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SD EB-5 Program Welcomes Chinese Money; Grassley Raises Security Concerns

My Chinese is worse than Mike Rounds's. But luckily for Rounds and China, everybody speaks dollar. The Chinese state news office archives this article from July 2009 showing then-Governor Rounds, his economic development chief Richard Benda, and EB-5 visa hustler Joop Bollen happily escorting Chinese executive Wang Limin around the state and talking up Basin Electric's Deer Creek Station, a combined cycle gas power plant built in part with what appear to be $110 million in investments from 220 EB-5 visa investors via two limited partnerships (SDIF LP3 and SDIF LP7) run under the South Dakota Investment Fund.

Governor Marion Michael Rounds meets with Chinese business executive Wang Limin. Photo credit:, 2009.07.15.
Governor Marion Michael Rounds meets with Chinese business executive Wang Limin. Photo credit:, 2009.07.15.

There's Smiling Mike, not looking terribly gubernatorial as he does official business in that rumpled shirt and blue jeans, eh, Joel? Pat?

Richard Benda, Wang Limin, and Joop Bollen at Pierre airport. Photo credit:, 2009.07.15.
Richard Benda, Wang Limin, and Joop Bollen at Pierre airport. Photo credit:, 2009.07.15.

There's Richard Benda, Wang, and Bollen at the Pierre airport, getting ready to fly.

And so on.

These photos touch in part on why Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa has seen fit to push an investigation of the EB-5 program that now includes the Northern Beef Packers debacle and the EB-5 visa investments solicited and managed by SDRC's Joop Bollen, former GOED boss Richard Benda, and former Governor Mike Rounds. Review this PDF packet of inquiries and memos from Senator Grassley's office, and you'll find Senator Grassley is alarmed that, among other things, the EB-5 visa program may open a window through which Chinese intelligence could spy on the United States.

This packet doesn't mention South Dakota, but it does mention situations in which lower-level officials in the United States Customs and Immigration Service blocked EB-5 investors for security reasons but were overruled by USCIS chief Alejandro Mayorkas. Senator Grassley also finds FBI agents alarmed that their San Diego building was constructed with EB-5 investment from China.

That's tenuous stuff, but think about it: Imagine the Cold War were still on. Imagine the EB-5 program had existed then. Imagine we found out that major projects were being built with millions of dollars sent to us by Russians who in return got clean immigration papers, sometimes expedited by our own officials over the concerns of lower staff. Might we not have worried about national security in that situation?

Yes, the Northern Beef Packers/EB-5/SDRC/Bollen-Benda-Rounds story is complicated. Keep watching....

p.s.: Note that the administration of Rounds's ascendant lieutenant, Dennis Daugaard, is distancing itself from the EB-5 visa program:

Venhuizen said Daugaard still sees value in the EB-5 program as an economic development tool, but of more limited value than at the peak of EB-5 activity half a dozen years ago.

“Certainly, we have a lot of other economic development tools that are more valuable and more important,” Venhuizen said. “Some of these projects are very concerning and could make anyone hesitant about the program, but on the flip side, there have also been some notable successes, including in South Dakota, where projects that were successful were funded in part by that program” [Dirk Lammers, "Beef Plant, Federal Program Investigated," AP via that Sioux Falls paper, 2013.11.01].

Let's see how many other ways the current administration seeks daylight between itself and its predecessor.


  1. Rorschach 2013.11.01

    It should surprise nobody that these folks are interested in selling visas to moneyed foreigners despite inherent security risks. It wasn't that long ago that GW wanted to contract our port security out to a foreign company owned by the government of Dubai. The brazenness of it all simply defies belief.

    The way NBP was funded shows just how ineffective our economic development really is in SD. While our GOP leaders tout the best business climate in the country they can't get any businesses to come here without paying them to do so. And they can't raise capital for a project without abusing a federal program and doling out visas to foreigners like candy on Halloween. If the business climate we offer in SD is as excellent as they claim, our marketing must truly be 50th in the nation.

    And why is Joop pressed right up against Wang? (Not that there's anything wrong with that).

  2. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.01


    It appears that Joop is lifting Wang's wallet, again!

  3. Charlie Johnson 2013.11.01

    Would it be unwise to ask those who invested through the Eb5 program in the now bankrupt NBP, to now give up their citizenship status?

  4. sdakota 2013.11.01

    Sorry to go a bit off-topic, but the Dubai Ports deal was not a deal to contract out US port security to a foreign entity, as stated above.

    It was a deal in which one foreign entity (Dubai Ports World) was purchasing another foreign (British) entity, a British entity that happened to manage a number of US ports (among other things).

  5. Douglas Wiken 2013.11.02

    sdakota, sounds like aproximately 6 of one and exactly a half dozen of the or minus zero.

  6. sdakota 2013.11.02

    The topic is possible security risks associated with the SD EB-5 program, right?

    The Dubai Ports World deal had nothing to do with this program, and as far as I can see, reference to that deal could only be included in these comments through an inaccurate statement of what it was.

  7. Donald Pay 2013.11.02

    Yeah, the whole spying thing is a bit overrated. Making dumb investments doesn't qualify you as a spy, but they might qualify you as a corrupter of the Republican Party and our elections.

    I'm more concerned about our politicians being bought and paid for by foreign interests. No need to spy of the US of A when you've bought the Republican Party, and they do your bidding. (But, hey, the Democrats could also be bought under Citizens United, too.) How much foreign money is going into Republican candidates campaigns through various levels of laundering and subterfuge? EB-5 investments provide one way to launder foreign campaign money.

  8. Douglas Wiken 2013.11.02

    And not a foreign purchaser, but apparently Duhamels, et al are selling their interest in KOTA-TV to a Wisconsin company.

    I am not sure what that does or doesn't do to media and economy in South Dakota however.

  9. Lanny V Stricherz 2013.11.03

    I went to the site listed as one of the sites for further exploration of EB-5 There were forty or so places listed that do EB-5s through WrightJohnson. There was a disclaimer that said that not all EB-5s want to be made public. It would be interesting to find out if SD got their two EB-5s through WrightJohnson and that in addition to the crap already out there, we can find out if these guys were trying to hide the whole works from the good voters of SD. I posted on an earlier in the week article on the Argus on line, asking what is an EB-5. For as widespread as its usage appears to be, I can't believe I never heard of it.

  10. Rorschach 2013.11.03

    Whose plane is that they are standing in front of? Is that the state plane? Or is it Mike Rounds's personal plane that he charters out? I wonder how much Mike Rounds has made renting out his personal plane to the state and those who do business with the state?

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.04

    Good question, R! The FlightAware registry (a useful tool!) lists N4057C as a 1982 Cessna owned by the Aberdeen Flying Service, Aberdeen, SD, registered to that company June 2, 2006.

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