Among the highlights from the Government Operations and Audit Committee hearing happening right now on the EB-5 scandal, Board of Regents exec Jack Warner provides the first direct answer we've heard as to why the state didn't fire EB-5 czar Joop Bollen for his multiple violations of Regental policy and state law in 2008 and 2009. "If we were going to mount a successful defense" in the Darley litigation, "we needed to rely on Mr. Bollen's testimony."

Recall that in August, the Regents, the Attorney General, and the Governor's Office told us that Bollen got no immunity deal, even though he had pressed for one. But today, Warner is implying that in 2009, Bollen got something like immunity from firing in return for his help in beating back the Darley lawsuit. Does the need to beat Darley also explain why the state granted Bollen his private contract to run EB-5 for personal profit after 2009?

Attorney General Marty Jackley says he never granted Bollen immunity from prosecution, but Bob Mercer reported yesterday that Jackley apparently granted Bollen immunity from interrogation. AG Jackley told Mercer, "I did not meet with Mr. Bollen personally either during or after the investigation, nor have I talked with him." Mercer reported AG Jackley's statement that he had spoken with federal investigators and reviewed the information they received from Bollen. Incredibly, though, AG Jackley has never seen fit to conduct his own inquiry into Bollen's state-level misdeeds.

Strangely, AG Jackley felt the need to repeat himself today in a press release. Let me quote in full, so there is no misunderstanding:

ATTORNEY GENERAL CONFIRMS THAT JOOP BOLLEN WAS INTERVIEWED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT ON MORE THAN ONE OCCASION IN RELATION TO THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INVESTIGATION

Pierre S.D. - Attorney General Marty Jackley confirms that on more than one occasion Joop Bollen voluntarily agreed to be interviewed by law enforcement authorities acting in joint cooperation. This has been set forth in both Joop Bollen's recently filed responses to GOAC questions and the testimony of the Attorney General to GOAC on July 29, 2014. Both the Division of Criminal Investigation and the Attorney General's Office have received Joop Bollen's interview information from federal authorities, along with voluminous other witness information as part of cooperative law enforcement efforts some of which were completed by DCI, FBI or both agencies jointly. Based upon all of the investigation information, the Attorney General authorized moving forward with state criminal charges as more fully set forth in the criminal complaint and arrest warrant drafts of October 8, 2013, as provided to GOAC [South Dakota Attorney General's Office, press release, 2014.11.13].

In one of its rare allusions to EB-5 (an affair that has received minimal attention, investigation, or analysis from Pat Powers), the GOP spin machine claims that this press release "refutes" Mercer's claim that AG Jackley didn't interview Bollen. The GOP spin machine then dismisses the Mercer article as "shenanigans."

This assertion from Powers is problematic on many fronts.

  1. Bob Mercer makes no claim. He quotes Attorney General Marty Jackley directly. AG Jackley says (let's repeat it, to be clear), "I did not meet with Mr. Bollen personally either during or after the investigation, nor have I talked with him."
  2. The AG's press release does not refute anything Mercer reported. The press release says the AG received information from federal authorities. The press release does not say the AG spoke or met with Bollen. The press release does not say Mercer misquoted Jackley. The press release has no refutatory power against anything Mercer said (or for that matter, anything I said in my follow-up blog post on the topic).
  3. AG Jackley and the GOP gain no apparent advantage from making this claim. Saying Bob Mercer got his facts wrong just for fun is a bad idea, especially when one has no information to call into questions the facts he reported. The AG's press release only emphasizes the fact that he didn't do his own work on the EB-5 investigation. Yes, the DCI has apparently worked in conjunction with the FBI. But AG Jackley's convoluted verbiage here suggests that he has ignored an opportunity to do basic law enforcement and turn the heat up himself on a main player in a potential scam.

Attorney General Marty Jackley has acted shockingly incurious about Joop Bollen's clear violations of law, policy, and public trust. BOR's Jack Warner suggests that Bollen brilliantly boxed state officials into a deliberate incuriosity that let Bollen continue what smells more and more like a scam for personal profit.