Commentary

Kushner Companies Court Chinese Investors With Green Card Pitch

Presidential senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner is taking heat after his sister pointed out to potential partners in China that an investment of $500,000 or more in the Kushner Companies’ One Journal Square project in Jersey City, N.J., could grease the skids for permanent residency in the U.S. under the EB-5 visa program

Nichole Kushner Meyer told more than 100 people at a Beijing hotel Saturday “that the $976 million project — twin 66-story towers with nearly 1,500 apartments — ‘means a lot to me and my entire family,’” reports Ken Bredemeier for Voice of America. “She mentioned that her brother formerly was chief executive of the Kushner Companies, a position he resigned as he and his wife, Trump's oldest daughter Ivanka, moved to Washington and joined [President Donald] Trump’s staff.”

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Reporters for the Washington Post and New York Times were initially present at that Beijing pitch — an “event that touted the Kushner name and ‘government support’ in its marketing materials,” according to Gabriel Wildau in the Financial Times — but eventually were kicked out.

“The Kushner family came to the United States as refugees, worked hard and made it big — and if you invest in Kushner properties, so can you. That was the message delivered Saturday by … Meyer to a ballroom full of wealthy Chinese investors in Beijing,” report Emily Rauhala and William Wan for the Washington Post. “The potential investors were advised to invest sooner rather than later in case visa rules change under the Trump administration,” they add.

“The Shanghai event, at the opulent Four Seasons Hotel, was patrolled by burly security guards who screened those in attendance and kept journalists outside, in an elevator lobby,” report Keith Bradsher, Ailin Tang and Jesse Drucker for the New York Times. “But some who attended described an investor pitch similar to the one in Beijing, and Mr. Trump’s political power was palpable at the Shanghai event even if his name went unsaid,” they write.

The “marketing push comes as Mr. Kushner is emerging as a crucial voice on China relations, brokering meetings between his father-in-law and top Chinese government officials,” they point out. 

“It's highly problematic,” Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, tellsNPR’s Merrit Kennedy. “It appears that Jared Kushner's family business is using his name and his official position to bring in investment.”

“Kushner Companies ‘apologizes if that mention of [Meyer's] brother was in any way interpreted as an attempt to lure investors,’ it said in a statement emailed to NPR, adding that it was not her intention. It said the One Journal Square project would provide millions in tax revenue and bring in thousands of construction jobs to New Jersey,” Kennedy continues.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal broke the story that Jared Kushner “is currently in business with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and billionaires George Soros and Peter Thiel, according to people familiar with the matter and securities filings.” Kushner cofounded and partly owns the real-estate tech startup called Cadre, and Soros and Thiel, “as well as other billionaires’ firms, also have stakes in the company, which is based in a Manhattan building owned by the Kushner family’s company, according to people close to Cadre,” report Jean Eaglesham, Juliet Chung and Lisa Schwartz.

“The Cadre stake is one of many interests — and ties to large financial institutions — that Mr. Kushner didn’t identify on his government financial-disclosure form, according to a Wall Street Journal review of securities and other filings. Others include loans totaling at least $1 billion, from more than 20 lenders to properties and companies part-owned by Mr. Kushner …” 

An attorney representing Kushner told the WSJ that “the Cadre stake is described in a revised version of his disclosure form that will be made public after it has been certified by ethics officials” and that he has “resigned from Cadre’s board, assigned his voting rights and reduced his ownership share.”

The attorney, Jamie Gorelick, also pointed out that it’s “very normal” to revise financial-disclosure forms.

Other observers found the Kushner Companies pitch in China over the weekend to be quite normal and appropriate, too.

“There is much harrumphing as the Kushner companies are found to be extolling the idea of investment in the United States economy as a way to gain a residence visa for America,” writesForbes contributor Tim Worstall, a fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London. But isn’t that exactly want we want in order to reduce the trade deficit? he asks. “We might as well have them buying apartments in New Jersey as anything else, right?”

Plus, Worstall points out, “Note that there is nothing odd nor new about these visa arrangements. They've not been brought in under the present administration or anything. They stem from the Immigration Act of 1990. That the Kushner family companies are seeking to use it is one thing, but it most certainly wasn't created just for them or anything.”

Yeah. And besides that, Chinese investors have a history of not only getting things done but also making them last, unlike certain others.

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