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Tea Party Blog Takes a Swing at Rounds on EB-5

Multiple eager readers have forwarded me this article by Paul Shannon of the Tea Party Tribune, who promises a multi-article exposé of M. Michael Rounds's incompetence or complicity with respect to the GOED/EB-5 scandal. Shannon launches his series by grasping at three strands of the scandal: bad business at the EB-5-funded Dakota Provisions turkey plant in Huron, secrecy in the Governor's Office of Economic Development, and suspicions about the state's investigation of Richard Benda's death.

Dakota Provisions was launched to process turkeys from Hutterite colony growers. Bob Mercer drew connections last November between Dakota Provisions chairman Jeffrey Sveen and the EB-5 program. The turkey plant has been kept afloat by three rounds of EB-5 visa investment totaling perhaps over $90 million, some of which was redirected to other South Dakota EB-5 projects, including the doomed Northern Beef Packers. Sveen has helped EB-5 impresario Joop Bollen recruit Chinese investors and structure his byzantine EB-5 business entities.

Shannon produces a February 5, 2011, letter from Jake Wipf of the Oaklane Hutterite Colony to the Dakota Provisions board complaining that the board is shorting the colonies. The Wipf letter claims that colonies not selling to Dakota Provisions were making a profit on their birds, while colonies dealing with Dakota Provisions were taking a loss. The Wipf letter says that instead of offering dividends that benefit non-producer investors, Dakota Provisions ought to pay producers better prices. This letter does not mention EB-5, but it perhaps adds to the groundwork laid by Mercer's reporting to see Sveen and Bollen's EB-5 projects as an exploitative money-making scheme.

Shannon then produces an excerpt from a state response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The state (and Shannon does not clarify which agency or agent is responding, to whom, or for what) says that it is not subject to FOIA. Shannon takes umbrage... but Shannon gets a bit distracted here. FOIA is not the issue. FOIA does not apply to state agencies. And Shannon admits that, in this case, the state still released the information requested. Work with me, Paul: there are plenty of other ways to show that GOED and other state officials are working hard to keep information about EB-5 out of our hands.

Shannon gets back on the trail by criticizing Attorney General Marty Jackley's resistance to releasing records from his investigation of former GOED chief Richard Benda's suspicious death. The Attorney General's slow investigation of Benda's apparent suicide, as well as his subsequent unwillingness to share the evidence that he says led him to the conclusion that there was no foul play in this case of enormous public interest, do leave a distasteful and distracting suspicion in the minds of almost every South Dakotan following this story.

Shannon has a lot of work to do to tie these three strands into a strong rope with which to pull down M. Michael Rounds. This first article doesn't add to our understanding of Rounds's involvement in EB-5. In general, I view the pronouncements of the Tea Party Tribune on South Dakota politics with skepticism. After all, these are folks who think that the Aberdeen newspaper is called the Times and that microphone-challenged political novice Jason Ravnsborg is the best candidate to challenge Mike Rounds and Rick Weiland.

That said, I'm glad to have more eyes on the GOED/EB-5 story. The more people watching and reading, the more chance we'll discover the big picture, and the more Mike Rounds will have to answer our questions about what went wrong with GOED and EB-5. I look forward to Shannon's further efforts to connect the dots.

Update 09:05 CDT: Ask and ye shall receive! Shannon has posted Part 2, looking more closely at the financing of Dakota Provisions.


  1. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.04.22

    Geez! This is all so beyond shameless and slimy. The Rounds Gang need to pay for what they've done. How many small town businesses, farms and families suffered from the crimes committed by the Rounds Gang? Let's see, didn't Madoff get 75 years? And Tom Petters got 50. I'd say the Rounds Gang ought to get 35-40 years. Sound fair?

  2. Tim 2014.04.22

    Based on the way republicans run this state, the evidence will have to be much much stronger before they will even look at it.

  3. Joan Brown 2014.04.22

    I agree with Tim about the Republicans running the state.

  4. grudznick 2014.04.22

    The Republicans with Common Sense are far vaster than the Tea Potters would even believe. And the Republicans don't really worry what the libbies believe. I'm just sayin...

  5. Roger Cornelius 2014.04.22

    For the first time since the founding of the tea party, I find myself liking them on this issue.

    Every little bit helps in getting the message out about the scandal and Rounds.

  6. Paul Shannon 2014.04.23

    While I am a conservative, I hate corruption. I am trying to paint a picture of how the state of South Dakota has so much corruptions when it involves this program, that it should be looked into. Madville, Fly Over Wire and Bob Mercer have all done an amazing job. I am just trying to shine a national spotlight. Personally, I don't care about political affiliation when it comes to violating the law. I would hope that fighting for this would be bipartisan.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.04.23

    I hope so too, Paul. Corruption is an issue where we should all be able to leave our partisan labels at the door and focus on real practical issues of good government, responsible supervision, and effective use of tax dollars.

  8. itsme 2014.04.23

    Paul Shannon and Cory Heidelberger, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!!

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