I don’t know what it would take for Patricia Moulton to realize that the jig is up, that business as usual in the EB-5 program simply won’t cut it anymore. But clearly, a major scandal isn’t enough.
The chief of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development put in an eppearance Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee, where she steadfastly refused to acknowledge that there was anything wrong with Vermont’s EB-5 program. According to VTDigger, one lawmaker characterized her testimony as “unrepentant.” And Sen. Kevin Mullin, not exactly an outside-the-box thinker, said Moulton “kind of scared me today because she was so much of a cheerleader.”
Okay, let’s look at the record. Moulton, following in the footsteps of her predecessor Lawrence Miller and his predecessors in the Douglas Administration, allowed horribly lax oversight of EB-5 projects, thus enabling the (cough, allegedly) fraudulent Jay Peak scheme to proceed for most of a decade. The last two people in charge of overseeing EB-5 left the agency to take jobs with EB-5 developers. The Shumlin administration, belatedly, realized that ACCD was failing to do the job and transferred regulatory oversight to the Department of Financial Regulation.
After all that, the feds raid Jay Peak, haul off the records and computers and change the locks, and issue a massive indictment of Bill Stenger, Ariel Quiros and company, which is a tacit indictment of Vermont’s dereliction of duty.
And now comes Patricia Moulton saying “as secretary of ACCD, my job, absolutely, is to be a cheerleader for the [EB-5] regional center.”
Amazing. How tone-deaf can you be?
But wait, there’s more! Moulton failed to deliver a key piece of information that lawmakers had requested: how much has the state failed to collect in management fees from Stenger and Quiros? The state stopped collecting those fees last fall because, as Moulton had earlier said, “We were afraid the money was coming from investors” rather than the developers.
So wait. You suspect that something is fishy with the developers’ finances, so you give them a break on fees?
Anyway, on April 19 lawmakers asked Moulton to provide a dollar figure for the waived fees. And on Tuesday, May 3, Moulton still didn’t have an answer.
The fee schedule, she says, has changed several times, her regional director, Gene Fullam is out, and she couldn’t provide rough figures until Thursday.
“I don’t want to guess,” Moulton said.
Yeah, well, I don’t want you managing a lemonade stand, let alone a state agency.
Patricia Moulton is one of those Usual Suspects who spend their days in, or very close to, state government. She was a member of Jim Douglas’ cabinet. She’s spent time in the public/private gray zone with the Chamber of Commerce and Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation. She’s the daughter of Al Moulton, who was state economic development chief under four governors.
Oh, and lest we forget, she’s the person who put the state, figuratively at least, in bed with Tom Torti of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce by giving the Chamber a $100,000, no-bid contract to drum up business in Quebec. Whatever did he do with that money, by the way?
Given her resume and her unswerving support of EB-5, it’s clear that she is a creature of the status quo. I hope she never gets another chance to be a “cheerleader” for a troubled, fraud-riddled government program.
And, FWIW, she’s exactly the kind of person likely to populate a Phil Scott administration, Lord help us all.