Race preview? Milne takes on Leahy

Race preview? Milne takes on Leahy

 EB-5 Visa, EB5 Visa, EB-5 Investment

Republican Scott Milne is ramping up his criticism of Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy as he weighs a challenge to the Senate’s longest-serving member.

Milne, 57, who narrowly lost the 2014 gubernatorial election to Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, has been publicly mulling a run against Leahy for some time. But now the North Pomfret resident is using civil fraud charges against two Northeast Kingdom developers as ammunition against the 76-year-old Leahy, who has championed the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program that the accused allegedly used to defraud foreign investors.

Calling himself a “potential U.S. Senate candidate,” Milne called on Leahy in a statement last week to release communications to and from Leahy’s office related to the EB-5 program and the projects undertaken by Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros. The duo are accused by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and the state of misusing about $200 million of the $350 million they raised from foreign investors in $500,000 increments for development projects at Jay Peak, Q Burke Mountain, and in the town of Newport. Quiros is also accused of using $50 million of investor money for his own personal gain.

Milne criticized Shumlin and Leahy for their oversight of the EB-5 program and for traveling overseas to promote the program with potential investors.

“The federal EB-5 visa program has been mismanaged by Pat Leahy and Peter Shumlin. We spoke about this in the 2014 campaign. As the EB-5 program’s self-proclaimed ‘leading champion,’ Pat Leahy traveled the world to help recruit investors into this alleged Ponzi scheme,” Milne said. “Pat Leahy needs to clear the air regarding what he and his office knew, when they knew it, and what he’s done — and failed to do — by releasing information.”

The Shumlin administration has declined to release its communications regarding the projects, citing a litigation hold put in place last October by Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell. Leahy spokesman David Carle said the senator’s office is also declining to release the information requested by Milne because of an office policy to not release constituent correspondence.

Carle said Leahy finds it “unfortunate that someone has chosen to politicize such a sad situation for these communities.” Leahy, Carle said, has never had anyone pay for travel related to the program and has not traveled overseas to specifically promote the program. 

“The efforts that he and others made in good faith to help bring scarce investment dollars to struggling communities in Vermont succeeded with other Vermont projects, but he completely shares the feeling of betrayal that Vermonters in the Northeast Kingdom are enduring,” Carle said.

Milne criticized Leahy again in a second statement Monday for his refusal to release information.

“Like the lifetime politician that he is, Sen. Leahy is speaking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to transparency in government. Today, he claims privacy rights should shield him from scrutiny regarding the EB-5 scandal. But just two months ago, Leahy was celebrating ‘Sunshine Week,’ declaring, ‘Our very democracy is built on the idea that our government should not operate in secret,’” Milne said.

As Seven Days reported, Milne traveled to China and North Korea in October 2009 with Stenger, former Gov. Jim Douglas and other business owners. Milne’s business partner, David Boies III, traveled alongside Milne as the two considered using the EB-5 program for their Quechee Highlands development project. They paid their own way and ultimately decided not to raise capital through the program, but Milne praised the EB-5 program, telling the Valley News at the time that he was “pleased beyond my expectations” with it.

Milne lost the close 2014 gubernatorial race to Shumlin by about 2,400 votes. But Shumlin was facing blowback about ongoing technological problems with Vermont Health Connect and a land deal with a neighbor turned sour. Milne is likely to face a much tougher race against Leahy, who was first elected in 1974 and remains popular with voters.



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