for about two dozen foreign SLS casino, formerly the Sands, investors. The Times reported that Federal Election Commission records show executives for two companies involved in the hotel project had made $127,000 in political donations over the previous three elections, mostly to Democrats.
The ethics complaint by Cause of Action said, “Despite the fact that these applications were ineligible for appeal, Senator Reid’s efforts to lobby USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) resulted in the reconsideration and approval of those applications … Even more troublesome is the fact that Senator Reid’s son, Rory Reid, and his law firm, Lionel, Sawyer & Collins P.C., are legal counsel to the SLS Hotel and Casino.”
The U.S. Senate Code of Official Conduct says: “The decision to provide assistance to petitioners may not be made on the basis of contributions or services, or promises of contributions or services, to the Member’s political campaigns or to other organizations in which the Member has a political, personal, or financial interest.”
Homeland’s Inspector General issued a report in March 2015 accusing Mayorkas of showing favoritism and providing special access to EB-5 visas for Democrats — specifically Harry Reid, Terry McAuliffe and Anthony Rodham, brother of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Instead of attacking, as Democrats are doing with Trump’s kin, the Obama administration circled the wagons. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Mayorkas had been “impatient with our sluggish government bureaucracy.” It wasn’t sluggish. The expedited visas were denied and that decision was, according to agency rules, not appealable.
Later an ICE agent who tried to block the SLS visas was fired. She refused to accept a $100,000 severance package that would have required non-disclosure and testified before Congress about the abuses of the EB-5 program. She later accepted an undisclosed settlement.
The agent testified that EB-5 visas were approved in as little as 16 days and “lacked basic necessary law enforcement” screening.
She told Congress: “In 2013, after disclosing gross mismanagement, waste and fraud that threatened the general public’s safety, National Security Risks and public corruption surrounding an EB-5 project, I was subjected to a significant amount of harassment and retaliation. … Some of the violations I was investigating surrounding this EB-5 project include Title 18 statues; Major Fraud, Money Laundering, Bank and Wire fraud. In addition, I had discovered ties to Organized crime and high ranking officials and politicians, who received large campaign contributions that appeared to have facilitat(ed) the EB-5 project.”
Back then nothing could be heard from Democrats over the chirping of crickets, but now Feinstein ruminates that it is “crystal clear that the EB-5 regional center program presents a stark conflict of interest for the Trump White House.”
Reid got a pass and a coverup, but Trump is not a fellow Democrat.
Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.