Rep. Susan Wismer (D-1/Britton) makes a curious request this afternoon, asking Senator Larry Tidemann (R-7/Brookings) to allow the Democratic leadership to appoint a proxy to sit in for her at the September 24 meeting of the Government Operations and Audit Committee.
September 24 is the eagerly anticipated hearing at which the brilliant Sen. Tidemann has asked SDRC Inc. executive (and tax-evading banker?) Joop Bollen and U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson to enlighten GOAC about the Northern Beef Packers/EB-5 scandal. Democratic legislators have asked Governor Dennis Daugaard, EB-5-initiating former governor Mike Rounds, and SDRC Inc. lawyer and GOP pal Jeffrey T. Sveen to join Bollen for the September 24 hearing.
Gubernatorial candidate Wismer apparently anticipates awkwardness in the possibility of her questioning her election opponent Governor Daugaard during the hearing:
We need to get the bottom of this, and in order to do that, key EB-5 decision-makers need to answer questions from committee members in person. The people of South Dakota deserve to know the truth about EB-5. If my campaign and membership on the committee creates a conflict, I’m more than willing to step aside during this meeting so South Dakotans can get answers without the meeting turning into political theater [Rep. Susan Wismer, press release, 2014.08.27].
Conflict? Political theater? Oh, Rep. Wismer, we're already there, whether you're in one of the big chairs September 24 or not.
Candidate or not, I wouldn't give up a GOAC seat for anything, not when I could have the chance to look Bollen, Rounds, Daugaard, and Sveen in the eyes and ask What did you know and when did you know it? The crucial meeting of GOAC's entire interim, the only one so far at which GOAC may have before it a prime player and witness to the EB-5 snafu, is no time for someone who has followed the issue, heard the testimony, and read the documents presented so far to step aside and be replaced by a legislator who may need to be brought up to speed.
But if Rep. Wismer's concerns are valid, if we mustn't chance an ugly or spinnable confrontation between two candidates for governor, then let's get someone who's followed EB-5, someone who has been a bulldog on the issue, someone who has some investigative and prosecutorial experience who could bring some cross-examinatory heat to Joop Bollen and whoever else testifies on September 24.
As Rep. Wismer's proxy, let's appoint Rep. Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton).
He's not on any ballot this fall. He proposed legislation calling for stiffer action to prevent further EB-5 mischief. He railed against EB-5 and lost tax dollars during the primary season. His experience as an NCIS investigator trained him in asking suspects the right questions.
And to top off his qualifications, Rep. Nelson is a Republican. If we're really worried that Rep. Wismer's presence at GOAC on September 24 would undermine the search for truth with accusations of partisan machinations, what more magnanimous gesture could Rep. Wismer and the Democratic leadership make than to appoint a Republican in her place?
Rep. Wismer, I think you should keep your seat. But if you think stepping aside is best... well, Rep. Nelson, polish your shoes and prep your questions!