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Homeland Security official probed

Posted: July 24, 2013 6:00 a.m.
Updated: July 24, 2013 6:00 a.m.
 

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's choice to be the No. 2 official at the Homeland Security Department is under investigation for his role in helping a company run by a brother of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Associated Press has learned.

Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is being investigated in connections with efforts to secure an international investor visa for a Chinese executive, according to congressional officials briefed on the investigation. The officials spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the probe.

Mayorkas was named by Homeland Security's Inspector General's Office as a target in the investigation involving the foreign investor program run by USCIS, according to an email sent to lawmakers late Monday. The IG's office said, "At this point in our investigation, we do not have any findings of criminal misconduct." The email did not specify any criminal allegations it might be investigating.

White House press secretary Jay Carney referred questions to the inspector general's office, which said that the probe is in its preliminary stage and that the office doesn't comment on the specifics of investigations.

The investigation does not appear to have any direct ties to Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, but the connection to her brother Anthony Rodham's company could provide new fodder for Republican super PACs, which have sought to discredit her record. The former first lady and New York senator, who is considered a possible contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, has recently been maintaining a lower profile of private speeches and work on a new book.

Mayorkas, a former U.S. attorney in California, has previously come under criticism for his involvement in the commutation by President Bill Clinton of the prison sentence of the son of a Democratic Party donor. Another of Hillary Clinton's brothers, Hugh Rodham, had been hired by the donor to lobby for the commutation. Mayorkas told lawmakers during his 2009 confirmation hearing that "it was a mistake" to talk to the White House about the request.

Hillary Clinton stepped down as secretary of state on Feb. 1.

If Mayorkas were confirmed as Homeland Security's deputy secretary, he probably would run the department until a permanent replacement was approved to take over for departing Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The email to lawmakers said the primary complaint against him was that he helped the financing company win approval for an investor visa, even after the application was denied and an appeal was rejected.

Anthony Rodham is president and CEO of Gulf Coast Funds Management LLC in McLean, Va. The firm is one of hundreds of "Regional Centers" that pool investments from foreign nationals looking to invest in U.S. businesses or industries as part of the foreign investor visa program.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, the firm's general counsel, D. Simone Williams, said the company was not aware of the investigation. Williams said it also was not aware of an investor visa application being denied.

The government program involved in the investigation, known as EB-5, allows foreigners to get visas if they invest $500,000 to $1 million in projects or businesses that create jobs for U.S. citizens. The amount of the investment required depends on the type of project. Investors who are approved for the program can become legal permanent residents after two years and can later be eligible to become citizens.

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