ROCK ISLAND -- Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, has hit out at Republican Bobby Schilling for voting for a program while he was in Congress that she also has supported since taking office.|
In 2012, Mr. Schilling, of Colona, voted to reauthorize the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program that grants visas to foreigners who invest $1 million or $500,000 in projects that create at least 10 U.S. jobs.
After Mr. Schilling lost his seat in Congress in 2012 to Rep. Bustos, he took a job with CMB Regional Centers in Rock Island which finds projects for foreign investors seeking EB-5 visas.
On Thursday, Rep Bustos released a statement that said Mr. Schilling "walked out of Congress into a six-figure job selling American visas to wealthy Chinese investors that pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to game the immigration system."
Her statement called EB-5 a "Visa for sale" program that has become "extremely controversial."
But Rep. Bustos in January co-sponsored an immigration bill that would make the EB-5 program permanent. The bill has yet to be called for a vote.
Rep. Bustos also offered to assist Mr. Schilling's employer's application for a license to operate in Illinois, according to CMB President Pat Hogan. According to Mr. Hogan, two of his staff spoke with Rep. Bustos earlier this year about their application for an EB-5 regional center in Illinois.
Mr. Hogan said the application had languished for some time but, four days after the conversation with Rep. Bustos, it was approved. Mr. Hogan said Rep. Bustos was a "major hypocrite" to criticize a program and a company she committed to helping.
Rep. Bustos' spokesman Colin Milligan said she met with CMB staff, but "listening is all she did, and any suggestion otherwise is patently false."
The Bustos campaign also has highlighted several cases of corruption in the EB-5 program. None of the cases were directly linked to CMB.
Mr. Hogan said none of CMB's projects had failed and the company brought jobs and investment to the U.S.
The Bustos campaign also noted concerns by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, that applicants for the program had not been properly cited and could pose a national security threat.
"You don't throw away a good program because you've got bad actors," Mr. Hogan said. "You get rid of the bad actors.
Since joining CMB, Mr. Schilling's biggest project has been the redevelopment of the former Texaco headquarters in Houston, Texas. With investment through the EB-5 program, the building has been turned into office and residential space, Mr. Hogan said.
Mr. Schilling is challenging Rep. Bustos in the Nov. 4 election. His campaign mocked Rep. Bustos for criticizing his support and work for a program she also has supported.
"One wonders what caused Cheri Bustos to make another unforced error of this magnitude," said Schilling campaign manager Steven Shearer. "Out here in farm country, it's called stepping in a cowpie."
CMB executives and their immediate families have made campaign contributions of at least $33,150 to Mr. Schilling, according to the Bustos campaign. Mr. Hogan said he and his wife both are longstanding supporters of Mr. Schilling and have made donations to his political campaigns.