Kushners know it helps to have friends in the oval office
President Trump kept the government open recently by signing a $1.1 trillion appropriations bill, and tucked into that 1,665-page monstrosity was one paragraph that enables wealthy foreigners to buy American citizenship.
The next day, Nicole Kushner Meyer addressed an audience in a Ritz-Carlton ballroom in Beijing, where she used that wee item in the spending bill - which extends the controversial EB-5 visa program through September - to help rich Chinese investors obtain green cards and fast-track their American dream.
All it takes was a half-million bucks, which Ms. Kushner Meyer would plunge in her company's luxury apartment towers in Jersey City.
Remember how Trump said we'd never have to worry about whether his family's global business interests would influence how he governs?
This isn't one of those cases.
Kushner Meyer had an easy sell: She told investors that this development "means a lot to me and my entire family" - which includes her brother, Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law and top advisor.
It didn't hurt to have an image of Trump himself on a TV screen during her presentation.
After her smarmy sales pitch was reported in the New York Times, Ms. Kushner Meyer apologized if the name-dropping "was in any way interpreted as an attempt to lure investors."
Except that's exactly what she did - all to finance the Kushner Company's $821 million One Journal Square project. Then she did it again, the following day in Shanghai.
Almost puts you in the mood for a Nixon Burger, doesn't it?
It helps to know powerful people, especially when they have the authority to extend a program beneficial to your real estate empire.
But both parties in Congress have targeted EB-5 for termination. In January, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) co-authored a repeal bill that noted that EB-5 is rife with fraud, abuse, and corruption.
EB-5 had well-intentioned origins 27 years ago, as a way to attract international capital to the U.S. by awarding permanent residency to 10,000 foreigners per year. All they had to do was invest $1 million in a U.S. business that creates at least 10 jobs, or $500,000 in rural or low-employment areas. Pay your money, and jump the line for citizenship.
But those investments usually went to projects in affluent communities, such as Journal Square, rather than rural or low-employment areas. And while there are success stories, there are also Ponzi schemes and real estate scams.
Now we have the family of a U.S. President feathering its nest by exploiting his office.
"It's incredibly stupid and highly inappropriate," Richard Painter, the ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, told the Washington Post. "They clearly imply that the Kushners are going to make sure you get your visa. Of course (Chinese applicants) are going to want to invest."
And nobody believes that Jared Kushner himself won't eventually be reinstalled as a beneficiary in these projects after he leaves the White House. Ethics filings from March show that he and Ivanka Trump are still beneficiaries in a $740 million business, but they do not specify most holdings.
But for the sake of appearance, the Kushners should not cash in on their proximity to the President, so maybe there is an easy solution to this, courtesy of ethics watchdog Democracy 21: Until that repeal bill moves, no company associated with Trump or Kushner should utilize any investment visa program, because the potential for impropriety is too tantalizing for these people to pass up. The Office of Government Ethics would undoubtedly agree.
If the president grouses about visa peddling being taken off his desk, he can always fantasize about walling off Mexicans and slamming doors on children trying to escape with their lives in Syria.
- U.S. Immigration Fund - NJ
- 88 KUSHNER-KABR (Trump Bay Street)
- One Journal Square (EB-5 Not Used)
- Chuck Grassley
- New Jersey
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