In what is likely a long-planned response to the GOED/EB-5/Rounds/Benda scandal (anyone ready to come up with a -gate name for this story?), Marion Michael Rounds is now launching Operation Plausible Deniability. He tells David Montgomery that helping foreigners buy their green cards by investing in new South Dakota businesses was a great idea, but it was all now-deceased Richard Benda's idea.
“Richard did that very hard for an extended period of time, to promote an infusion of equity through the EB-5 program into a number of South Dakota programs,” he said.
Rounds said Benda and other tourism and state development officials told foreign investors it would be in their interest to have their EB-5 investments funneled through a private company [David Montgomery, "Questions Go Beyond Beef Plant," that Sioux Falls paper, 2013.11.02].
Rounds plays dumb and says he didn't even read the contract that shifted the EB-5 visa program to from the state's hands to one private corporation:
Rounds said he remembers the pitch focusing on the value of the pooled-loan model. He said he never read the contract.
“My understanding was that this was designed to comply with the federal guidelines for the EB-5 program,” Rounds said [Montgomery, 2013.11.02].
The federal government authorizes South Dakota to use a federal immigration program to draw millions of dollars for economic development. Someone decides to hand authority over that federal program to a private company not only not subject to public scrutiny but blatantly resistant to it. And the Governor of the state doesn't even look at the contract surrendering that state responsibility? He doesn't even ask why his man Benda signed a five-year contract (technically four and a half, signed December 22, 2009, amended June 4, 2010, good through June 30, 2014) with this agency?
Here, Mike, refresh your memory. Read the contract now, the contract your lieutenant finally saw fit to cancel (quietly) this September. Are you sure you don't remember looking at this important document?
As he runs hard from the EB-5 program that was important to his big-dairy, economic development agenda, M. Michael Rounds is looking more and more like Jason Gant. Even if he didn't really do anything criminal, not reading that important DTSD-SDRC contract looks like one more example of his executive incompetence.
But Rounds is still clever enough to shift all of the responsibility to a dead man.