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Benda Suicide Denials Sprout: What Are You Really Saying? What Are You Prepared to Do?

Bob Mercer sees an important, complex, and disturbing story in the vast mess of the Governor's Office of Economic Development/EB-5 visa investment/Northern Beef Packers investigation. In the midst of a lengthy, thoughtful essay on the topic, he includes this provocative paragraph on doubt about Attorney General Marty Jackley's conclusion that former GOED chief Richard Benda committed suicide:

Some friends of Richard Benda said Thursday evening they don’t believe he committed suicide. He was cut loose by the Daugaard team in late 2010 as part of the transition from an outgoing governor to an incoming governor. He spent the last years of his life trying to get the beef plant project completed and in operation. The plant was an outgrowth of the Rounds administration’s push for its South Dakota Certified beef cattle marketing program. The beef plant was the next step, and that goal was reached last year, but the business struggled for various reasons and collapsed financially in July [Bob Mercer, "'...a self-inflicted gunshot wound...ruled a suicide'," Pure Pierre Politics, 2013.11.22].

Speaking very generally, I can understand how hard it can be to accept that loved one would kill himself or herself. Suicide carries a stigma... and it should, as one more bulwark against our friends and family falling into weakness and doing it. We don't want to think or speak ill of the dead. Saying that a loved one killed himself, as some level, speaks ill of that person.

But let's speak specifically. Some folks are telling Bob Mercer and me that they don't believe the Attorney General's conclusion that Richard Benda took his own life. Those people are necessarily saying that the Attorney General of South Dakota is either mistaken or lying.

To say that the Attorney General is mistaken, that he marshaled state and federal resources for a month-long investigation and came up with the wrong answer about a suspicious death, is significant and serious.

To say that the Attorney General is lying is far more grave. Why would he lie? To serve what interests? To protect whom? On what hard evidence would you base such a claim?

What either case, what consequences should follow? The Utah Attorney General is resigning over allegations of ethics violations. Claims that Richard Benda did not commit suicide concomitantly accuse the Attorney General of South Dakota of an ethical violation, or at least a grave error.

This isn't a soap opera or some fanfic chat room. This is real politics.

If you truly believe Richard Benda did not commit suicide, if you disagree with the judgment call of the highest law enforcement official in the state, you need to call your legislators and urge them to call for a special session to review all documents related to the Attorney General's investigation of this suspicious death and the related issues (and Bob Mercer's essay strongly suggests they are related) of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, the EB-5 visa investment program, and Northern Beef Packers.


  1. Joe 2013.11.22

    The 100 eyes saying off the record lawyers in Sioux Falls were saying hew Benda was calling numerous lawyers frantically in the weeks leading up to this suicide sparks my interest.

    You don't call lawyers unless there is something, you don't call numerous lawyers unless its something big, you don't call numerous lawyers frantically unless its something serious.

  2. Bree S. 2013.11.22

    Thanks for that horrible link, Larry.

  3. joseph g thompson 2013.11.22

    Like I said on another post, Mr. Mercer and Cory appear to be collecting evidence of a conspiracy in Pierre. They should take that evidence or suspicions to the U.S. Justice Department, represented by the U.S. Attorney instead of trying to make politics out of it. If they are correct a crime has been committed and someone needs punished. If they are not correct then they are just playing politics. Hope it is not playing politics Cory, expect more from you.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.22

    joseph g thompson,

    Here's a little reality, it is political! Cory and Bob Mercer are not playing politics with this scandal, they are reporting it and doing a better job of it than most of South Dakota media.
    It would not surprise me if the feds, and maybe state, investigators have accessed these blogs and examined documents that have been referred to.
    The last thing that Cory, Mercer, Lammers, et al, need to do is stop investigating, in fact they need to go deeper.
    It is not the bloggers to do the job of investigators, but they do it for the public.
    It is the responsibility of bloggers to call out investigative bodies when they don't their job and keep citizens informed.

  5. Joe 2013.11.22

    So the report was released by Jackley which just ask more questions rather then answer any. The state was asked to give 8 things to the state and travel vouchers was 1 of them. The state loan is totally separate so I'm wondering if more was going on. Double billing a few thousand dollars isn't going to get you much jail time if any. The in proper use of the state loan might, but I feel there is more there then is being let on to believe.

  6. Jenny 2013.11.22

    Interesting, and so Jackley is releasing information bit by bit. Facts are slowly coming out, what a page will it end?

  7. Joe 2013.11.22

    I'm just surprised how dumb the state is playing with all of this. They didn't know anything about any of this until the feds came in? For some reason I feel the feds have way more information. This was all state stuff so why/how the feds were able to tip them off about this is just confusing.

  8. Jenny 2013.11.22

    You should see Powers sugar coat the mess in his latest. Uhh, well just fix it folks....nothing to see here really.....ah, on to forwarding the next Thune and Noem press release. Click....

  9. joseph g thompson 2013.11.22

    Mr. Cornelius,
    The President is not a US citizen; JFK was killed by LBJ, Castro, the military; the Nation of Islam did not kill Malcome X, and Hitler survived World War II. Present the facts to responsible agencies and let them do what they are supposed to do, that is unless you don't believe the Department of Justice would investigate. The reality is if he was killed by someone it is a statutory crime, if he was not killed by some one it is merely political dirty work. Progressives scream we are a nation of laws, let the law work, unless you don't believe in it.

  10. Joe 2013.11.22

    First of all LBJ did kill Kennedy, as for what is going on here? I really don't know, but I highly doubt the federal government's investigation has anything to do about this.

  11. Bree S. 2013.11.22

    The viewpoints you just gave are not accepted truths, Joseph. So that doesn't present much support for your argument that this suicide will be found to be other than a suicide.

  12. Bree S. 2013.11.22

    Jenny, PP has banned everyone from posting on his fabulous blog. Me, Cory, RinoMike I'm sure, and probably Jammer now as I haven't seen him post for a couple days.

  13. Sid 2013.11.22

    I would love to see a world where there is nothing negative, no matter how bad the events. So, I'm going to ask PP if he will give me some of the drugs he is taking...

  14. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.22

    Who just chipped joseph g thompson out of an ice glacier?

  15. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.22

    PP, Rounds, Daugaard, Jackley are attempting to make Benda the "fall guy'. Point all fingers at Benda and be done with it.

  16. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.22

    In one of Bob Mercer's columns, he suggested that there were at least 5 investigations into EB-5 and possibly 6 with the Benda death.

    Does Mr. Mercer know what investigative agencies are involved? Would Homeland Security be involved since they monitor EB-5? How about the department of immigration given that NBP and others supposedly used immigrant labor?
    Banking regulators?
    Jackley investigating Jackley?

  17. Wayne Pauli 2013.11.22

    How can what we supposedly know...right so significant as to have the individual in question commit suicide? This was a professional guy who had been through and seen lots of things. Not buying the spin...behind the smoke is the fire.

  18. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.22

    Cory, you said, "Suicide carries a stigma... and it should, as one more bulwark against our friends and family falling into weakness and doing it."

    You are so wrong on every point of that sentence. I know that suicide itself is not the topic of this post, so I won't elaborate here. Perhaps sometime you'll write a post about suicide and we can all talk about it then.

  19. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.22

    I agree with Cory on some level, suicide does carry a stigma, that stigma mus be overcome by focusing on mental illness and providing people with proper care. Obamacare now allows for that help.

  20. Wayne 2013.11.22

    What I find unbelievable is that the top down forensic audit? yields one name who of which is conveniently gone.

  21. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.22

    You are right about the stigma Roger, and also right to say the stigma is not a good thing.

  22. Erwin Mack 2013.11.22

    I know it is wishful thinking for Cory and my of you that Jackley is wrong or is lying but the more plausible explanation is the people that are talking to Mercer and Cory are wrong or not telling the truth. Time will tell.

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.22

    Erwin, that's why I hesitate. The facts before us are what they are. We have speculation and counternarrative and facts that are unusual, but nothing to say the story told by the Ag is impossible.

    Deb, indeed, probably better for another post. But I will stand by my words. Suicide is bad. People should not do it.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.22

    Joseph, Roger understands perfectly what I'm up to. If you'll notice, I've soft-pedaled the campaign-landscape element of this story. I want to know who did what with what money, and who knew what when. This story is very political, in that deals with the affairs of the polis, of policies carried out by politicians we elect. In that regard, the "political" aspect of this story is unavoidable.

    With regards to this story, Joseph, every bit of evidence that I would consider worth sharing with the authorities is here on the blog. I write these stories (1) to educate the public, and (2) to perhaps provoke folks with more access and resources to dig into things that I from my part-time press cannot.

  25. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.22

    joseph thompson,
    Indeed we are a country of laws and believe that scandals like EB-5 should take their course with law enforcement. I also believe that law enforcement and the South Dakota Attorney General's office as well as South Dakota Senate and House are stalling this investigation by providing bits and pieces as we have seen in last few days. Why is that Joseph?
    As we have seen this scandal play out over the last couple of months, it has been Cory and madvilletimes propelling it. Other blogs and most of South Dakota media prefer to ignore it, it now getting to a point where they can't, thanks to Cory.
    It is great that Mercer, Lammers and Cory are comparing notes, fact checking each other and providing us with valuable information.
    Joseph, if you are afraid of the truth and want to hear it your way, go over to Dakota War College where you can all pat each other on the back.

  26. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.22

    Wayne: you make two important points. The AG's conclusions and timing seem too tidy for real life. The issues raised don't seem the kind that drive a player like Benda to suicide... especially not if he was still in the in-crowd, as his recent hiring by recent Majority Leader Olson at Heartland seems to indicate he still was at the beginning of October.

    But if our suspicions are warranted, then what practical action are we obliged to take? What should we ask of our legislators, and what can they do to help?

  27. joseph g thompson 2013.11.22

    So tell me what an investigation by the Senate or the House will accomplish that an investigation by federal law enforcement agencies will not. If the Senate or the House find evidence of wrong doing but the legal system does not what is accomplished. House and Senate hearing are used to point out acts that are not really nice but fall short of criminal activities, not to bring criminal charges. Cory says this is a political issue so why should a republican house or senate be inclined to investigate a republican administration. I'm not saying something doesn't smell, I am quite aware of what people in political positions are capable off, I'm just saying enough conjecture, let the criminal justice system act and then decide if you trust the government.

  28. joseph g thompson 2013.11.22

    Mr. Cornelius,
    I post here off and on because l have met Cory, I respect Cory. I post very very infrequently anywhere else, except military blog sites, because I have no idea who those people are or who they represent. Figure Cory isn't going to have total nuts around very long posting here, so I am comfortable here.

  29. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.22


    A few months back Cory did a post on South Dakota rating quite high as one of the most political corrupt states in the union. At first I was skeptical, because I hadn't heard of any investigations or scandals.
    It was pointed out to me that it is the "culture of corruption" that got us that distinction. Three decade of one party rule in all branches of state government provides little, if any, checks and balances.
    That culture of corruption is what brought us to where we are now. Do we tell a Republican representative that they need to investigate another Republican? Do we ask a Republican Attorney General that he needs to provide more evidence on a suspected homicide.
    If Democrats push any of these issues, they will voted down in various committees. They have no voice either.

  30. Bree S. 2013.11.22

    Joseph is a Democrat, Roger. Nice of you to tell him to go to the DWC.

  31. Roger Cornelius 2013.11.22


    I don't who is Democrat or Republican, other than you.

    My response to Joseph was based on his comments not his political affiliation.

  32. Bree S. 2013.11.22

    Right, he doesn't completely agree with you on all topics, so he better leave the Madville Times, for your comfort.

  33. Nick Nemec 2013.11.22

    Joseph is right here. The best hope of getting to the bottom of this story is to let the Federal investigation play out. They have the authority to ask questions and compel witnesses to appear. Any investigation by state authorities is suspect and an investigation by the SD State Legislature would be laughably incompetent. It would be chaired by some Republican legislator, beholden to the powers that be, unwilling to ask any hard questions, and without subpoena powers. In short a waste of time

  34. Joe 2013.11.22

    The one problem with letting the Federal investigation play out is that the Fed's won't release anything without an indictment and they won't ask for an indictment unless they are very sure of a conviction.

    What the state can do is audit the program and figure out why the feds are interested.

  35. joseph g thompson 2013.11.22

    Wow, argue over my political beliefs. Consider myself to be a Goldwater Republican, in other words a liberal Republican. It is hard in this day and age but I do try. Don't care where the cards fall only want the truth, problem is today people don't want the truth because most of the time it is politically inconvenient. Can call me anything you want to here, because people with a much higher pay grade than anyone who posts here have called me names that you couldn't even think of, but yet I was extremely successful, go figure. Good night all.

  36. Bree S. 2013.11.22

    Sorry Joseph, thought you said earlier you were a Democrat in a previous conversation we had in a different thread. My husband is also a Goldwater Republican, but not socially liberal.

  37. joseph g thompson 2013.11.22

    Mr Joe,
    So why would republicans want to investigate republicans? To do the right thing? Don't make me laugh I have never met a successful politician, democrat or republican, that was willing to do what was right. By primary time, regardless of how loud progressives scream, unless the Feds find a crime this is a none issue.
    The only other way it could an issue in June is if the republicans continue to eat their own and then the progressives deserve to win in November. Now good night to all.

  38. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.22

    Nick, I may have to agree with your assessment of the prospects for a legislative investigation. But could the Legislature pass any sort of reform package that could address corruption and cronyism?

  39. Joe 2013.11.23

    Rounds is statement sounds as if he knew about the loan situation. Which to me is the more serious of the two. Which just makes everything sound more odd

  40. dale b 2013.11.23

    It is all political. Whether its Brendan or Marty or even the FBI but maybe to a slightly lesser extent. The problem I have with all of this, is if its not suicide its murder.

    "Richard Benda, 59, died of a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the abdomen, Attorney General Marty Jackley said." - argus leader nov 21,2013

    At point blank a shotgun blast to the abdomen would be fatal, but not instantly fatal, he could of lived for as long as an hour, maybe longer. Though, maybe he wanted an open casket funeral. My point is, if that is what he did, that is probably one of the worst ways to do it. The other thing that strikes me as odd is the guy didnt hunt. He was actually afraid of hunting for reasons of his own safety. So if a person didnt like to hunt and was afraid for his safety why go? Who would he trust enough to go hunting with if someone asked him? My guess would be only a few people.

  41. Testor15 2013.11.23

    "Jackley investigating Jackley?" Good one.... It's kinda like DCI and ALEC Jackley investigating PP and Gant for stealing money. If you do not remember, go into your way back machines to 2012. Remember the results of Jackley and DCI "investigating" ALEC Gant / PP for the one thing no one accused them of. Surprise, no stealing of SOS funds. Their ethics violations and questionable campaign business operating out of the SOS office were the questions to be investigated. When the whitewash team got done, the Burger King duo moved on with their lives as if nothing ever happened.

  42. Nick Nemec 2013.11.23

    Cory, the legislature sure could pass a reform package if it wanted to, but it would require the political will to go against years of increasing secrecy and the culture of "it's none of your business" that has pervaded Pierre. If the Governor backed a true reform package it would help. Mike Rounds was instrumental in institutionalizing the attitude of secrecy his argument was that it was good for business. We are beginning to see how well that worked.

    I wouldn't expect too much as long as Rounds is running for or holds high office in South Dakota.

  43. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.11.23

    Does the GOED/EB-5 mess smell bad enough to move 36 House members and 18 Senators to vote aye on good reform legislation?

  44. Lynn G. 2013.11.23

    Pie in the Sky: Sometimes I really wish we had a multi-party system to compete against each other in providing a better product and candidates. It's obvious this basically one party rule in our state for such a long time is a very unhealthy form of government. I'm a new to this being an outsider I guess but it seems like Democrats are an endangered species here in SD. lol There about as plentiful as the pheasants seen this past hunting season. I'm looking at what it would take get our story out there to build the party starting with for example young Democrats to provide like a feeder system and eventually have an abundance or well qualified candidates, public servants or whatever. Creating a real opposition contributing to the checks and balances of a healthy and transparent government. I'm just looking at the number of Democrats in our Legislature for example.

  45. Jenny 2013.11.23

    Smilin' Mike said SECRECY is GOOD for BUSINESS?? How disturbing! Is this how he runs his insurance business? This is what the candidates need to jump on at the debates, - Rounds promoting this kind of govt and is this really what South Dakotans want? Honestly, if I lived in SD, I would register republican just to vote for Stace in the primary.

  46. joseph g thompson 2013.11.23

    Ms. Lyn G,
    Until Democrats in South Dakota move away from the progressive policies of the national party I believe the only hope they have of gaining some political say is by splitting the Republican party. Dems will gain power only when Repubs hate themselves more than they hate Dems. It has happened before in South Dakota, most notably in the late 1800's early 1900's and it looks like they are in the process of doing it again, so don't give up hope. As for a feeder system, take a look at what Tom Daschle did.

  47. interested party 2013.11.23

    Mr. Thompson: your apprisal is half-fast. Blue doggerel does prose badly.

  48. joseph g thompson 2013.11.23

    AAAh IP,
    love ya

  49. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.11.23

    Mr. Thompson, the Democratic Party has been moving to the right ever since Jimmy Carter. Liberals and Progressives are quite frustrated with Democratic leadership. I am one of those.

    You and I have diametrically opposite opinions on what the Democratic Party needs to change. I want the party to return to its liberal history. I want it to be the Democratic Party of FDR, McGovern and Wellstone.

    I think this is a place where we will not find agreement. That's okay by me. There is a need for liberals, moderates and conservatives. Balance. Governments tend to go awry when too one-sided. Case in point - the great state of SD.

Comments are closed.