Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City) goes to Pierre today with petitions in hand to call for a special session of the Legislature. At a crucial moment when the public should contact their legislators in support of Tyler's call for a deeper investigation of the Governor's Office of Economic Development and South Dakota's EB-5 visa investment program, the Legislature's e-mail contact page is "under construction." Not cool!
Also not cool is Pat Powers's deliberate misinformation about the EB-5 program. I suppose we could argue that something is better than nothing, but on those rare occasions when Powers dares break his silence about the economic development scandal shaking his party, he gets it grossly wrong.
Powers calls Tyler silly for calling for a state audit of a federal program. Powers apparently thinks the Governor's Office of Economic Development is a federal program. Silly, indeed.
The EB-5 visa investment program is authorized by federal law and coordinated by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service. Rich foreigners buy their green cards from the federal government by investing $500,000 to $1,000,000 in business projects.
But South Dakota plays an integral and entirely auditable role in EB-5. We apply for and amend EB-5 status. We pick the businesses toward which we will direct EB-5 money. We send state officials oversees to recruit investors. We hand out and monitor (well, theoretically) the money. We make (and cancel!) contracts to promote the program.
EB-5 is a federal program, but South Dakota has all sorts of authority to audit its EB-5 activities. Medicaid is a federal program, but the states that administer it audit their Medicaid activities all the time. South Dakota has its own Recoveries and Fraud Investigations office to make sure Medicaid funds are used properly. By Pat's "logic", that's silly, too.
We've all chided Pat Powers for his awkward, telling silence on the GOED/EB-5/Benda scandal. And it's got to be killing him to miss out on the Google juice of the biggest news story in South Dakota this year. But when all he can think to say is that South Dakota does not have the authority to audit its own economic development programs, maybe it is better that Pat just keeps quiet and lets us grown-ups explain and discuss the issue.