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Rounds Willing to Critique Not-Friend Benda on Hearsay, Keeps Mum on Bollen

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.


  1. Joe 2014.09.26

    I guess I just don't buy the, I really didn't know Benda argument.

    Its Pierre, Rounds is from Pierre, Benda basically lived/worked their his entire adult life. I understand Benda was more of a Janklow guy, but still, its Pierre, not NYC, and Rounds is from Pierre, not Bison. Don't tell me that they had a mere run in or two in the 20 some years both were professionals involved in state government in Pierre.

  2. Nick Nemec 2014.09.26

    Not only were they both from Pierre, a small company town, where the company is State government, but state government is controlled by the Republican Party and has been for nearly two generations. The upper reaches of State government are populated by insiders and cronies, it's called the Governor's Office of Economic Development for a reason.

  3. mike from iowa 2014.09.26

    I hardly knew Kenny Boy Lay. I think he supported my opponent for guv of Texas. gwb commenting on his decades long friendship with Enron chief Ken Lay.

  4. Bill Fleming 2014.09.26

    Nick, perfect! Good find.

  5. Douglas Wiken 2014.09.26

    With news of Benda's death, a gasp of relief could be heard across South Dakota, "Ahhhhhhhh, Dead men tell no tales."

  6. Roger Cornelius 2014.09.26

    Here's is one the questions that has been plaguing me, Rounds says that Benda wasn't invited to the pheasant hunt and that walls were closing in on him, Rounds goes so far as to say Benda's "suicide" may have been because of this impending indictment and arrest.
    Who informed Benda of Jackley's indictment and why wasn't he arrested immediately?

  7. Roger Cornelius 2014.09.26

    Why has Mike Round been mum on Bollen? Is it because Joop Bollen is a big guy and Mike Rounds a little guy? Maybe Rounds is afraid that Bollen will catch him after school and beat him up.
    Rounds/Bollen should be at the heart of this investigation, Rounds is the politician and Bollen is the money guy. My question is how well did these two know each other? Was Bollen invited to the pheasant hunt or other special events sponsored by the governor?

  8. Jane Smith 2014.09.26

    Well, the silence is pretty telling. Joopster et al touted the Governor and the GOED as sponsors to Eb5 overseas. Would he be so brazen to lie about the governors sponsorship? Did the gov ever tell Joopster to stop?
    Birds of feather flock together.

  9. Roger Elgersma 2014.09.26

    Rounds is opposite of Harry Truman. No buck stops on Rounds desk. He is truely an insurance salesman who covers his risks. He should go back to insurance. That is where he fits.

  10. Kurt Evans 2014.09.26

    Seth Tupper wrote:
    >"Rounds said he heard from local economic development directors around the state. 'They said, "Well, we’ve got him right here. Benda ought to be doing it,"' Rounds recalled. 'I mean, it was just down the line.'"

    "The buck stops there." (??)

    [I wrote that before I saw the Roger Elgersma comment above. I'd been thinking it for weeks.]

    Tactically I'd guard against shifting too much attention to Bollen. Apparently his thefts were technically legal—like those of thousands of other crooked government parasites across the nation—and far removed from Rounds. I'd also guard against shifting attention to Daugaard. He's the one who sent Benda packing, after all.

    Rounds appointed Benda. Rounds appointed Benda. Rounds appointed Benda. He ought to take ownership that appointment:

    He also ought to take ownership of this:

    The argument that a profitable business may eventually emerge at the former Northern Beef facility is an irrelevant deflection.

  11. Jane Smith 2014.09.26

    You must mean illegal. What do you mean technically legal? What Bollen did was not legal in any sense of corporate or government laws. He stolle intellectual property from the state both physically and intellectually. All this stalling to procescute the guy is because people in public office have something to hide, and they don't want it to hurt their political career.

  12. lesliengland 2014.09.26

    RC-benda's lawyer met with jackley's office prior to his death to discuss the pending indictment, according to a post from cory some time ago, perhaps as a courtesy given his past state employment.

  13. Jaka 2014.09.26

    How was Mike Rounds aware that Benda hadn't been invited to hunt and how did MR know Benda's world was closing in on him if Yackley et. all hadn't informed Rounds of the investiigation---a private citizen as such.... Keep talkin' Mikey, keep talkin'!!!!

  14. jerry 2014.09.26

    That is a good catch Jaka, how did the little twerp know all of this as a private citizen?

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.26

    Really good question, Jaka. Sounds like coordination of the story to me. If Rounds wasn't socially involved with Benda, he wouldn't have been asking about him at the Governor's Hunt, would he? Either Mike was asking, or someone was interested enough to tell him... or he's just making stuff up to support his preferred narrative and maybe just to add insult to injury to Benda's family.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.26

    Roger: mum on Bollen? Perhaps Bollen is not the big fish, but is the tool of bigger fish who are demanding a cover up.

  17. Jane Smith 2014.09.27

    Big fish, little fish, they need to be caught and prosecuted.

  18. Francis Schaffer 2014.09.27

    Cory, how would Richard Benda have know he was going to be indicted? Had the grand jury been called to look into this? Did I hear someone say that grand jury was going to be called? Doesn't the grand jury return the indictment? Just some questions about statements and timing. If this has been covered, I apologize.

  19. mike from iowa 2014.09.27

    Jackley revealed the news at the Government Operations and Audit Committee in Pierre on Wednesday. It’s the first time a state official has revealed that Benda was facing arrest at the time of his death. The committee also featured testimony from the current commissioner of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the state auditor and the commissioner of human resources.
    Although Jackley told members of the legislative panel he had a complaint against Benda prepared on Oct. 8, the document was not finalized until Oct. 22.
    Three days after initially preparing the complaint, Jackley said formal arrangements were made for a grand jury, which was set to meet on Oct. 28.
    Both the criminal complaint and the grand jury became moot after Benda’s body was found on Oct. 22 in Lake Andes. Benda’s death was subsequently ruled a suicide by a coroner and Jackley.
    Benda faced multiple charges including double-billing travel vouchers he filed while serving as cabinet secretary and redirecting $550,000 in state grants to the Northern Beef Packers plant in Aberdeen.

  20. Francis Schaffer 2014.09.27

    Thanks mike from iowa. What other charges other than the double-billing? Why talk of indictment? How did Mr. Rounds know Mr. Benda knew he was going to be indicted? Or is that speculation on the part of Mr. Rounds?

  21. Francis Schaffer 2014.09.27

    Mike from Iowa, if it is a moot point upon Mr. Benda's death, why bring it up at all?

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.27

    Francis, I'm glad you're asking questions. I will be happy to fill in every voter who is asking such good questions.

    Good summary, Mike. Remember, Francis, AG Jackley's draft arrest warrant addressed the double billing, but it also addressed Benda's diversion of $550,000 of Future Fund Grant #1434 from Northern Beef Packers to SDRC Inc.

    Note also that Mike Butler, Benda's attorney, said Benda contacted him after becoming aware of the investigation into his alleged wrong-doing. So that indicates someone clued Benda in as to trouble coming. Butler says that law enforcement spoke with him about Benda. Jackley confirms conversations with Butler but also says his office never interviewed Benda himself.

    And remember, quite contrary to the narrative of psychological stress peddled by Rounds and Daugaard, Butler said last November, "I did not imagine [Benda] would take his life."

  23. 96Tears 2014.09.27

    While we're spitballing to determine which laws got violated and where the lines of serious ethics got crossed, Democrats (elected or otherwise) need to document these issues and develop an agenda for local and state governments to curb corruption. South Dakota once had a State Ethics Commission (during the Kneip years), and such a body (equal representation of both parties) with elected leaders, academia, law community leaders and other wise minds should seek to create one. Mission 1, develop a standing commission, identify its scope and mission, and give it teeth with powers of subpoena, etc. Mission II, establish the commission membership and hold its meetings.

    It would be wise to carry this around all corners of the state to get citizen input first and gather support and interest. It's one thing to harp about the criminality of the Rounds and Daugaard administrations and the political hackery of the Attorney General. It's another to get to the roots of this corruption and provide remedies to eliminate it.

    Ultimately, you win when you address real problems with real solutions.

  24. Tim 2014.09.27

    96, very good ideas, but the republican majority will need to be changed before that happens. As long as they keep getting re elected they have no incentive to change anything. I would guess it will get worse if they keep getting re elected as they will call it a voter mandate for business as usual.

  25. 96Tears 2014.09.27

    Good point Tim. But here's how smart politics trumps the ivory tower located in the middle of nowhere (our State Capitol). Take the issue to the people. Find talking heads in communities who are respected and trusted to carry the proposal forward. Democrats in the legislature can try to get the issue passed or put it on the 2016 ballot. Or the state party can put it on the 2016 ballot and let the Republicans and their patsies voice their opposition to it and give their reasons.

    Plan ahead, don't take no for an answer, go straight to the public and prevail.

  26. Tim 2014.09.27

    When did the two words "smart" and "republican" belong in the same sentence? Just sayin.

  27. Bill Fleming 2014.09.27

    For the record, I know plenty of dumb and smart people in both D and R parties. And don't even get me started on the Indys. :-) (I myself fall into the "dumb" camp far more often than I care to admit.)

  28. mike from iowa 2014.09.27

    Cory-if I remember correctly,Jackley claimed back on Nov 23,that the state closed the investigation into the missing 550k. Or else it was a story you posted last November.

  29. lesliengland 2014.09.27

    I wonder if jackley was going to squeeze benda to get joop?

  30. Francis Schaffer 2014.09.27

    How would Jackley know Mike Butler was Benda's attorney if his office never interviewed him? I don't think it is common knowledge who my attorney is and I thought attorney client privilege would preclude Mike Butler from offering that information. Let me know your thoughts.

  31. Roger Cornelius 2014.09.27

    Here's a radical thought, maybe Joop Bollen is not being mum at all.
    Who is he talking to besides his lawyer?

Comments are closed.