Want more answers on the GOED/EB-5/Benda scandal? So do South Dakota's newspapers. Four—four!—big dailies across the state say the Legislature is not faithfully executing its charge to investigate the strange shuffling of EB-5 visa investment money that resulted in a bankrupt beef beef plant and a dead man.
The Yankton Press & Dakotan says Attorney General Marty Jackley's revelation that he was preparing to arrest Richard Benda before the former GOED chief's death in October 2013 raises questions the AG and the Legislature should be asking:
...why didn’t this come out many months ago as investigations at the state and federal levels began digging into this matter? This makes very little sense, and adds a new, frustrating mystery to this complex tale of corruption and suicide.
...Last week’s admission by the attorney general brought a curious new light to this subject, but the state doesn’t seem overly curious to wonder why it came out now and what else — if anything — had yet to be revealed.
South Dakotans deserve the whole story. At least they need to know that the veins of evidence have been thoroughly mined. Jackley’s actions last week suggest they haven’t ["EB-5: Why Did This Take So Long?" Yankton Press & Dakotan, 2014.08.04].
(I've outlined many of the questions the Legislature has refused to ask here.)
The Watertown Public Opinion observes the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon's resignation by backing my opinion that GOED/EB-5/Benda is South Dakota's Watergate:
The question yet to be asked, at least publicly, was how Benda could have done what he did without raising eyebrows until former Gov. Mike Rounds left office — he was the one who appointed Benda to his positions — and Dennis Daugaard became governor. Daugaard didn’t re-appoint Benda and it wasn’t too much later that the EB-5 scandal started heating up.
One can’t help wonder how Benda could do what he did without the help, or at least knowledge, of others. Were officials at Northern Beef Packers in Aberdeen, the recipients of EB-5 money, involved? How about SDRC President Joop Bollen, a private company in Aberdeen entrusted with handling EB-5 funds and making sure they got to where they were supposed to go? And how could a portion of the grant money intended for Northern Beef end up being diverted to SDRC in early 2011 to pay Benda’s salary in his new job at SDRC without raising red flags somewhere in state government?
Amazingly, no one on the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee, the group the attorney general addressed last week, asked him who else, if anyone, was involved, and Jackley said nothing about whether Benda acted alone or had help.
...So in the spirit of 40 years ago and taking liberty with paraphrasing, when it comes to EB-5, “Who knew what and when did they know it?” You’d think that question would be at the top of someone’s list. We can think of more then a few people who ought to be asking that question ["What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?" Watertown Public Opinion, 2014.08.04].
The Aberdeen American News, speaking from the scene of the crime (proverbially and perhaps literally), dishes outright ridicule and shame on South Dakota Republicans for stonewalling the investigation of a scandal in their own backyard:
While the GOP has been quite vocal about such “scandals” as “Benghazi,” “Obamacare” and Common Core, state Republicans are turning down the chance to investigate a real, live scandal in their own backyard.
One they actually have a chance to do something about.
But they don’t want to know anything more.
The EB-5 controversy has been a black mark on South Dakota and state leadership. It is a complex issue and investigation, made more cumbersome by the tangled personal and/or political relationships of former Gov. and Senate candidate Mike Rounds, Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Jackley and Benda.
We can’t believe that state legislators know all there is to know about how the state used EB-5, and who could have stopped its misuse.
What’s more galling is that those lawmakers don’t think you need to know anything more.
For shame ["GOP Fails on EB-5 Scandal," Aberdeen American News, 2014.08.06].
And this morning the Rapid City Journal, the paper I feel most comfortable dismissing as a Republican rag, looks its diehard conservative readership in the eye and says Democrat Susan Wismer is right and that Republicans should answer our questions about GOED, EB-5 and Benda:
The legislative panel should subpoena members of both the Rounds and Daugaard administrations who were involved in the EB-5 visas-for-investment program so the public can hear for themselves what was going on rather than be told what happened by parties who may have an interest in controlling the flow of information.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s more to the story than Benda’s alleged misconduct. But when the Legislature’s committee -- which is tasked with finding out what went on in the EB-5 program and report its findings to the public -- goes into executive session and refuses to hear from anyone other than the attorney general, it invites speculation that we’re not being told all the facts ["Does EB-5 Probe Stop at Benda?" Rapid City Journal, 2014.08.07].
The GOED/EB-5/Benda scandal is real. It lost real money. It destroyed real jobs, It led to one very death. Mike Rounds, Dennis Daugaard, Marty Jackley, Joop Bollen, and everyone else involved in this scandal should answer our questions publicly so that we can understand what went wrong, hold accountable whoever is responsible, and forge better policy in the future.