Mike Rounds gave an interview to the Rapid City Journal this week that reinforces the GOP narrative of using the departed Richard Benda as fall guy for any further corruption we may uncover in the Governor's Office of Economic Development and of covering up remaining witnesses who could spill the beans.
Mike Rounds has been happy to put on his sad face and cloak himself in sympathy for Benda's family. But he gives Benda himself the cold shoulder in his current media stance:
The two men met in the 1980s and crossed paths several times afterward, Rounds said, but were not “socially active together” [Seth Tupper, "Rounds: No Prior 'Red Flags' about Benda," Rapid City Journal, 2014.09.24].
Rounds distances himself from the decision to put Benda in charge of state economic development in 2006, saying that everybody else was telling him to hire Benda. And then Rounds adds this new shred of personal, petty gossip to insult his former GOED chief:
Benda committed suicide with a shotgun in rural Lake Andes during the opening weekend of the 2013 pheasant hunting season, days ahead of the annual Governor’s Hunt. Rounds thinks the timing was significant.
“The next week was the Governor’s Pheasant Hunt. Rich was actively involved in that, and my understanding is that he was not going to be invited to be able to hunt,” Rounds said. “I think his world was closing in around him, and I think the fact he was aware he was going to be indicted, I think he decided that his world was collapsing around him, and he didn’t see a way out” [Tupper, 2014.09.24].
On hearsay, Rounds is willing to paint Benda as a lonely, isolated, hopeless man. Compare that with his willingness to draw conclusions from the much firmer, public, documentary evidence suggesting his EB-5 director Joop Bollen committed crimes:
Rounds was asked Wednesday why he has not singled out Bollen for criticism.
“What I know is what I’ve learned from the attorney general’s reports,” Rounds said. “What I know for sure is that the attorney general had the opportunity to look at this for close to a year. He closed his file last year. To the best of my knowledge, I’m not aware of any action he’s taken against Joop Bollen, and so I don’t have anything that tells me that Mr. Bollen has been found guilty of doing anything illegal.”
When asked how he would describe Bollen’s actions if not “illegal,” Rounds said he’s not the right person to ask.
“I have questions about it. I would’ve had questions then if I had known about it then,” he said. “The appropriate place where that should be answered is at the Board of Regents level. He was their employee” [Tupper, 2014.09.24].
Richard Benda is not here to respond to Mike Rounds's character assassination. Joop Bollen and his Republican power-broker lawyer Jeff Sveen are. Mike Rounds understands quite clearly who his "friends" are.