Last updated on 2015.02.03
Regular readers know I enjoy Sam Kephart's commentaries. The 2008 GOP Senate primary candidate offered us his penetrating insights on South Dakota Republican Party politics and "corporate kleptocracy" in a wide-ranging interview this summer.
This weekend Kephart wins promotion from the comment section with his take on the scandal surrounding the Governor's Office of Economic Development, South Dakota's use of the EB-5 visa investment program, and Richard Benda's death. Kephart says political pressure and maybe even the Chinese Mafia are keeping Attorney General Marty Jackley and Governor Dennis Daugaard from tearing this scandal open and pursuing answers with the necessary vigor.
This entire scandal stinks to high heaven.
I know, like, and support Marty Jackley and I'm sure he is in exquisite pain over this... divided between what he knows is the right thing to do, which is to rip this case WIDE open with no holds barred and no favors done, versus having to be cautious to protect his pecking order status within the State GOP, which would suggest (or lean on him) that he give the benefit of the doubt to his political seniors... which I'm sure is going on behind the scenes.
I know some things about EB-5 investments; they can be great and legitimate, but many are fat money scams.
Has it occurred to anyone of our senior elected officials that maybe, just maybe, Chinese Mafia (Triad) money was somehow involved and scrubbed through this meat packing deal? It wouldn't be the first time.
Like the Russian Mob, these Chinese boys can play rough.
And even the FBI itself has recently been tainted with EB-5 money involving Chinese investors and some Las Vegas developers with mob connections: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/news-ticker/2013/sep/11/san-diego-fbi-building-financed-by-chinese-seeking/
The potential scandal here is WAY BEYOND anything South Dakota has experienced before and, quite frankly, is properly prepared to correctly investigate, good guy Marty Jackley and his fine staff notwithstanding.
Governor Daugaard and Jackley need to put together a Blue Ribbon panel (none of the Governor's cronies) and give them carte blanche to hire outside world-class forensic investigators, beyond the Feds and our DCI, and to secure a retired top-notch prosecutor from elsewhere to head-up the investigation and put it firmly to bed one way or the other.
This issue is NOT going to simply blow over no matter how much hand-wringing, log-rolling, and head-shaking go on.
Even if Benda did commit suicide, which I don't believe, then one must ask what drove him to do it and why? What did he know or fear that was so oppressive to his future prospects that he would take his life? Duh...
Too many deep questions and too many blandishments at this point for my satisfaction [Samuel Kephart, comment, Madville Times, 2013.11.30].
Kephart follows up noting that very little business happens in China without government involvement. He suspects the bankrupt EB-5-dependent Northern Beef Packers plant in Aberdeen was really a money-laundering operation gone awry. Kephart also asserts that political pressure is muzzling at least some of the press:
I had dinner last evening with Shad Olson (KNBN-TV) and he has expressly been forbidden from doing ANY investigative journalism WHATSOEVER on this story by the owners of the station. Why is that? Shad is very good at this sort of story (he's won a national Emmy previously); Jim Simpson needs to empower him here, not hold him back [Sam Kephart, follow-up comment, Madville Times, 2013.12.01].
Kephart is just one more example of South Dakotans across the political spectrum (Democratic Rep. Kathy Tyler, Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers, the Mitchell Daily Republic, up to 90% of Madville Times readers...) who see that the story Jackley, Daugaard, Rounds, and their mouthpieces are spinning doesn't add up. Kephart's commentary demonstrates a Watergatian erosion of public trust. To restore that public trust, legislators, candidates, and voters need to demand answers and action.