Too-coy-by-half Senatorial candidate Scott Milne has come out firing with both barrels on the EB-5 program, hoping to use it as a wedge issue against perpetual incumbent Pat Leahy. Some of his criticisms are valid; others reveal a profound misunderstanding of Leahy’s role in the program.
Either misunderstanding or rank political opportunism. You make the call.
Milne is on solid ground when he accuses Leahy of being a prominent advocate of EB-5, and for being a vocal cheerleader for Vermont developers taking advantage of the program. Leahy has basked in the glow of ribbon-cuttings and high-profile announcements for years; he deserves his share of the heat from the collapse of Jay Peak and the involvement of his “good friend” Bill Stenger in an alleged fraud scheme.
It’s also fair to criticize Leahy for pushing a program with a fundamentally problematic premise: selling green cards to high rollers.
However, I don’t expect Milne to hit too hard on that point, considering that he himself toyed with the notion of soliciting EB-5 investor funds. Seven Days’ Paul Heintz reports that Milne traveled to China and South Korea in 2009 with Bill Stenger and then-Governor Jim Douglas, and came back an EB-5 enthusiast:
“To me, it is the perfect storm of government policy capturing the best of entrepreneurial spirit,” he told the Valley News a week after returning from Asia. “I was pleased beyond my expectations.”
“Perfect storm,” hahaha. There’s a malapropism that turned out to be horribly apropos.
Milne goes off the rails when he accuses Leahy of “mismanagement,” and lumps the Senator in with Governor Shumlin for “the way the EB-5 program has been structured and managed.”
See, the problem with that is, Leahy has had absolutely no role in the structuring or management of EB-5. He played a part in creating the program and promoting developments, but that’s all.
He can’t fairly be compared to Shumlin on this point. Shumlin — and his predecessors — set up Vermont’s EB-5 system. They are responsible for the failure to include any effective oversight of projects. You can’t compare Shumlin’s role with Leahy’s.
It is fair, however, to directly equate Shumlin and Jim Douglas. Somehow, I don’t think Milne is making that case either. In fact, he told Heintz that Douglas was tougher on EB-5 oversight than Shumlin — an assertion unmoored in fact.
But hey, Milne is ginning up issues for a challenge to an extremely popular incumbent. That takes hard work, and imagination.
Or, to put it another way, making stuff up.