Monday, June 18, 2012

Senate Minority Leader John Sampson's curious EB-5 gig: helping market green cards to immigrant investors from China

I have an article in City and State headlined THE “VOLUNTEER” V.P.: John Sampson’s unusual new gig marketing green cards to Chinese nationals.

It's not about Atlantic Yards, but there is a skein of connection. I wouldn't be following the (generally) little-scrutinized EB-5 industry if I hadn't gotten a tip in the summer of 2010 that it would be used for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Since then, despite ample reasons for closer scrutiny, the EB-5 business has been booming.

In this case, Sampson, the Senate Minority Leader, quietly--as in no announcements/press releases in English--began participating as the (seeming) Chief Executive Vice President of the New York City Real Estate Regional Center (NYCRERC).

Sampson's role? To help market green cards to would be immigrant investors from China, under the federal government's EB-5 program. (He's also been described merely as a board member, though that's not what the web site says.)


On video

According to a video of a press conference held in Flushing in April, NYCRERC CEO Lee Siegel (at 9:10) talking about Sampson, seemed "to stoke the ambiguity between the senator’s public and private connections to the company," as the article describes.



At 31:17, Sampson talks about the NYCRERC about his gig, without much specificity. Is there any advantage for him beyond simply supporting the growth of jobs? As ethics watchdog Susan Lerner suggested, it's not exactly an eleemosynary activity.

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