My Chinese is worse than Mike Rounds's. But luckily for Rounds and China, everybody speaks dollar. The Chinese state news office archives this article from July 2009 showing then-Governor Rounds, his economic development chief Richard Benda, and EB-5 visa hustler Joop Bollen happily escorting Chinese executive Wang Limin around the state and talking up Basin Electric's Deer Creek Station, a combined cycle gas power plant built in part with what appear to be $110 million in investments from 220 EB-5 visa investors via two limited partnerships (SDIF LP3 and SDIF LP7) run under the South Dakota Investment Fund.
There's Richard Benda, Wang, and Bollen at the Pierre airport, getting ready to fly.
And so on.
These photos touch in part on why Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa has seen fit to push an investigation of the EB-5 program that now includes the Northern Beef Packers debacle and the EB-5 visa investments solicited and managed by SDRC's Joop Bollen, former GOED boss Richard Benda, and former Governor Mike Rounds. Review this PDF packet of inquiries and memos from Senator Grassley's office, and you'll find Senator Grassley is alarmed that, among other things, the EB-5 visa program may open a window through which Chinese intelligence could spy on the United States.
This packet doesn't mention South Dakota, but it does mention situations in which lower-level officials in the United States Customs and Immigration Service blocked EB-5 investors for security reasons but were overruled by USCIS chief Alejandro Mayorkas. Senator Grassley also finds FBI agents alarmed that their San Diego building was constructed with EB-5 investment from China.
That's tenuous stuff, but think about it: Imagine the Cold War were still on. Imagine the EB-5 program had existed then. Imagine we found out that major projects were being built with millions of dollars sent to us by Russians who in return got clean immigration papers, sometimes expedited by our own officials over the concerns of lower staff. Might we not have worried about national security in that situation?
Yes, the Northern Beef Packers/EB-5/SDRC/Bollen-Benda-Rounds story is complicated. Keep watching....
p.s.: Note that the administration of Rounds's ascendant lieutenant, Dennis Daugaard, is distancing itself from the EB-5 visa program:
Venhuizen said Daugaard still sees value in the EB-5 program as an economic development tool, but of more limited value than at the peak of EB-5 activity half a dozen years ago.
“Certainly, we have a lot of other economic development tools that are more valuable and more important,” Venhuizen said. “Some of these projects are very concerning and could make anyone hesitant about the program, but on the flip side, there have also been some notable successes, including in South Dakota, where projects that were successful were funded in part by that program” [Dirk Lammers, "Beef Plant, Federal Program Investigated," AP via that Sioux Falls paper, 2013.11.01].
Let's see how many other ways the current administration seeks daylight between itself and its predecessor.