Last updated on 2014.09.09
What's it going to take to get Dakota War College to talk about the EB-5 visa scandal? I've shown how the chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party was instrumental in approving the doomed EB-5 investment black hole Northern Beef Packers. Let's see what happens if we tie a former Democratic legislator to the EB-5 program....
Eldon Nygaard started South Dakota's first winery, Vermillion's Valiant Vineyards, in the 1990s. He represented District 17 in Pierre for three terms, from 2007 to 2012. He currently offers consulting services under the name "Draagyn Consulting Services" for business ventures between American and Chinese entrepreneurs.
Nygaard began exporting wine to China in 2011. In April 2012, he co-sponsored the first "American Visiting Institute for Chinese Real Estate Entrepreneurs" at the University of South Dakota. Along with a visit to then-Secretary of Agriculture Walt Bones's dairy farm, our Chinese guests got to hear speeches from Governor Dennis Daugaard, state economic development chief Pat Costello, Daugaard economic advisor John Hemmingstad, Republican financier Steve Kirby, and SDRC's Richard Benda, who came to extol the virtues of the EB-5 visa investment program.
Nygaard himself appears to be pitching EB-5 visa investment to his Chinese friends. The badly translated press release is unclear, but Nygaard appears to have been a featured player in an August 2013 signing ceremony and an August 26, 2013, "Thankful Dinner" involving the Guangdong Tongyee Law Firm, the State of South Dakota EB-5 Regional Center Project, and Dakota Natural Meats LLC.
Two of the gentlemen pictured with Nygaard are Brian P. Fredericks and John Jun Fan, two of the three organizers of Dakota Natural Meats, the last project approved for EB-5 funding in South Dakota. Dakota Natural Meats currently remains a non-existent hog slaughterhouse based in a third-floor office on Phillips Avenue. Nygaard is not listed on the organizing documents for Dakota Natural Meats... but hey! Someone had to bring the wine.
Nygaard was a Democrat for his first four years in the Legislature. Then, after the Dems got roughed up in the 2010 election and failed to give Nygaard a leadership role in their diminished Senate caucus, Nygaard switched to the GOP. At the time, Nygaard explained his party switch thus:
For the following reasons and the fact that my philosophy regarding government's role in society is more in line with the Republican Party, I have changed my party affiliation. In my new role as a member of the Republican State Senate Caucus, I will continue to reach across the aisle to find solutions that work for my district and the people of South Dakota [Eldon Nygaard, quoted in "State Sen.-Elect Nygaard Switches Party," Vermillion Plain Talk, 2010.11.18].
Then state Dems exec Erin McCarrick responded with clear pique:
If Eldon wants to put personal gain above what we are fighting for as Democrats and above his district, then the Republican Party should work out just fine [Erin McCarrick, quoted in "...Nygaard Switches...," 2010.11.18].
A South Dakota Democrat leaves his party, joins the Republicans, and soon is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them, expanding his business to China and making a trip on behalf of the state to promote the EB-5 visa investment program.
I'll bet that's just one more angle of the GOED/EB-5/SDRC story that the Republican press release machine will minimize and ignore.