- SeaTac, Wash.: City’s new $15 minimum wage heads to court
- Obama mulls support for Islamists in Syria, with conditions
- Obama ‘birther’ theories float, as Hawaii health director killed in crash
- U.S. drone faulted for killing 14 ‘innocent civilians’ at Yemen wedding
- GOP hopes taking shutdown off the table with budget deal will pay dividends
- Chinese Death Star: The moon cited as the perfect launch pad for ballistic missiles
- Help wanted: Homeland Security plagued by vacancies at the top
- We are not amused: Queen’s protection officers warned to keep ‘sticky fingers’ off the royal cashews
- Unleash the crossbows: Gov. Scott Walker creates new hunting season
- Bubonic plague kills 20 in Madagascar
U.S. electric-car maker praised by Obama probed over foreign parts
The year after President Obama singled out the company for creating lots of American jobs, California-based Tesla Motors became the focus of a federal probe into whether the automaker was using foreign instead of American parts in manufacturing their electric vehicles, records show.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation centered on whether the company was using its foreign trade zone status to bypass federal loan requirements that companies must buy American, according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
Tesla closed on a $465 million federal loan with the U.S. Department of Energy in early 2010. Founded in 2003, the company sells its electric Model S luxury sedan for anywhere from $49,000 to $97,900, after federal tax credits.
ICE investigators first approached the Department of Energy's Office of Inspector General one year ago this week, months before the company’s application for “subzone” trade zone status was approved in September.
ICE investigators sought loan documents from the Energy Department because they were “looking into whether Tesla Motors is using foreign-made parts in manufacturing their vehicles rather than U.S.-made parts,” according to an Energy Department inspector general memo obtained by The Times.
The ICE official, whose name was redacted in records provided to The Times, also said the agency was “proactively investigating” whether Tesla was using its foreign trade zone status to bypass loan requirements that “may stipulate companies must buy American,” records state.
Created in the 1930s, federally approved “foreign trade zones” designate certain areas at or near a customs port of entry as locations where products can be imported without the usual customs entry procedures and import duties.
Tesla’s application for a “subzone” within the city of San Jose’s foreign trade zone was approved on Sept. 20, according to federal records.
The Energy Department watchdog office ultimately declined to join the probe, telling ICE that the federal loan to Tesla came about through a federal appropriations bill — not under Mr. Obama’s stimulus program.
While lots of taxpayer money was at stake either way, the difference in the funding source meant that the Tesla loan “does not have the same buy American requirement,” investigators from the Energy Department’s inspector general told ICE, according to records.
The details about the investigation came to light as a result of a request by The Times for final summaries for dozens of investigations by the Energy Department watchdog office for probes involving federal stimulus funds.
“As a matter of policy, we neither confirm nor the deny the existence of ongoing investigations,” said Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
Tesla makes no mention of the government investigation in its Securities and Exchange Commission disclosures, though there’s also no indication from the Energy Department investigative memo that the company was notified about the probe.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- Stung by defeat: SEC hires trial consultants
- Solaria? Solyndra? Feds bailed on promising solar company, lawsuit says
- Last call: State Dept. bought $180,000 in liquor before shutdown
- Federal prosecutors drop charges against defendants who disappeared
- Bankrupt energy company probed
Latest Blog Entries
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
- House budget bargain faces Senate filibuster; Republicans line up to oppose
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- Broncos-Chargers game ends with several stabbings
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- American missing in Iran was CIA operative who went rogue
- Obama birther theories float, as Hawaii health director killed in crash
- Kim Jong-un consolidating power or losing grip on North Korea's military
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- PRUDEN: The last living witnesses; they wore the yellow star and remember the Nazi terror
- KEENE: James Clapper should resign for lying to Congress
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Consummate traveler Todd DeFeo explores the unique stories that make destinations worth going to.
Covering the world of soccer, including the World Cup, Major League Soccer, D.C. United and the English Premier League and other interesting sporting events.
Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
Columns from Voices around the World talking about the events, people, politics and social issues that concern us wherever, and whoever, we are.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow