If EB-5 were just a scandal involving deliberately poor government oversight, get-rich-quick schemers, and a dead former state official made fall guy, it would still be reason enough to question the Senate-worthiness of the governor who sunk South Dakota into it, GOP candidate Marion Michael Rounds.
But the EB-5 visa investment program is also bad policy, a point Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland continues to stress. At last night's South Dakota Democratic Party convention banquet, Weiland said that EB-5 corrupts our immigration process and our economic development efforts by doing favors for wealthy foreigners:
To sell residency to rich foreigners, as my opponent aggressively advocated throughout his tenure as Governor, and in a debate just this spring, is not economic development, it is government enabled extortion, and it is wrong.
I am well aware that some in the business community view government enabling the trade of legal American residency to foreigners at $500,000 a pop to be a vitally important economic development tool. As Governor my opponent created and led the fight for this kind of government sponsored sale of residency in South Dakota, and he strongly supports it to this day. It epitomizes his view that enabling private profit is government's number one job.
I fundamentally disagree with that view. I think government's number one job is guaranteeing equal opportunity for all businesses to compete on a level playing field and to win their successes the old fashioned way, by earning them.
I believe South Dakotans can compete without this kind of morally offensive government help. We always have.
If a person is willing to sell legal residency in his own country for private profit, what won't he sell? Where is the line? As has been testified to Congress in great detail, EB-5 is a breeding ground for greed and corruption.
If elected I will vote to abolish the EB-5 enabled sale of legal residency nationwide. My opponent will vote to extend it. The window on our two different philosophies, and on the kind of Senator we each hope to be, could not be clearer [Rick Weiland, speech to South Dakota Democratic Party convention, Yankton, SD, 2014.06.27].
Voters deserve an honest investigation and discussion of the secrecy, legality, and suspicious financing associated with South Dakota's EB-5 program. But whether that investigation brings anyone to court or prison, voters also deserve a thorough discussion of whether it is wise or just to keep selling green cards through EB-5. Rick Weiland has a winning issue here that fits with his central campaign theme, that Mike Rounds is all about profit over people, about favors for rich friends over fair and effective policy.