By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
RICHMOND, Va. — Gov. Terry McAuliffe has “100 percent divested” himself of GreenTech Automotive, the electric car company he pointed to as evidence of his business savvy during his successful run for Virginia’s top office.
Thomas Richardson, a Washington, D.C., attorney who oversaw financial holdings for the incoming governor, told Watchdog.org McAuliffe was “totally divested” of the firm.
At one time, McAuliffe was said to be the private company’s largest stockholder, with stock valued at some $250,000.
Richardson would not disclose the timing or terms of the divestiture, saying only that McAuliffe “retains no interest whatsoever in the company.” He referred further questions to the governor’s general counsel office.
McAuliffe’s financial disclosure form, obtained through the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office, makes no mention of GreenTech.
Watchdog.org sought a copy of McAuliffe’s latest federal income tax return. General Counsel Carlos Hopkins rebuffed that request, saying the governor is not required to furnish those documents.
“My office does not discuss or disclose information related to the governor’s personal accounts,” Hopkins stated in an email.
During the 2013 gubernatorial campaign, McAuliffe released a summary of his 2012 federal tax return. His Republican opponent, Ken Cuccinelli, made his full returns available to the public — and challenged McAuliffe to do the same.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said it knew of no state that requires full disclosure of federal tax returns by candidates or public officials.
“It’s becoming a more common practice,” RCFP researcher Emily Grannis said of disclosure. “There’s a lot of pressure to disclose, especially at the governor level, but it’s not the law.”
Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, added that the Freedom of Information Act “does not apply to personal records” of elected officials.
In April 2013, GreenTech president and CEO Charles Wang announcedMcAuliffe had stepped down as the company’s chairman four months earlier. That announcement came as Watchdog.org published a series of articles about the gubernatorial candidate’s role with the Virginia-based company.
Three days after Wang’s announcement, GreenTech filed an $85 million lawsuit against Watchdog.org, alleging that its news reporting on McAuliffe had damaged the company’s relations with investors.
A U.S. District judge last month dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction.
Wang told The New York Times last August there were times he wished he had never gone into business with the politically connected McAuliffe.
“Politicians or people with political backgrounds are dangerous to business,” Wang told the Times.
Richardson, the attorney, said McAuliffe also divested himself of holdings in another Virginia enterprise, Franklin Pellets. In a southern Virginia plant, the company was to produce wood pellets as fuel.
On a recent trade mission, McAuliffe talked up pellets as a reliable energy source for electric utilities in Europe.
Kenric Ward is a national reporter for Watchdog.org and chief of the Virginia Bureau. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward