• chimpsSenator Larry Tidemann, Chair
  • Senator Phyllis Heineman
  • Senator Jean Hunhoff
  • Senator Blake Curd
  • Senator Larry Lucas
  • Representative Dan Dryden, Vice Chair
  • Representative Melissa Magstadt
  • Representative Justin Cronin
  • Representative Mark Mickelson
  • Representative Susan Wismer

These ten South Dakota legislators, the current members of the Government Operations and Audit Committee (GOAC), are responsible for a farcical travesty of legislative inquiry and public accountability. These ten legislators have foisted on South Dakotans the insult masquerading as a report fulfilling their duty to investigate the Governor's Office of Economic Development and South Dakota's troubled EB-5 visa investment program.

Lied to by former governor and now Senator-Elect Mike Rounds, bamboozled by lawbreaking EB-5 profiteer Joop Bollen, and spun by the shifting story of Attorney General Marty Jackley, these ten legislators have shrugged and endorsed the cowardly, sandy-headed fall-guy narrative that dead and defenseless Richard Benda was the source of all ills in the GOED/EB-5 scandal. GOAC essentially rewrote the campaign propaganda that the South Dakota Republican Party sent to tamp down concerns about EB-5 in October.

The report rubber-stamps the audits and reforms discussed last winter, before GOAC received its legislative charge to investigate GOED and EB-5. It accepts without challenge the Swiss-cheese stories told by Rounds and Bollen. The only new work products produced by GOAC itself are two pieces of legislation that would tighten conflict-of-interest restrictions on state employees and make those restrictions last for one year after an employee leaves the state payroll. Even in proposing those modest reforms (the sort of no-duh rules that we should be embarrassed that we don't already have), GOAC focuses solely on Benda's alleged crimes and completely ignores Bollen's conflict-of-interest violations that cost the state millions.

GOAC makes its stonewalling stupidity clearest on page 5 of its report. Making hay of Richard Benda's diversion of $550,000 from Future Fund Grant #1434 (a grant Mike Rounds signed for Northern Beef Packers, with Benda pressing, knowing that Benda was going to be involved with the beef plant when he left Pierre, which facts trouble GOAC not one whit), GOAC mentions that it asked Bollen about how that chunk of the grant got converted into Benda's hefty pay as NBP's EB-5 loan monitor.

When asked about the $550,000 loan monitoring fee collected by Richard Benda from NBP, Mr. Bollen stated that he had no specific knowledge of Richard Benda collecting the loan monitoring fee [GOAC final report, 2014.11.28, p. 5].

This reading of Bollen's comments is incorrect and inconsistent with GOAC's own bogus conclusions. In his arrogant and cynical written response to GOAC after the election (oh, did I mention conveniently delayed?), Bollen said he set up the loan monitor job for Benda [page 9]. Bollen said Benda worked for Bollen's EB-5 management company, SDRC Inc. [Question 15, p. 13]. When GOAC asked Bollen how SDRC Inc. compensated Benda, Bollen said "Mr. Benda was paid pursuant to the terms of a contract for loan monitoring the NBP project, which was required under the loan with NBP. The terms of the contract contain private business information" [Question 8, p. 12]. Bollen's response that he had "no specific knowledge" of "how and why... Benda [was] involved in collecting the loan monitoring fee" [Question 20, p. 14] was at best legalistic if not patently absurd: he created the loan monitor job, hired Benda, and knew the terms of the contract well enough to choose to hide them from GOAC.

Bollen knows exactly how and why Benda collected his hundreds of thousands of dollars. He hid that information, and GOAC went "Ro-de-do-de-do, we don't need to know!"

To top off their obtusity, Tidemann and friends ignore Bollen's dismissal of their whole Benda-as-fall-guy thesis. Bollen cites NBP lawyer Rory King's argument, floated to Bob Mercer a year ago, that the loan-monitoring fees were perfectly legitimate. Senator Tidemann, when you simultaneously cite a source to support your thesis then ignore that source's rebuttal of your thesis, you come out looking like monkeys.

I hate to include the Democrats on this committee, Rep. Susan Wismer and Senator Larry Lucas, in the monkey pile. Rep. Wismer did expose GOAC's stonewalling and bring the EB-5 issue back to life last summer. Senator Lucas brought forth most of the substantive questions about Benda, Bollen, Rounds, and other players in the EB-5 scam, but he also strangely and incorrectly declared Senator Tidemann's conduct of the GOAC hearings "fair and non-partisan." Senator Lucas says he's considering filing a minority report, although why he and Rep. Wismer haven't already written that report and demanded its inclusion on the record is beyond me.

But this shame falls on all ten members of the Government Operations and Audit Committee, on all of a Legislature that accepts Chairman Tidemann's conclusion that "no further action was necessary," and on all of South Dakota, for electing such gutless, incurious, and feckless legislators.

Update 06:15 CST: Senator Lucas tells AP that minority report will happen, along with a call for a special prosecutor and further GOAC investigation. But he also says "it’s our due diligence as state officials to make sure we have covered all our bases in the matter" and that "Right now I’d say we’re about on third base." Third base? I don't know what puritans Larry's been making out with, but in my backseat, GOAC hasn't even gotten to first.

32 comments

Pat Powers notices that Mike Rounds got campaign money from TURPAC, the National Turkey Federation PAC. $5,000, according to Open Secrets, the fourth-highest amount TURPAC gave to any of its favored seventeen Senate candidates. Rep. Kristi Noem got $2,500 in turkey money, above the median for TURPAC donations to 74 House candidates. TURPAC gave Noem $2,000 in 2012. Prior to that, I find TURPAC contributing $1,000 to Stephanie Herseth in 2006, $1,000 to Tom Daschle in 2004 and $2,000 in 1998, and $500 to John Thune in 2000 and $500 in 1998.

The National Turkey Federation PAC has a ten-member executive board that since 2011 has included Jeff "Not Bollen's Partner" Sveen of Dakota Provisions in Huron, South Dakota. Sveen gave Rounds $3,000 of his own money to run for Senate. While Rounds was Governor, the state lent Dakota Provisions $3,000,000. Rounds's EB-5 program funneled another $55 million into Sveen's turkey plant, which used that money to refinance its debt. Jeff Sveen worked as Joop Bollen's lawyer and crafted the clever privatization deal that allowed Bollen to divert millions in EB-5 revenues from the state to his pockets.

Ah, friendship.

Related: The Government Operations and Audit Committee of the South Dakota Legislature quietly signed off Friday on blaming Richard Benda for everything wrong with the state's EB-5 program. I'll have more on GOAC's reprehensible report later.

19 comments
Pat Powers and plank

Pat Powers's vision problem

This morning's review of Dakota War College finds Pat Powers wallowing in blogospherical inferiority and hypocrisy again.

Powers finds it useful to mock that Sioux Falls paper for not making a headline out of where Sioux Falls police found a suspected killer. Over John Hult's straightforward journalism on the arrest of Arthur L. Brundige for the murder of Sabrina White, some copy desk editor (quite possibly out of state at Gannett Central) places the headline, "Homeless Sex Offender Charged in Woman's Murder." Powers slobbers over the fact, reported by Hult, that the suspect was found by police working at the newspaper Wednesday stuffing ads in the Thanksgiving edition. The suspect "was not an Argus Leader employee," notes Hult, but was a temp hired by Labor Ready.

Powers smirks that Hult and the headline "minimize the fact he was physically working at the Argus" and "throw Labor Ready under the bus." Powers appears confused: there is no bus-throwing here, just an accurate reporting of the facts.

This is the same Powers who minimizes the fact that he himself was physically working in the Secretary of State's office while maintaining a business and website engaging in partisan activities that represented a conflict of interest with his job helping to manage elections. This is the same Pat Powers who never blanched at Mike Rounds's minimization and outright misrepresentation of his employerly responsibility for EB-5 czar Joop Bollen. Mike Rounds actually knew about and approved of the plan through which Bollen broke multiple state laws and policies and defrauded the state of millions of dollars, then tried to shirk responsibility for those activities off on the Board of Regents. In fact, while controversy raged during the Senate campaign over Rounds's involvement with Bollen's exploitation of the EB-5 program and mismanagement of Northern Beef Packers, Powers said nothing about Bollen from September 11 until November 13, after the election.

Powers mocks journalist John Hult for reporting facts while ignoring the far greater culpability of his own rich and powerful sponsor.

15 comments

David Newquist never makes for a cheerful read. But his blog posts make essential reading for anyone joining the Resistance to South Dakota's corrupt one-party rule. In his latest post, Newquist connects 9/11, Nazis, and the perversion of education into an employee-training program to support his argument that America has surrendered its conscience and critical thinking to propaganda and oppression.

And then he turns to South Dakota:

South Dakota is a prime case in point of a state that has deteriorated into intellectual dysfunction. It has been ruled by one political party which has withheld from the voter-taxpayers information about government transactions and the right to knowledge about what officials are doing. It has allowed education to be neglected in its funding and tampered with in its function. It has developed an uncurious and disinterested attitude toward government corruption. In an instance that is defined with documents and the testimony of participants, the Benda-Bollen-Rounds EB-5 scandal, it has chosen to dismiss hard evidence and embrace the mendacity of its deniers. It has lost the ability to function mentally and examine the evidence in a suspicious death, the misdealing in state funds, the vicious ripping off of foreign investors, and the incompetent, devious mismanagement of the Northern Beef Packers plant. Instead, the people endorsed the perpetrators of the fraud and overwhelming elected them to control the state. South Dakota has strongly defined itself as a corrupt state by the will of the people [David Newquist, "Why America Is Not the Greatest Nation in the World Anymore," Northern Valley Beacon, 2014.11.17].

Newquist is probably not optimistic enough to run for South Dakota Democratic Party chair. But our party leadership and we hopeful liberals in general should heed Newquist's warnings about the enormity of the regime and the political and cultural defects against which we must fight to restore effective democracy in South Dakota.

105 comments

Last Friday, at the behest of lawyer Jeff Sveen, the Mitchell Daily Republic retracted a single statement that it printed four weeks ago asserting that Sveen was a "partner" of EB-5 czar Joop Bollen. Sveen has worked as Bollen's lawyer, but he asserts that he is not Bollen's "partner."

I found the retraction curious. The retraction made Denise Ross furious. She wrote the original report, including the statement from California financier David Kang about the relationship between Sveen and Bollen. Ross stands by her story and her source. She tells the Madville Times that the "unwarranted" retraction is so "problematic" that she has quit the Mitchell paper.

In this country, running a news company and working in journalism are a public trust. The lawyers and corporate brass of Forum Communications in Fargo breached that trust in printing this correction/retraction.

David Kang had a specific reason for identifying Jeff Sveen as a 'partner' of Joop Bollen's.

If the boys in Fargo had as good a reason for ordering the correction/retraction, it was not revealed to me [Denise Ross, response to Madville Times inquiry, 2014.11.17].

The Mitchell paper is having a tough time keeping talent. They shed editor Seth Tupper earlier this year; he jumped right into writing powerful reports on the EB-5 scandal for the Rapid City Journal. Let us hope Ross is able to make a similar soft landing and find a new platform for her excellent reporting on the most important corruption story in South Dakota.

61 comments

Now that the election is over and South Dakota Republicans have held their noses and pushed their flabby candidate into the U.S. Senate, can Republicans finally speak some truth about the EB-5 visa investment program? Attorney General Marty Jackley acknowledges some of the fundamental flaws in EB-5 as conducted under Senator-Elect Mike Rounds's gubernatorial guidance:

Jackley shares the arbitrator’s concern in the Darley case where the State of South Dakota was sued about who was really profiting from the program. It was lawyers, Jackley said, who “made an extreme profit off of this” [Todd Epp, "With Caveats, Jackley Says Troubled EB-5 Program Could Be Tool for South Dakota," Northern Plains News, 2014.11.14].

I wonder how attorneys Jeff Sveen and Tim Engel, who spent many hours negotiating the state's privatization of the EB-5 program, feel about the use of extreme here.

Jackley shows some hope for the Republican soul by questioning the economic-development-über-alles mindset that dominates the thinking of his up-ticket pals:

The Attorney General also says the country needs to look at whether green cards for investments that creates jobs is in the nation’s best interest.

“We’re going on a national debate right now on what’s right for immigration,” Jackley said. “And I think one of the concerns expressed is just because you are creating jobs doesn’t necessarily mean you ought to get that visa, so to speak” [Epp, 2014.11.14].

Dang: get Jackley to say that just one month earlier, and he'd have been committing high partisan treason by echoing Democrat Rick Weiland's criticism of EB-5 as bad policy.

Rounds, his EB-5 czar Joop Bollen, and their apologists have responded to almost every criticism of EB-5 by shouting Money and jobs! Money and jobs! Maybe I'm just dazzled by sunny Sunday optimism, but AG Jackley is signaling that he's tired of covering for other people's greed and would like to get back to concentrating on law and justice.

21 comments

Four weeks ago, Denise Ross posted a stunning article in the Mitchell Daily Republic that put then-Governor Mike Rounds in the room in 2009 with key players in the EB-5/Northern Beef Packers/Epoch Star financing scheme. That statement called into question Rounds's claim that he and the state had no involvement in securing the $30-million Epoch Star loan for Rounds's favored but failing NBP project. Ross also learned from California financier David Kang that EB-5 czar Joop Bollen and lawyer pal James Park had "complete control" of NBP's finances and were wrecking NBP:

Financially it was an utter disaster. They didn't have any of the financial records organized. They didn't work with any of the lienholders [David Kang, quoted in Denise Ross, "Source: Bollen, Lawyer in Control of Northern Beef Operations, Finances," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.10.17].

Kang questioned Bollen's and Park's business acumen:

He describes Bollen and Park as, at best, inept.

"They were in over their heads. They didn't understand how to do development, construction projects, things of that nature. That's ultimately why they fell flat on their face," he said [Ross, 2014.10.17].

Evidently that article got Bollen's lawyer Jeff Sveen a little hot. He contacted the Mitchell Daily Republic to set the record straight... not about his beleaguered client, but about himself. You see, in the middle of her article, Ross mentioned this comment from Kang:

Richard Benda also was involved in the plant, Kang said, although not to the extent of Bollen and the Hanul law firm. He was working to promote the project but was not involved in day-to-day operations. Aberdeen attorney Jeff Sveen also was involved, Kang said, as "one of Joop's partners."

Sveen's signature appears on several documents related to Bollen's EB-5 company, SDRC Inc. Sveen is a partner in the Siegel, Barnett & Schutz law firm.

Northern Beef's CEO, David Palmer, and others were not allowed to make decisions or administer accounts, Kang said [Ross, 2014.10.17].

Four weeks later, late in Friday's news cycle, the Mitchell Daily Republic runs this correction:

In an Oct. 17 article that began on Page A1 relating to Joop Bollen and Northern Beef Packers, The Daily Republic quoted Los Angeles management consultant David Kang's statement that attorney Jeff Sveen of Aberdeen was "one of Joop's partners." Sveen has since advised The Daily Republic that he is not one of Joop's partners. Accordingly, The Daily Republic retracts its statement that Sveen was a partner of Joop Bollen ["Correction," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.11.14].

Jeffrey T. Sveen, lawyer, Aberdeen, South Dakota

Jeffrey T. Sveen, not Joop Bollen's partner

Role-play time! Pretend you are Joop Bollen's lawyer on October 17, 2014. You check your voicemail or your e-mail and you see Denise Ross was trying to get a hold of you (Denise Ross is a pretty good journalist; she'd have sought comment from Sveen for her story, wouldn't've she?). You click your Mitchell Daily Republic bookmark, and there's David Kang talking smack about your client.

Now remember, Joop is more than a client; he's a pal. He helped you swing $55 million in EB-5 money for your turkey plant in Huron in 2009. What do you do for a pal like that?

You call Ross right back. Denise! Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. I see you've gone ahead and published. Do you have time for me to set a few things straight?

You tell Denise that Joop is a righteous dude with lots of good business sense. Look how he's been able to parlay his low-income Aberdeen rentals into vast personal wealth capable of collecting and donating Egyptian antiquities! You tell Denise she ought to publish that side of the story ASAP to counter Kang's criticism. And Denise Ross, good journalist that she is, surely hustles to put your story into print to round out the initial Kang story. The Kang article appears on a Friday; I bet by end of business Monday, we have your side of the story in print, and the bloggers are all like, Oh, that mainstream media, jumping to conclusions! Jeff Sveen sure set Denise Ross straight! Now where can I get a mummy mask....

But what really happens? Jeff Sveen gets hold of the paper and says, Partner? Don't go calling me Joop Bollen's partner! Somebody—maybe the paper, maybe Jeff Sveen—waits four weeks to get the counter-claim out. Four weeks? It doesn't take four weeks to say, "I'm not Joop Bollen's partner." Four weeks is more like the time one would spend haggling with lawyers about defamation... if there were any defamation here... and if there is, calling a guy Joop Bollen's partner seems the least of it.

So the Mitchell Daily Republic publishes a damning article about Joop Bollen, and all Bollen's lawyer gets retracted is one statement about Bollen's lawyer. That's either bad lawyering or a signal that Ross nailed the truth in her story about Bollen, Park, and the EB-5/Northern Beef Packers/Epoch Star shenanigans and that Jeff Sveen just doesn't want his name dragged into the mess.

47 comments

Republicans trying to deflect criticism of Senator-Elect Mike Rounds for his scandalous EB-5 visa investment program have often brought up an analogy to President Obama and the Solyndra affair. But it turns out the Department of Energy's loan program created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, is turning a direct profit for taxpayers:

Overall, the agency has loaned $34.2 billion to a variety of businesses, under a program designed to speed up development of clean-energy technology. Companies have defaulted on $780 million of that — a loss rate of 2.28 percent. The agency also has collected $810 million in interest payments, putting the program $30 million in the black.

When Congress created the loan program under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, it was never designed to be a moneymaker. In fact, Congress imagined there would be losses and set aside $10 billion to cover them [Jeff Brady, "After Solyndra Loss, U.S. Energy Loan Program Turning A Profit," NPR, 2014.11.13].

EB-5 could have turned a profit for South Dakota taxpayers, but the state let EB-5 czar Joop Bollen privatize the program and put the profits in his own pocket, and perhaps the pockets of others in on the game.

25 comments

Support Your Local Blogger!

  • Click the Tip Jar to send your donation to the Madville Times via PayPal, and support local alternative news and commentary!

South Dakota Political Blogs

Greater SD Blogosphere

SD Mostly Political Mix

Greater SD Blogosphere

  • OMG Center » Blog
    Talking About a Revolution: Do you ever find yourself with a tune in your mind? You’re not even conscious that you’ve got a song going on your soul, and then suddenly you hear your lips hum, your mouth sing, or even your fingers…
    2020.06.03

  • Notes from a Western Life
    Book Remarks: Healing the Divide: My comp copy of Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness & Connection arrived yesterday, and I’ve gotten behind on the news (thank goodness!) because I keep picking it up to read another fine poem. A…
    2020.06.03

  • The Poetry of Barry G. Wick
    The Revolt of the Dandelions: The Revolt of the DandelionsSpring began on time this yearthe winds of Aprilthe rains of Maynot too much of eitherDeep in the soila root begin its wakea little parachute broke opento send the shoot al…
    2020.06.03

  • Teaching and Inspiring Math Educators (TIME)
    Silent No More: I have watched the events of the last week unfold and I have been silent; as a white privileged female what can I possibly say? I will never understand what BIPOC endure on a daily basis. However, I a…
    2020.06.01

  • Horseshoe Seven
    A Week for the History Books: This week gave us a lot to think about and worry over as all across the United States protests against the blatant killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police erupted and often turned violent, no…
    2020.06.01

  • Mark Haugen
    The beat goes on ... for now: So I'm one of those guys now - the one wearing a FitBit on his wrist. Bought it as an early Father's Day present.I've generally turned up my nose at them as I found them a bit pretentio…
    2020.05.31

  • Native Hope Blog
    Mental Health issues from historical trauma plague Native Americans: People claim to “be there” for the 1 in 5 who suffer from mental health issues. However, for those who suffer, particularly from multiple layers of trauma, they feel alone a majority of their days. Th…
    2020.05.31

  • Rant-a-Bit by Scott Hudson
    The Ledge #429: More Minnepolis: After last week's Minneapolis edition of my favorite songs of all time I was contacted by a ton of listeners with their own favorites of the great city. With that sort of response I coudn't…
    2020.05.29

  • Trampling Rose
    Eating Late: This post is sponsored by “Always Eat After 7 PM”. The opinions expressed below are my own. A lot of you who know me in real life know that until recently, I’d been consistently working out, four time…
    2020.05.26

  • A Teacher's Writes
    Rules for Reading Aaron Belz’s Poetry: If a person were to ask me why they should read poetry–and my students do this annually–I would struggle to answer persuasively. In fact, I probably wouldn’t attempt an answer. If someone is resistant…
    2020.05.20

Madville Monthly

Meta