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Four SD Newspapers Agree: State, GOP Should Answer GOED/EB-5/Benda Questions

Want more answers on the GOED/EB-5/Benda scandal? So do South Dakota's newspapers. Four—four!—big dailies across the state say the Legislature is not faithfully executing its charge to investigate the strange shuffling of EB-5 visa investment money that resulted in a bankrupt beef beef plant and a dead man.

The Yankton Press & Dakotan says Attorney General Marty Jackley's revelation that he was preparing to arrest Richard Benda before the former GOED chief's death in October 2013 raises questions the AG and the Legislature should be asking:

...why didn’t this come out many months ago as investigations at the state and federal levels began digging into this matter? This makes very little sense, and adds a new, frustrating mystery to this complex tale of corruption and suicide.

...Last week’s admission by the attorney general brought a curious new light to this subject, but the state doesn’t seem overly curious to wonder why it came out now and what else — if anything — had yet to be revealed.

South Dakotans deserve the whole story. At least they need to know that the veins of evidence have been thoroughly mined. Jackley’s actions last week suggest they haven’t ["EB-5: Why Did This Take So Long?" Yankton Press & Dakotan, 2014.08.04].

(I've outlined many of the questions the Legislature has refused to ask here.)

The Watertown Public Opinion observes the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon's resignation by backing my opinion that GOED/EB-5/Benda is South Dakota's Watergate:

The question yet to be asked, at least publicly, was how Benda could have done what he did without raising eyebrows until former Gov. Mike Rounds left office — he was the one who appointed Benda to his positions — and Dennis Daugaard became governor. Daugaard didn’t re-appoint Benda and it wasn’t too much later that the EB-5 scandal started heating up.

One can’t help wonder how Benda could do what he did without the help, or at least knowledge, of others. Were officials at Northern Beef Packers in Aberdeen, the recipients of EB-5 money, involved? How about SDRC President Joop Bollen, a private company in Aberdeen entrusted with handling EB-5 funds and making sure they got to where they were supposed to go? And how could a portion of the grant money intended for Northern Beef end up being diverted to SDRC in early 2011 to pay Benda’s salary in his new job at SDRC without raising red flags somewhere in state government?

Amazingly, no one on the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee, the group the attorney general addressed last week, asked him who else, if anyone, was involved, and Jackley said nothing about whether Benda acted alone or had help.

...So in the spirit of 40 years ago and taking liberty with paraphrasing, when it comes to EB-5, “Who knew what and when did they know it?” You’d think that question would be at the top of someone’s list. We can think of more then a few people who ought to be asking that question ["What Did They Know and When Did They Know It?" Watertown Public Opinion, 2014.08.04].

The Aberdeen American News, speaking from the scene of the crime (proverbially and perhaps literally), dishes outright ridicule and shame on South Dakota Republicans for stonewalling the investigation of a scandal in their own backyard:

While the GOP has been quite vocal about such “scandals” as “Benghazi,” “Obamacare” and Common Core, state Republicans are turning down the chance to investigate a real, live scandal in their own backyard.

One they actually have a chance to do something about.

But they don’t want to know anything more.

The EB-5 controversy has been a black mark on South Dakota and state leadership. It is a complex issue and investigation, made more cumbersome by the tangled personal and/or political relationships of former Gov. and Senate candidate Mike Rounds, Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Jackley and Benda.

We can’t believe that state legislators know all there is to know about how the state used EB-5, and who could have stopped its misuse.

What’s more galling is that those lawmakers don’t think you need to know anything more.

For shame ["GOP Fails on EB-5 Scandal," Aberdeen American News, 2014.08.06].

And this morning the Rapid City Journal, the paper I feel most comfortable dismissing as a Republican rag, looks its diehard conservative readership in the eye and says Democrat Susan Wismer is right and that Republicans should answer our questions about GOED, EB-5 and Benda:

The legislative panel should subpoena members of both the Rounds and Daugaard administrations who were involved in the EB-5 visas-for-investment program so the public can hear for themselves what was going on rather than be told what happened by parties who may have an interest in controlling the flow of information.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s more to the story than Benda’s alleged misconduct. But when the Legislature’s committee -- which is tasked with finding out what went on in the EB-5 program and report its findings to the public -- goes into executive session and refuses to hear from anyone other than the attorney general, it invites speculation that we’re not being told all the facts ["Does EB-5 Probe Stop at Benda?" Rapid City Journal, 2014.08.07].

The GOED/EB-5/Benda scandal is real. It lost real money. It destroyed real jobs, It led to one very death. Mike Rounds, Dennis Daugaard, Marty Jackley, Joop Bollen, and everyone else involved in this scandal should answer our questions publicly so that we can understand what went wrong, hold accountable whoever is responsible, and forge better policy in the future.


  1. 96 Tears 2014.08.07

    Yet Kevin Woster ponders in his writings why Rick Weiland doesn't seem to understand the inevitability of a Rounds victory in November. This repetition of the Rounds coronation song in the press is Weiland's biggest obstacle. It shuts out the truth that Rounds was complicit in the lawlessness in his own administration and keeps him from being held accountable for running a scam in his own Governor's Office of Economic Development.

  2. larry kurtz 2014.08.07

    Sib, i just sent a boat-load of traffic to your blog: you're welcome.

  3. bearcreekbat 2014.08.07

    It was a surprise indeed to read the Thursday RC Journal's editorial supporting Wismer on this issue, especially since this was not a guest editorial. Perhaps this might encourage West River folks to open their eyes a bit.

  4. David Newquist 2014.08.07

    The state press may be driven to its position from knowledge that a number of people have contacted the national media about this story and are trying to get national attention. There is also the factor of what kind of investigation is being conducted by the U.S Attorney and exactly how it involve how the state government has conducted itself.

    The foot-dragging reaches down through local governments from Huron, Flandreau, and Aberdeen, as the beef processing plant idea moved through these towns, leaving a trail of devastation. These town all tried to make infrastructure accommodations for a beef plant. What has not been looked at by anyone is the role of the economic development agencies in the history of this scandal. An obvious issue is illustjrated by the fact that Joop Bollens enterprise was determined to have no relevance to the educational mission of NSU, was asked to leave, and the Aberdeen Development Corp., which receives city and county funds, gave him office space. County and city officials took the promotional hype of the ADC as knowledgeable statements, when, in fact. the ADC had no factual information of what it would take to start up a beef processing operation in a market dominsated by the big three.

    Local officials support Jackley's use of the loopholes in the state's public information statutes and the absence of any freedom of information laws because a full investigation would reveal the complicity of local governments and foolish gullibility of their officials in proceeding on misleading and ignorant advice from people who claim to be economic development experts

  5. larry kurtz 2014.08.07

    Would the French cheese factory in Brookings have been built had Bendagate not brought the dairies?

  6. Steve Sibson 2014.08.07

    "Aberdeen Development Corp., which receives city and county funds, gave him office space"

    This is where the investigation needs to be expended. Some of the same players were also involved with the student loan scandal during the Janklow era. When it was all done, they came out smelling like a rose with money shoveled over to the Great Plains Education Foundation with the players maintaining control of the money. I covered that in detail with this post:

  7. Steve Sibson 2014.08.07

    Larry, the French cheese maker and the corporate dairies are connected. It is simple common sense that they are. The story is how government picking inners and losers causing the little guys to be trampled by the big guys. He who promises the most jobs gets the biggest piece of the government pie. I made that argument to the Senate State Affairs committee on the Big Projects economic development bill that was referred and defeated by South Dakota voters.

  8. larry kurtz 2014.08.07

    Steve: curious how readers of DWC would react to your links and views of Bendagate.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.08.07

    Larry, someone's got to clean the toilet. Step one to doing that is electing a new regime.

  10. 96 Tears 2014.08.07

    Steve Sibson is getting to the nub of the merry-go-round in Pierre. It's the absence of public concern, legislative oversight and any kind of reasonable transparency on how the state directs its payoffs to corporations and its pals. I list public concern first because the public in South Dakota keep sending the same schmucks back to run state government and keep the payoffs and coverups going unabated. Steve is also correct that "he who promises the most jobs gets the biggest piece of the government pie" is what drives policy explanations in press releases which are consumed by reporters and editors without any questions or introspection.

    Mike Rounds' Benda/EB5 Scam was allowed to run for several years in both the Rounds and Daugaard administrations, and the public, the press and the legislature sat there asleep, questioning nothing. Yet, the evidence of the scam was setting there in plain sight as David Newquist and others on this blog have shown. And Mike Rounds' Benda/EB5 Scam is only one chapter of how stuff gets done in Pierre and how the good ol' boy network runs our state and the SDGOP establishment.

    Too bad that our friend Stace Nelson wasn't allowed to know about the felony counts brought by Attorney General Martin Jackley until long after the June Republican Primary. Mike Rounds ran down the clock and won that one, thanks mainly to Rounds' appointee Jackley, the secrets keeper.

    Now will the press continue helping Mike Rounds play down the clock in the general election? How about the public?

  11. Douglas Wiken 2014.08.07

    testing one two three. Will WordPress accept this?

  12. lesliengland 2014.08.07

    well rcj, center page opinion, today published only one letter to ed.-rita buck: called dems "plantation dwellers". nice job rcj. hiring smart sensitive dems as editors, columnists, senators, congresspeople, govnr ect. would behoove the whole state.

  13. lesliengland 2014.08.07

    nice job cory-looks like dd, jackley, rounds are gonna have to open the kimono

  14. Roger Cornelius 2014.08.07

    Like bear, I was pleasantly surprised at today's Journal editorial and their position on EB-5. Honestly, I didn't think they had it in them to go that far on this scandal.

    Susan Wismer made an impact with her op-ed and got the media asking right questions. Susan can lead continued discussions on GOED now that she has the medias attention.

  15. Danno 2014.08.07

    To risk sounding like a broken record:

    My opinion is that the pool of candidates to choose from is extremely limited due to the fact that the legislative session is from Jan-Mar and most qualified candidates cannot get three months off work, and remote attendance via video/skype/etc is not accepted in any way that I'm aware of.

    So "vote the rats out" when you only have a tiny pool of "rats" to choose from is meaningless, and will remain so until a way is found to effectively allow more to participate. I would again pose the point that 99% of the people I would choose as a rep cannot be so, due to the fact that work prohibits them from serving.

    Nuff said.

  16. Danno 2014.08.07


    I still think you should sign up to be a columnist for the Journal if you can be tempted that way at all.

  17. Steve Sibson 2014.08.07

    Danno, that is a good point. But we should all have enough time to hold the rats feet to the fire for not doing the right thing.

  18. Danno 2014.08.07

    On that Steve, we can totally agree, at least to the best of our ability.

  19. David Newquist 2014.08.07

    Steve Sibson's posts raise some names that are in the background of the NBF an EB-5 business: Harvey Jewett and Norge Sanderson. Jewett is in the same law firm as Jeff Sveen, who is deeply involved with tEhe EB-5 financed turkey plant in Huron and with the Hutterite colonies.

    Norge Sanderson was an earley supporter of Northern Beef Packeurs d and and accompanied Dennis Helwig when he appeared throughout the region drumming up interest, support and investments in the project.

    Sanderson was a significant backer because he is a beef producer and knows the business. About the time that the marketing agency NBF was signed with terminated their contract, Norge Sandersosn dropped out of signt on the project and seems to have severed any connection with the project. Some of the more astute monitors of the project wondered if his withdrawal signaled that t=he thought the project had no chance for success. Thie floundering and distractions with silly schemes that were associated with the project caused doubt in many, and had much to do with the failure to sell the TIF bonds authorized for it.

    Even if these names have withdrawn early on, they have perspectives on why this project went so terriably, terrably wrong.

  20. David Newquist 2014.08.07

    Sorry for all the typos. This Dell laptop has a cursor problem in that it jumps around, deletes and inserts and transposes characters, and in general acts like the early management of NBP.

  21. Steve Sibson 2014.08.07

    David, do you know what is currently going on with IKOR?

  22. bearcreekbat 2014.08.07

    Danno, thanks for the compliment! I have also enjoyed your commentary.

  23. Jessie 2014.08.07

    "Rapid City Journal, the paper I feel most comfortable dismissing as a Republican rag"

    Really? I thought the Capitol Journal had a lock on that position. I stopped subscribing years ago when the quality of reporting took a nosedive along with the physical size of the paper while the price per year took off like a skyrocket. You aren't likely to see any anti-GOPism in any way, shape or form from those guys. The CapJournal is the posterchild for dying newspapers.

  24. Tim 2014.08.08

    A huge bunch of great posts in this thread, the state GOP's response, tough shit, we run the show, deal with it.
    It will take a generation of voters with their eyes open to change it, just as it took a generation of voters with their eyes shut to get us here.

  25. Tim 2014.08.08

    Bear, I also believe as Danno does, that you should consider writing for the Journal. That right leaning rag could use some honest opinion for a change.

  26. David Newquist 2014.08.08

    Steve IKOR has an office in the industrial park, but I have no i. dea what it is doinIt was set up, of course, to process cattle blood into diesel fuel. With NBP gone, no intentions have been announced. However, it had other problems. The company tried to set up a cooperative arrangement with NSU because it had a chemist on staff, a good friend of mine, who is developing the process. He left NSU but still had an arrangement with IKOR. IKOR made an offer buy the intellectual property rights, but the offer was cheap, accompanied by an insulting demeaning of intellectual hwork, so my friend severed his relationship with IKOR. A company in Chicago contacted him and he is doing some consulting with them, although all his work is now at a standstill because he is undergoing severe chemotherapy in preparation for cancer surgery.

  27. Steve Sibson 2014.08.08

    David, thanks for the follow up on IKOR. And I am sorry for your friends health problems.

    I believe Sanderson and Helweig sold land on the initial setup of NBP. An investigation into EB-5 would answer the question as to whether or not the two were financially bailed out by the EB-5 program. And of course it would be interesting to see who else was bailed out.

  28. bearcreekbat 2014.08.08

    Thanks Tim! Now I can show the Journal that I would have two readers.

  29. mike from iowa 2014.08.08

    Make it 3 readers. I check the RCJ for school news about Numero Uno Granddaughter,periodically.

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