In more EB-5 irony, some of the folks most passionate about investigating the EB-5 visa investment program that Republicans like Mike Rounds so eagerly promoted in South Dakota are Republicans from outside South Dakota. Testifying Wednesday in support of his bill to terminate South Dakota's involvement with EB-5 investment, Rep. Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton) invoked the work of Republican Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa, who has raised national security alarms about Communist China's interest in our EB-5 program. Grassley has also pitched a fit about apparent Obama Administration cronyism funneling EB-5 money to favored politicos.

Now Republican Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma is seeking more information about EB-5 regional centers. Not falling for the silly arguments we've heard from South Dakota state government that our EB-5 program involved a private contractor and thus can't be investigated, Senator Coburn has sent letters to these federally authorized entities and asked for...

  • Any approval from USCIS to participate in the EB-5 program regarding the regional center and its business plan, including any subsequent recertification;
  • The total annual amount of investment and the number of individuals by country of origin making investments through the regional center since it has been in operation;
  • The name, address, and a description of each business in which the regional center has made an investment of funds and the number of jobs created by each investment;
  • Any fees charged to EB-5 applicants or received by the regional center, including amount and description;
  • A list of any current or former corporate officers of the regional center, including title, position, and dates of employment; and
  • The name and address of any individual or entity — either foreign or domestic — that the regional center has an agreement with to provide legal, accounting, recruiting or consulting services, as well as a description of the service provided.

[David North, summarizing Senator Tom Coburn, letter to EB-5 regional centers, 2014.02.14]

Nationwide, the lawyers who make money coordinating EB-5 programs are decrying Senator Coburn's request for public accountability and urging their regional center clients to clam up. I am eager to hear whether Senator Coburn gets a response from South Dakota's terminated EB-5 exec Joop Bollen or from the reticent caretakers of the idled program in our Governor's Office of Economic Development.

I am also eager to see if South Dakota Republicans, who have blocked efforts for more serious investigation and outright stoppage of our state's EB-5 activities, will develop anything like Grassley's and Coburn's interest in EB-5.

Related: Canada is terminating its Immigrant Investor Program, the program that inspired the U.S. to create EB-5. Canada found that the mostly Chinese immigrants who took advantage of their program paid less in taxes than other immigrants, generated less investment income, and drove up housing prices.