The EB-5 immigrant investor program is in the news again today; and, as usual, the news is not good.
The program is linked with:
- Michael Cohen, the president's personal lawyer, who allegedly paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 to be silent about her relations with the president; and
- Nicholas Mastroianni II, a highly successful EB-5 middleman, who, according to the Associated Press, had "a string of drug-related felonies in his 20s and a bankruptcy before [entering the EB-5 business]."
Mastroianni has another distinction: Unlike all the other lobbying clients that Cohen picked up after the Trump's victory, such as Novartis and AT&T, he seems pleased with the relationship.
Further, quoting the AP story:
Mastroianni has been connected to Trump associates who faced scrutiny before. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn reportedly investigated the family real estate firm once run by Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner after an aborted effort by USIF [Mastroianni's firm] to help the Kushners raise $150 million in visa money in China.
The AP also reported:
A person familiar with Mastroianni's thinking says he was worried about changes in the EB-5 program when he reached out to Cohen. The lawyer referred Mastroianni to Squire Patton Boggs, a powerhouse lobbying firm that had a "strategic partnership" with Cohen that included a Rockefeller Center office and a $500,000 retainer to send potential clients its way.
Squire Patton Boggs played a key role in heading off reforms in the EB-5 program, reforms that would have had a negative impact on USIF and other middlemen in the EB-5 program. The main part of the EB-5 program, the one that allows the pooling of investor funds, has been repeatedly renewed, without a vote in Congress, through riders on "must pass" appropriations bills always supported by the Minority Leader of the Senate, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and the Majority Whip, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Disclosure: I had several long conversations with the AP reporter, Bernard Condon, on how the EB-5 program works generally, and was quoted in his article.