Before being ruled out of order for asking questions Republicans don't want asked, Rep. Susan Wismer (D-1/Britton) told the Government Operations and Audit Committee that she had just read an article raising grave concerns about the EB-5 visa investment program.

She couldn't remember the title (she does have a lot on her mind—Republican stonewalling and corruption, her own campaign for Governor), but I think she was referring to this Fortune article from last week:

From the law’s inception in 1990, selling potential citizenship to the rich struck many as a corruption of American ideals. “Have we no self-respect as a nation?” asked Texas congressman John Bryant on the House floor that year. “Are we so broke we have to sell our birthright?”

But that powerful objection was overcome with an even more potent counterforce: The program would generate jobs where they’re needed most. Immigrants seeking EB-5 visas must invest their half-a-million dollars in a new business that creates 10 full-time U.S. jobs in a high-unemployment or rural district [Peter Elkind, "The Dark, Disturbing World of the Visa-for-Sale Program," Fortune, 2014.07.24].

The article notes that EB-5 enjoys bipartisan support, a fact alluded to by GOED boss Pat Costello in his testimony before GOAC today. Tycoons Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Sheldon Adelson support a reformed and expanded version of EB-5 and are worried that Congressional gridlock will result in the expiration of EB-5 on October 1 (what? Wait a minute—suddenly, I like gridlock).

But the Fortune article sees fraud and abuse in EB-5, just as we've seen (but which GOAC and the South Dakota Republican Party refuse to see) in South Dakota:

But because the EB-5 industry is virtually unregulated, it has become a magnet for amateurs, pipe-dreamers, and charlatans, who see it as an easy way to score funding for ventures that banks would never touch. They’ve been encouraged and enabled by an array of dodgy middlemen, eager to cash in on the gold rush. Meanwhile, perhaps because wealthy foreigners are the main potential victims, U.S. authorities have seemed inattentive to abuses [Elkind, 2014.07.24].

Lack of regulation, dodgy middlemen... sound familiar?

Rep. Wismer tried to get a straight answer from GOED chief Costello on how much economic impact the EB-5 program has had in South Dakota. Costello said South Dakota doesn't have such data.

Rep. Wismer should have read Costello and the committee this part of the Fortune article, which says Uncle Sam can't show any reliable economic impact from EB-5, either:

Others who have examined the program view it very differently. They question whether it generates many jobs—especially in needy areas. A December 2013 study by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general [also reported in the Madville Times, 2013.12.13] found that the government “cannot demonstrate that the program is improving the U.S. economy and creating jobs for U.S. citizens.” A February 2014 paper by the Brookings-Rockefeller Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation concluded that “knowledge of the program’s true economic impact is elusive at best.”

There are two reasons for that. First, the government is exceedingly generous in its employment tally. It gives EB-5 investors credit for all the jobs theoretically spawned by a project even when EB-5 money represents only a sliver of its financing. Second, for many mainstream ventures, EB-5 money isn’t really creating jobs—it’s merely saving developers money for projects that would be financed anyway. (Indeed, those big companies are actually “hijacking” money from worthy smaller investments in hard-hit areas, argues Michael Gibson, a financial adviser who vets EB-5 investments.) [Elkind, 2014.07.14].

In other words, EB-5 is a poorly regulated, easily abused program with no reliably demonstrable economic benefits. But given the bullying and stonewalling the Republicans on the Government Operations and Audit Committee displayed today, you won't hear about that.

Why bother having legislative hearings on EB-5? Rep. Wismer, just read us that Fortune article... and start handing out copies on the campaign trail.


In November 2013, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley staked out the public position that there was no prosecutable violation of state law that justified his taking action against Northern Beef Packers, SDRC Inc., Joop Bollen, or anyone else to recover $550,000 diverted from Future Fund Grant #1434. Last January, Governor Dennis Daugaard upheld that position in an interview on SDPB Radio.

But in October 2013, Attorney General Jackley prepared an arrest warrant for Richard Benda for his diversion of that grant money. The state of South Dakota was prepared to arrest the former state economic development chief for aggravated grand theft for his misappropriation of that big chunk of Future Fund Grant #1434. Here's the relevant text:


AGGRAVATED GRAND THEFT BY EMBEZZLEMENT, in violation of SDCL 22-30A-2, 22-30A-10, and 22-30A-17.1, a Class 3 felony, in that, with intent to defraud, he appropriated money belonging to the State of South Dakota entrusted to him to a use and purpose not in the due and lawful execution of his trust, to wit: Richard L. Benda obtained $550,000 in state funds by diverting economic development grant funds intended for the benefit of Northern Beef Packers, LP to his own use and purpose; or in the alternative


AGGRAVATED THEFT BY DECEPTION, in violation of 22-20A-3(1) and 22-30A-17.1, a class 3 felony, in that, with the intent to defraud, he obtained the property of another by deception by creating or reinforcing a false impression, to wit: Richard L. Benda obtained $550,000 from Northern Beef Packers, LP by creating the false impression that he had the authority to withhold $1,000,000 in grant funds due to Northern Beef Packers, LP unless $550,000 of those funds were paid to Richard L. Benda through South Dakota Regional Center, Inc. for loan monitoring services not yet rendered; or in the alternative


AGGRAVATED GRAND THEFT BY THREAT in violation of SDCL 22-30A-2, 22-30A-4(4), and 22-30A-17.1, a Class 3 felony, in that he did obtain property of another by threatening to take or withhold action as an official, or cause an official to take or withhold action, to wit: between December 28, 2010, and Janaury 26, 2011, Richard L. Benda, while holding himself out as an official or as a person who could cause an official to take or withhold action, did obtain $550,000 from Northern Beef Packers, LP by threatening to cause harm to Northern Beef Packers, LP by withholding $1,000,000 in grant funds from Northern Beef Packers, LP unless $550,000 of those funds were paid to him through South Dakota Regional Center, Inc. for loan monitoring services not yet rendered;


GRAND THEFT in violation of SDCL 22-30A-2 and 22-30A-17(1), a Class 3 felony, in that, with the intent to benefit himself, he transfered [sic] property of the State of South Dakota to himself, though he was not entitled thereto, to wit: Richard L. Benda, between December 14, 2009, and on or about April 16, 2010, did obtain from the State of South Dakota the sums of $982.90, $3,740.60, and $836.30 to which he was not entitled by preparing and filing duplicate vouchers for reimbursement for these travel expenses despite having earlier received reimbursement for these same expenses from the State of South Dakota;

All contrary to the statutes in such case made and provided against the peace and dignity of the State of South Dakota [Attorney General Marty Jackley, arrest warrant for Richard L. Benda, prepared October 2013 but never served, released to Government Operations and Audit Committee, South Dakota Legislature, 2014.07.29].

Class 3 felony—that's up to 15 years in the pen and a $30,000 fine.

Attorney General Jackley released this draft arrest warrant this morning. Bob Mercer reports Jackley prepared these charges on October 8. On October 11, the attorney general scheduled a grand jury to convene on October 28 to hear evidence on Benda's activities.  Benda died October 20; an in-law discovered Benda's body and reported it to authorities on October 22. The arrest warrant was never served, the grand jury never convened, and Jackley ruled Benda's death suicide on November 22.

The second count relates to travel vouchers that Benda double-billed to the state. State officials have relatively consistently stated that violation mattered and that the state ought to get that money back.

But sometime between October and November, the state shifted its thinking on Benda's much larger money grab. Instead of looking for a way to return Benda's ill-gotten gains to state coffers, the state decided to wave its hands, mutter something about EB-5 being a federal program, and close the investigation.

Related: Following Jackley's disclosure of the draft Benda warrant to the Government Operations and Audit Committee and a closed-door discussion of legal matters, Rep. Susan Wismer (D-1/Britton) moved to subpoena Joop Bollen, who ran SDRC, Inc., the private company mentioned in the draft warrant. One might think that Bollen could shed some light on what his loan monitor Benda did with the money that the state thought, if briefly, had been stolen. Not wanting to shed such light, no one on the committee seconded Wismer's motion.

Odd: AG Jackley says he never interviewed Benda during the 2013 investigation, but he told GOAC today that his office did question Bollen. The attorney general thought Bollen was worth talking to, but the Republicans on GOAC do not.


Libertarian Kurt Evans confirms tonight that he has changed his mind. The Wessington Springs man is suspending his bid to become Commissioner of School and Public Lands and now seeks the South Dakota Libertarian Party's nomination for attorney general.

Evans is not an attorney. He says that there remain at least two licensed lawyers who may throw their hats into the Libertarian ring for the AG's nomination. In the event a lawyer does enter the race, Evans says it is "possible but unlikely" that he will withdraw from the race.

Evans is one of a handful of Libertarians who have publicly expressed opposition to the AG candidacy of Chad Haber, a Republican with no law degree who announced his desire for the SDLP nomination in early July.

Evans notes with some amusement that he is making history by announcing his candidacy on an opponent's blog. I have indeed stated that, if the Libertarians have no suitable alternative, I would offer my services to their party as a nominee against Haber. However, I have stated that I would happily defer to a lawyer, a Libertarian, or even "none of the above" as ably recommended by Libertarian Ken Santema. Kurt Evans is an authentic Libertarian with statewide campaign experience. Evans is thus eminently more qualified for the SDLP nomination than this liberal Democrat or that other guy, whatever he is. Evans and I may oppose each other on various issues, but to his candidacy for the Libertarian nomination for attorney general, I offer no opposition.

The South Dakota Libertarian Party holds its convention on Saturday, August 9, 10:00 a.m., at the Sioux Falls downtown library.


Now that Chad Haber is finally talking to the media about his purported desire to be attorney general, he's confirming what I've known would happen: get Chad talking, and he'll sink his own life raft without any help from me.

The aspiring Libertarian nominee spoke with Rick Knobe on KSOO's Viewpoint University last week. Haber is angling for the South Dakota Libertarian Party's nod with one main promise: money. He told Knobe that his entrepreneurial skills guarantee that he can raise campaign money, and he promised that every Libertarian candidate "will be propped up" with radio and TV ads, implying that Haber plans to bankroll the entire SDLP ticket.

Knobe asked Haber to give examples of his entrepreneurial activities. Following is the lengthy transcript of that exchange:

Rick Knobe: I want to learn a bit more about you. I went back and read some of the news stories and one of the things you list is you're an entrepreneur. Tell me what you've done that qualifies you to be an entrepreneur.

Chad Haber: That's a great question. So, I have owned several companies ranging from trucking to dealerships to manufacturing, and, yeah, it's good. I like doing startups. I like taking a small team that people think you can't do that and then proving them wrong. Annette's campaign was a great example. It was fun to do that, it was basically a startup.

Knobe: So the companies that you started up, how long ago did you do that?

Haber: So, five years ago when Annette's battle with Marty started, and they started throwing around the f-word—fraud—and, you know, when the attorney general makes a claim, the first assumption is that there's something hehind it. And the good thing is, in South Dakota, we are the most corrupt state in the country according to some sites, and Marty Jackley has had a scandal-ridden career. And so in South Dakota, he doesn't need to have an excuse, sometimes he just does it. You look at Brandon Taliaferro, you know, $250,000 to defend himself against trumped-up charges in the Mette rape scandal, the child rape scandal. He was the attorney that pointed out children were being molested, and then Marty tried to prosecute him for pointing out that children were being molested. 250 grand it cost him to defend that. That's economic terrorism. I think I got out about 2013, where I could just see that they were never going to stop attacking her, and every time they would attack—

Knobe: When they say attacking her, you're talking about—

Haber: —Annette—

Knobe: —Your Annette, your wife.

Haber: —and the headlines are always horrible, right? So now she's currently facing 24 years in jail. Not why I'm running. For the record, I love my wife, o.k., but—she's facing 24 years in jail basically because she learned how to raise money. So if you'd have looked at my businesses, you know, I had a lot of people dependent on me, and you don't do things like that for the money, you don't start businesses for the money, you start them because you have a dream and a passion, and so I sold out, and most of that money has now gone into medicines for kids and it's gone into legal defenses, and, you know, yeah, it's gone.

Knobe: So, o.k.—

Haber: So I was very rich. We should have been untouchable.

Knobe: O.K., so, go back, I want to get to—o.k., I understand what you've said about you've started businesses, you've run them, and you were very successful. Give me some names, 'cuz I'm trying to, I want to be able to put some names with some companies you've started that I would say, "Oh yeah, I know that one. Oh yeah, I know that one." Help me.

Haber: So the reason I got out is to protect the companies. By naming the companies now on the air, I'm making them a target.

Knobe: Why would you make them a target? Why would that be a target?

Haber: It's just what's happened. You know, five years of living through this, it's what happens. And so you know as you get to know me, you'll start saying, "Oh, that's that." I am afraid, o.k.? I'm very afraid of Marty and his retaliation... [transcription by CAH; Rick Knobe interviewing Chad Haber, KSOO Radio, 2014.07.24].

Let's unpack.

1. The Entrepreneurship Lie

The only specific example Haber offers of his fundraising skills is the Bosworth for Senate campaign. Haber talks revenue but neglects cost. He spent (and since Haber is claiming Bosworth for Senate as one of his entrepreneurial skills, let's assign him responsibility for spending decisions) more than six times as much per vote as big-money candidate Mike Rounds yet delivered less than a tenth of Rounds's primary-winning vote total. According to the total expenditures reported by Bosworth for Senate to the Federal Election Commission as of June 30, Haber spent $440 for every primary vote his wife got.

"Entrepreneurship" isn't throwing lots of other people's money around; it's producing return on investment. If South Dakota Libertarians are nominating an attorney general candidate based on the ability to deliver return on investment of campaign funds, they should dismiss Haber and nominate Larry Rhoden, who spent $9.39 per vote in the GOP Senate primary. Or nominate Stace Nelson, who spent $10.23 per vote and would bring criminal investigative experience to the office. Or nominate Jason Ravnsborg, who spent $27.38 per primary vote and has a law degree.

(I think I spent $60 on a newspaper ad when I ran for school board in 2011. I got 448 votes.  That's a bit more than 13 cents per vote. I'm an entrepreneur! Vote for me!)

2. The Business Dodge

Haber claims to have started and successfully operated a number of business that made him "very rich." He says he sold them all and now declines to name them for fear that they will become targets.

A review of public corporation records reveals that Chad Haber has indeed incorporated a number of entities. However, not one appears to be operational or to have made any discernible contribution to the economy. I have documented several business entities that Chad Haber has incorporated in Utah and South Dakota, the most prominent of which is 100X, a Utah entity that under Haber's presidency and directorship appears to have engaged in a mortgage-flipping scheme that sent six people to federal prison. Haber's other businesses include the following:

I see no evidence that Chad Haber has ever run a successful startup company. I see no evidence that Chad Haber has ever sold a startup company to anyone else and that said sold company is still in operation. Haber might as well be telling Libertarians that he knocked down trees in the woods where no one could hear them.

3. The Fear Fudge

Haber claims to be acting on "twenty seconds of insane courage," a line that Haber and eHarmony borrow from We Bought a Zoo. Twenty seconds must be all the courage Haber has in him. Pressed by Knobe to name his companies, Haber says he is "very afraid" of Marty Jackley.

What's there to be afraid of? Haber tried to defraud raffle ticket buyers, and the attorney general has yet to file any charges, settling instead for squeezing some refunds out of PHS. The state says Haber's wife broke Medicaid rules, and the attorney general settled for a relatively small financial repayment. AG Jackley has let slip away opportunities to bag Haber and Bosworth on evidence of real business misconduct; his record suggests he is unlikely to aggress any harder on trumped-up charges.

What's there to be afraid of? I bust AG Jackley's chops on a regular basis on this blog. I'm not afraid of him. What's he going to do to me? He can't take away my teaching certificate, which the state just renewed for another five years—ha!

If Haber's startups still exist, and if he sold them, what harm could the attorney general do to Haber through those businesses? If Haber still owns any legitimate businesses, how does not telling the press the names of those businesses prevent a vindictive attorney general from reviewing public business records, finding the names of Haber's businesses, and ordering all manner of audits and investigations? On KSOO last week, Haber wasn't as afraid of Marty Jackley as he was of Rick Knobe and his one simple question: Give me some names. Give us evidence that what you're saying is true.

4. The Courtroom Shield

Recall Haber's odd comment about his flown wealth: "...I was very rich. We should have been untouchable."

Untouchable. When I dream of getting rich (hey, did you ring that tip jar yet? ;-) ), untouchable is not the first adjective that jumps to my mind. It suggests that Haber views wealth as a way to avoid legal prosecution.

And if wealth isn't available, candidacy for public office is:

Knobe: ...this all could be for naught if you can't get on the ballot

Haber: Absolutely, and then I will be targeted. Being on the ballot—

Knobe: Well, no, I don't know if you're going to be—

Haber: —being on the ballot gives you some protection. It does. We saw a very peaceful year when Annette was a candidate for public office. O.K., it was a very peaceful year. Nobody messed with her until April, o.k.? That was the firs peaceful moment of breahting room we've had since—for five years.

Knobe: So are you running then because you think that if you get on the ballot that'll buy you more time for whatever—

Haber: No, no, no—

Knobe: —I want to make sure I understand

Haber: No, So I'm running because South Dakota has some clear problems, some of which I've experienced personally, and this is the most effective way to cause change, to create change [Knobe–Haber interview, 2014.07.24].

Haber slips and tries to recover, but his talk of protection belies his boilerplate. Haber's slip  supports the statement I made when he announced his candidacy three weeks ago: he is running for office to buy himself a few months of immunity from criminal prosecution.

Just like his wife, Chad Haber is his own worst enemy. The more he talks, the more he'll expose his own unfitness for public trust.


Where do you find the most careful people in South Dakota? Faulkton, Cresbard, and Orient:

Death Rate Due to Accidents by SD County 2008-2012

Source: South Dakota Department of Health (click to embiggen!)

According to state Department of Health data, from 2008 to 2012, Faulk County had the lowest rate of accidental deaths in South Dakota, just an age-adjusted 9.3 deaths per 100,000 population. (Given that Faulk County has a population of 2,377, you might not find anyone this year falling off a ladder in Faulkton.)

Faulk folk are anomalously cautious: the next lowest accidental death rate, in Walworth County, is 21.8 per 100K, followed by Lake at 23.1 (funny that no one's falling off the High Rise) and Douglas at 25.1.

Notice that South Dakota's accidental death rate is about 14% higher than the national rate. Motor vehicle accidents make up a third of our accidental deaths; falls account for another third.

The land of living dangerously is Jackson County, with an accidental death rate of 159.9 per 100K. Folks in Wanblee and Kadoka are are 17 times more likely to get killed in an accident that their Faulkton friends. You should probably wear a helmet in McLaughlin and Presho, too; Corson County posts the second-highest accidental death rate, 158.3 per 100K, followed by Lyman County at 155.0.



Looking for the oldest moms in South Dakota? Odds are you'll find them in Eureka:

Average Age of Mother by SD County 2008-2012

Source: South Dakota Department of Health (click to embiggen!)

McPherson County has the highest average age of ladies making babies over the five-year period from 2008 to 2012. New McPherson moms are a ripe old 30.0 years on average. Also waiting the longest to put buns in the oven are women in Hanson, Faulk, and Campbell counties.

The youngest moms are in Indian Country. Shannon/Oglala Lakota County has the lowest average baby-making age in the state, 24.2. Nearby Mellette, Todd, and Bennett counties also have average mother ages under 25.

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Bob Mercer and Leo Kallis gang up on the state of South Dakota for demographic density. Mercer reviews South Dakota birth stats for 2012 and notices that American Indians are having babies at more than twice the rate of us American Europeans. He also notes with interest that white births outpaced white deaths by 38%, while Indian births outpaced Indian deaths by 231%. Mercer says these numbers point to an important longer-term demographic trend that South Dakota is ignoring:

These aren’t short-term trends. These trends aren’t being addressed to any deep degree within state government, tribal governments or county governments in South Dakota. While there is some ado of late about 21 immigrant children being placed secretly in South Dakota by the federal government, there is very little focus on the changing population dynamics of South Dakota as a whole and there is very little looking ahead at what the changes mean for education, workforce and public services [Bob Mercer, "Births and Deaths in South Dakota," Pure Pierre Politics, 2014.07.26].

Kallis looks at the state's freak-out over a half-busload of well-immunized immigrant children and inaction over larger demographic trends and says, what did you expect?

One would need to work hard to develop a better description of the practices of South Dakota's Republican-dominated political leadership over the past decade. Make an "ado" about a minor event; use the minor event to excoriate political opponents, but refuse to properly prepare for the future by creating policies necessary for successful governance [Leo Kallis, "Quotation of the Day: South Dakota Government in a Nutshell Edition," The Displaced Plainsman, 2014.07.27].

Maybe the state is just counting on Indians to die sooner. The median age at death for white folks in 2012 was 82; for Indians, 58. White South Dakotans lost 5,510 years of potential life before age 75; Indians lost 19,587 years to premature death. Part of that disparate loss comes from the fact that accidents cause 5.0% of deaths among whites and 13.5% of deaths among Indians.

Here are a few other highlights from the DOH stats on birth in South Dakota:

  • 38.6% of the women having babies in 2012 were not married. Nationally, that percentage was 40.7%. Among whites, out-of-wedlock births were 27.8% of the total. Among Indians, that rate was 84.2%.
  • 117 white girls aged 15 to 17 and 105 Indian teenage girls had babies in 2012. For whites, that's 9.2 births per 1,000 teen girls; for Indians, 48.6 per 1,000. That Indian teen birth rate was the lowest in the past decade. Nationally, the teen birth rate (ages 15 to 17) was 14.1 per 1,000.
  • 104 infants died in South Dakota in 2012. Governor Dennis Daugaard formed a task force on infant mortality when he took office in 2011; in 2012, infant mortality increased to a decade-high rate of 8.6 per 1,000 live births. The infant mortality rate increased among whites, Indians, and multiracial infants. 6.37 out of 1,000 white babies died; among Indians, that rate was 13.43 per 1,000.
  • From 2008 to 2012, the infant mortality rate among non-smoking moms was 6.44 per 1,000. Among moms using tobacco—11.4 per 1,000.

The latest Madville Times poll calls into question the thesis advanced by Team Rounds last week that Larry Pressler is taking more votes away from Democrat Rick Weiland than from Republican Mike Rounds. I asked Wednesday, "Who gets your vote for U.S. Senate?" You, dear readers, like Rick Weiland a lot:

  • Rick Weiland: 66% (116 votes)
  • Mike Rounds: 12% (21)
  • Larry Pressler: 11% (20)
  • Gordon Howie: 11% (20)

Now the margin of error in any Madville Times poll is the size of the broad side of Mike Rounds's private airplane hangar. But this poll tests the wishful GOP hypothesis that, among a bunch of Democrats, you'll find a big chunk of Pressler voters. The memo Team Rounds handed to Roll Call for propaganda purposes puts the ratio at 5 Pressler Democrats for every 8 Weiland voters. If you accept the notion that this blog mostly draws Democrats as readers (and that's open for debate), then the results above find the Pressler–Weiland ratio among Dems more like 1 to 6. If readers of this blog represent Democratic sentiment statewide, Democrats won't propel Pressler back to office the way they did forty years ago when they deserted Democratic Rep. Frank Denholm.

If anything, the poll results suggest Team Weiland should be more worried about really confused Dems voting for the smiley but gubernatorially feckless Rounds, who edges Pressler by one vote here. Holy cow! Someone needs to shout EB-5! a little harder.


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