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Rounds Supportive of EB-5, Wishful on NBP, Denying Facts on Benda

U.S. Senate candidate Marion Michael Rounds talked to KXLG Radio in Watertown Friday about the EB-5 visa investment program, Northern Beef Packers, and his former economic development chief Richard Benda.

Candidate Rounds, who eagerly embraced the EB-5 green-cards-for-cash program as an integral part of his economic development agenda during his tenure as Governor, said EB-5 is a good program. He wants South Dakota to get back to using it. Voters, you may take that as a declaration from Rounds that, as Senator, he would continue to back a program that other Republican Senators have said poses a threat to national security.

Candidate Rounds also insists, against evidence of business plan exaggerations and current pessimistic market analysis, that the bankrupt Northern Beef Packers will someday be profitable. Once you've poured millions of taxpayer dollars into a project and declared it a key part of your legacy, I guess its hard to admit it was a bad idea.

Candidate Rounds then puts on his sad face and preaches a familiar agnosticism about his friend Richard Benda, who died of an officially ruled self-inflicted gunshot wound shortly after finding out his activities as Rounds's economic development chief and EB-5 promoter were under state and federal investigation:

We will never know from Richard what he did. We feel for his family, the loss... and it's a bad thing that we are all very sorry about. But we will never know from Richard what he did [Mike Rounds, interview, KXLG Radio, 2014.03.07].

I don't know... Dennis Daugaard sounded more confident in January his ability to know what Richard Benda was thinking. Which is it, fellas? Benda, man of mystery, or Benda, transparent scoundrel?

Candidate Rounds then continues to distance himself from poor Richard with some oddly obtuse statements:

We didn't find out about the issues surrounding Richard until literally last September, and so it was about two to two and a half years after we had left office. The allegations against Richard for the vast majority of what we're talking about here occurred after he had actually left state government, was not employed by either myself nor Dennis Daugaard, and was working for an organization that was responsible for monitoring the loans at the plant. That appears to be the timeframe in which the major issues have come up.

Yeah, was it disappointing to find out, to learn that the investigation was ongoing with Richard? Yes it was [Rounds/KXLG, 2014.03.07].

A top official in Rounds's administration was up to mischief, and Rounds had no idea. That doesn't speak well to one's management and oversight skills.

Rounds seeks to cover his backside and his successor Dennis Daugaard's by saying "the vast majority of what we're talking about here occurred after [Benda] had actually left state government." The vast majority? Really? What are we talking about here? The diversion of $550,000 from Rounds's $1,000,000 Future Fund Grant from NBP to Richard Benda and SDRC Inc. happened within the same month that Benda left office, and the state insists there was no wrongdoing there. We must thus be talking about something else... the airline tickets Benda double-billed for three state government trips. That happened in 2009 and 2010, while Benda worked for Rounds. the recreational reading Benda charged to taxpayers. That happened in 2010, while Benda worked for Rounds. the late-night investor entertainment sessions Benda threw with our money at one of Manila's finer go-go bars. That happened in 2010, while Benda worked for Rounds. the last-minute changes Benda made to grant and loan agreements with Northern Beef Packers, changes the Auditor General says constituted a conflict of interest, as Benda stood to gain real money from the position he was negotiating as SDRC Inc's loan monitor over NBP. That happened in 2010, while Benda worked for Rounds.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the vast majority of what we're talking about with respect to Richard Benda, EB-5, Northern Beef Packers, and SDRC Inc. seems to have taken place while Benda worked for state government, during the administration of M. Michael Rounds. The only way I can square Rounds's comment with reality is if back in September, when Dennis Daugaard or Marty Jackley or federal investigators had their sit-down with Rounds, they told him about details of an investigation going far beyond what's made the press, an investigation into ongoing monkeyshines by Benda and his pals in 2011, 2012, and 2013... in which case I'd really like to hear about it, as would, I think, the public.

But given the information we have on the record, Rounds is having trouble keeping his facts straight. Let's see if more frequent questioning on the campaign trail helps him straighten out his talking points on EB-5, NBP, and Richard Benda.


  1. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.03.09

    Kinda explains why the former Governor, would be US Senator, has not showed up for the Republican "debate/get-togethers".

  2. owen reitzel 2014.03.09

    That might be one reason Lanny, even though it's also probably smart not to when you are the leader. Wish he would though.
    But Cory is right that some reporter will have to ask Rounds these very important questions and point out his inconsistencies.

  3. Jerry 2014.03.09

    The egg roll is an insurance agent above all else. He is in the business of sales and sales depend on how you can obscure the fine print. Rounds has had plenty of time to get his story line straight by his teacher that we seem to forget about.

  4. Jenny 2014.03.09

    It's actually quite disturbing that Rounds could make a deceitful statement about NBP being profitable in the future. Does anyone actually believe it?

  5. Joe 2014.03.09

    I find it hard to believe that nobody noticed some of the things Benda was doing.

    2nd As someone who has dealt with the Department of Economic Development and know people who have dealt with them, they were Rounds' slush fund for people he liked. I've heard stories of people complaining to Rounds about some tax, or some expense to do business in South Dakota, and sure enough a few weeks later a check would arrive stating it was a "grant" from the state.

    I've been involved in businesses where funny things were going on, and though maybe nobody knew exactly what was going on, we knew something was going on. And for this to happen, and then all of a sudden, its we didn't know anything, and its all the dead guy's fault, I just find it funny and very convenient

  6. Donald Pay 2014.03.09

    This is a real problem for those who believe in Republican governance. Rounds, Walker, and Christie---inept, associate with crooks, hire bad staff, and direct criminal enterprises.

    Walker and Christie are well-known to be hands on/controlling administrators who hire staff who are intensely loyal toadies. Yet somehow we are to believe in just one or two instances these staff ran amok without the boss's direction or knowledge.

    I don't know what sort of administrator Rounds was. When I knew him as a Legislator, he was incredibly detail oriented. That Rounds would not have missed the pending implosion, unless somehow he was part of it, or it was a scratch my back I'll scratch yours situation, ie., typical South Dakota corruption.

  7. Sid 2014.03.09

    Ultimately, the problem lies within the context in which these things take place. If, for example, the environment in which Mr. Benda worked was one that had little or no tolerance for deliberate misconduct, then it would be likely that the misconduct would have been very limited if it had happened at all. However, if the environment is one in which everyone is doing a little "dipping into the till", then it becomes an acceptable behavior. So, the question is "Who (from South Dakota) was at the go-go club with Mr. Benda?" This is the type of question which must be asked. Another query: Were any of these trips which had diversions to the Phillipines at the same time that a (now) former governor was also traveling to China? Many questions, too few answers.

  8. Jaka 2014.03.10

    We have to remember, tho, that Rounds was very pre-occupied at this time with more important matters: How to build my mansion with access to the river from it and still be able to recoup my investment from the rest of the nation's taxpayers when we sue the Corps of Engineers for too much of nature's liquid affecting my home. (Kinda sorta the same as Lederman et al from Dakota Dunes.

  9. Jenny 2014.03.10

    This is an opportunity now for Weiland to jump in and play hardball with Rounds and his subpar record of economic development and lack of oversight regarding NBP and other "job projects." How about a 'where was Mike?" (where's Waldo?) Was he having fun in the Phillipines or was he building his mansion, or was he having lobster and steak dinners with out of state rich lobbyists?

  10. Tara Volesky 2014.03.10

    The only way we are going to clean up SD corruption is to vote in a new governor that has no political connections. If Daugaard gets re-elected this will all be covered up and we will never know the truth. Only a new governor will uncover the corruption. There is no hope for Congress, but there is hope for SD on a state level.

  11. larry kurtz 2014.03.10

    The only way to clean up corruption at the statewide level to for an ambitious US Attorney to time the indictments perfectly.

  12. rick 2014.03.10

    Didn't Rounds go on overseas junkets with Benda? Check it out.

    If we are to believe Rounds, Mr. Benda must have attended the routine cabinet meetings only to disappear into his isolation chamber where his activities and financial swindling went totally unnoticed, despite records and receipts, for more than two years after he left state government.


    As sickening as Mr. Benda's activities are, Rounds' smarmy statements on KXLG, one second expressing pity for Benda's family and the next denying any knowledge whatsoever of his top appointee's activities in plain sight until last fall, are worse. How can any sober voter in 2014 think Rounds deserves a seat in the U.S. Senate?

  13. Bill Dithmer 2014.03.10


    1. The actions of a small group of like minded people to take an unfair share of something, in this case power.

    2. To bully or force, they just bogarted their bill through the legislature, because they could.

    3.To act or move in a tough or aggressive way. Those legislators didn't ask, they just bogarted their way between these women's legs.

    By the way, I think I know why Smiling Mike smiles all the time. It's South Dakota's newest dirty word, "bogartyzation."

    The Blindman

  14. Tara Volesky 2014.03.10

    Whoever the legislative committee is on the EB-5 case needs to hire an expert who knows how to get the information and will have complete access to all documents and will be able to advise the legislative committee who to subpoena. In NJ., the legislative committee on the Christy scandal hired an outside attorney Reid Schar from Illinois. I believe the committee needs to turn Steven Sandven loose on this investigation and give him assess to all government documents. He has been investigating EB-5 since 2009.

  15. Disgusted Dakotan 2014.03.10

    The theory is that the Democrats have backed off the EB5 corruption hoping that Rounds will be the GOP nominee and then the indictments will come down. Aside from the establishment hanger-onners like Powers & Co., mainstream Republicans will NOT turn out to vote for such a confirmed corrupt politician, and Weiland will get in despite being an open Obama Democrat.

  16. tara volesky 2014.03.10

    They should have been moving on this day one during the session. You are up against the establishment who is making it next to impossible to get information and you are up against the media. They are going to try and run out the clock and then you are going to wonder why you didn't act on this sooner. Why hasn't anybody called Steven Sandven to be on the committee. He knows more than all of the committee members combined. NJ did it right. Outside council. This is no time to be playing stall games to help a party. Think about all parties and Independent voters. You will gain a lot more respect by doing the right thing. This is not a party issue, this is a corruption issue. All parties and people that want to get rid of corruption in SD need to work together for the good of the people.

  17. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.03.10

    This sounds like the Roman Catholic Church in MN. Even with an open media and two party government, it's still been a fight to get information out of the dioceses. The good ole archbishop keeps claiming complete cooperation with the police and states attorney, while fighting every single request and subpoena for records and interviews with cops.

    These guys, Rounds and the archbishop, are so self-focused, they have become oblivious to the harm they are indirectly perpetuating. Or they just don't care. I really hope it is the former. Sickening.

  18. chris 2014.03.10

    We will never know from Richard
    We will never know from Richard
    We will never know from Richard
    We will never know from Richard

    what you did.

  19. mike from iowa 2014.03.10

    In New Jersey's case,word has it the Fat and Furious side has said no administration officials will testify in front of Senate commitee. They may not even answer subpoenas. Arrogance, just like dumb bass dubya's administration. We are above the law.

  20. grudznick 2014.03.10

    Mrs. Volesky, was this Mr. Sandven, esq., at these hearings and why didn't he step up and provide his years of investigative reporting?

    He's not a kook is he?

  21. tara volesky 2014.03.10

    No Grudznick, he is not a kook. He has sent the information to the Democrats and anybody that is interested. Cory can vouch for that.

  22. grudznick 2014.03.10

    It is good that he is not a kook, as some people are.

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.03.11

    Sandven is not a kook.

    Hey, Rick, did Rounds ever go to China? I was perusing the news archives yesterday, and no such trip jumped out at me. Daugaard has certainly hopped the pond, but does anyone recall Mike making that trip?

  24. larry kurtz 2014.03.11

    Willard Romney has been endorsing candidates: if Rounds doesn't pick one up soon it will portend the drain circling.

  25. mike from iowa 2014.03.11

    Tough choice for Rounds. Drain circling vs vulture capitalist circling. Gurgling vs whining.

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