Press "Enter" to skip to content

August 2007 Letter Undermines EB-5 Arguments from Rounds and Regents

Oh my. Did you see the EB-5 document Bob Mercer posted today?

GOED/SDIBI recruitment letter, distributed to potential EB-5 investors in China, August 2007; posted by Bob Mercer, Pure Pierre Politics, 2014.10.06.
GOED/SDIBI recruitment letter, given to EB-5 recruiters, August 2007; posted by Bob Mercer, "Benda and Bollen Pursued China Investors in 2007," Pure Pierre Politics, 2014.10.06.

Mercer reports this letter "was given" (Bob! Passive voice?! You're killing me!) "to EB-5 recruiters for South Dakota in August 2007 to be used in pursuing investors in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan." In the letter, the "State of South Dakota, its communities and citizens" (Crap! Now we're all complicit!) invites EB-5 investors to consider South Dakota. Signing the letter are Department of Tourism and State Development chief Richard Benda and South Dakota International Business Institute director Joop Bollen.

This letter problematizes Mike Rounds's effort to blame the Board of Regents, which nominally managed Bollen's SDIBI, and distance himself from the sins of his EB-5 program. Rounds made that case to Mercer himself last week. Now says Mercer:

The above letter seems to make clear that Bollen/SDIBI and Benda/GOED were working openly together on EB-5. The letter doesn’t refer to the Board of Regents. It talks about the State of South Dakota and refers to “loans/guarantees from the State” instead.

...This letter seems to indicate GOED and the Rounds administration were at least 50 percent involved — especially with the letter carrying Benda’s signature, and GOED’s letterhead bearing the marketing for Rounds’ 2010 initiative, and Benda identifying himself as “Cabinet Secretary to the Governor” [Bob Mercer, "Benda and Bollen Pursued China Investors in 2007," Pure Pierre Politics, 2014.10.06].

Mercer mentions California company Darley International's lawsuit against the SDIBI and Board of Regents. With respect to that lawsuit and the arbitration that is pending judgment before a California arbitrator right now, the August 2007 letter contains one damning sentence:

The South Dakota International Business Institute, in collaboration with Darley International LLC and Hanul Professional Law Corporation through the State's Regional Center, invites you to explore the EB-5 opportunities that currently exist [State of South Dakota, EB-5 recruitment letter, August 2007].

Darley sued in 2008 and 2009 to drag South Dakota (SDIBI, the Regents, whoever would answer the darn phone) into arbitration on the allegation that Bollen, through SDIBI, promised Darley a deal to act as South Dakota's EB-5 recruiter, then reneged and formed his own private company to slurp up the recruiting-fee gravy. Bollen's initial and ill-fated response, as well as the Regents's subsequent do-over defense, was that SDIBI had little if any formal relationship with Darley.

Yet here, in the August 2007 letter, two months before Darley had even signed its fateful recruiting contract with Hanul, Bollen and Benda declare that SDIBI and Darley are "in collaboration" on behalf of the State of South Dakota.

I don't know what the Regents told the arbitrator about SDIBI's relationship with Darley during the formal arbitration hearing last April, but I sure hope they didn't say they weren't collaborating.


  1. Francis Schaffer 2014.10.06

    Are any of these people capable or willing to tell the truth. Of course, maybe none of them would recognize the truth. I as a voter, taxpayer citizen of South Dakota deserve the truth.

  2. Jane Smith 2014.10.06

    Lock up these clowns already! 100 years ago, these looters would have been dangling off tree branches. Theses brazen idiots will get away because there is not a strong enough backboned authority figure to slap then with justice.

  3. mike from iowa 2014.10.06

    Maybe the brothers Rounds aren't speaking to one another.

  4. grudznick 2014.10.06

    It is time to swear in Chad Haber as a deputy AG or DCI and sent him to the Philippines to bring Mr. Bollen back. Send a film crew along and film an episode for Dog Bounty Hunter.

  5. Douglas Wiken 2014.10.06

    Kleptocracy in South Dakota of all places. That probably won't be the new tourism slogan.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.10.06

    Oh my, oh my. The letter Mercer publishes tells us that GOED knew about the collaboration with Darley before the collaboration with Darley was put into contract with Hanul. Denise Ross finds that Dennis Rounds should have known about the Darley litigation (within 20 days, according to the current state risk management manual)... and Dennis Rounds sounds surprised that Bollen could ever have concealed such a lawsuit and played lawyer for the state. What does this all mean?

  7. Bill Fleming 2014.10.06

    This story is starting to read like a combination of Watergate/Deep Throat, House of Cards and the movie Fargo. "Hey Joop, if dese numbers are right, dis deal looks pretty sweet." Joop: "Oh, dere right alright."

  8. Joe 2014.10.06

    Every day another document becomes unearthed. Basically proving Rounds is hiding things, yet they are all over the place and so confusing I'm not sure its easy to connect to the voters.

    Someone needs to do a documentary or an hour long panel on EB-5 itself. Just to try to connect all the pieces.

  9. Roger Cornelius 2014.10.06

    If you haven't read Rich's link at the top of this thread, you need to.
    Now the man in charge of handling lawsuits against the state, Dennis Rounds, doesn't remember the Darly lawsuit either.
    Feel those walls closing in Mike Rounds?

  10. jerry 2014.10.06

    I wonder when Marty Jackley goes to the Philippines to visit family. Seems like the go to place for all of the crooks and liars.

  11. 96Tears 2014.10.06

    While I’ve reviewed all this information about EB-5, trips to the Pacific Rim, Chinese investors and the secret cabal of pals filling each other’s pockets with public money during Mike Rounds’ administration, the recurring question was what the larger conversation that inspired such a coordinated and cleverly position racketeering scam?

    For that reason, I’ve been asking your readers, Cory, to expand their thinking and find the larger connections other than Benda, Bollen and the loop that doesn’t connect further into Rounds and into some of the power circles in South Dakota and their pals outside the state. A critically important hook is Harvey Jewett and the cover-up inside the S.D. Board of Regents where the racketeering scam operated virtually in plain view.

    Bob Mercer’s letter on GOED stationary with Benda and Bollen’s signatures for routine distribution to high roller connections in China back in August 2007 reminded me of then-Rep. Joel Dykstra’s legislation in January 2006 (HB 1055) and again in January 2007 (HB 1176) to appropriate $250,000 to establish a South Dakota trade mission in the People’s Republic of China.

    Here’s a refresher from January 2006 on the KELO website:

    Both bills placed the authority to spend money under “the Department of Tourism and State Development to provide funding for international trade representation services to represent South Dakota companies and their products.” Both bills empowered Richard Benda accordingly:

    “Section 3. The secretary of the Department of Tourism and State Development shall approve vouchers and the state auditor shall draw warrants to pay expenditures authorized by this Act.”

    But the 2007 version was a little more definitive and leads me to wonder if a niche was being created specifically for Joop Bollen:

    “Section 1. There is hereby appropriated from the general fund the sum of two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($ 250,000 ), or so much thereof as may be necessary, to the Department of Tourism and State Development to provide for a full-time employee dedicated to international trade representation services, including representing and promoting international business development for South Dakota.”

    It’s my recollection that Dykstra was an organizer in the effort to expand corporate agriculture in South Dakota and that the list of participants was a who’s who of Pierre GOP insiders. Again, I’m not sure if this a piece of the same puzzle, but I do believe there was a much larger conversation going on with Mike Rounds at its center and some very deep pockets hoping to rig our state agencies to keep the money rolling in their doors.

  12. mike from iowa 2014.10.06

    Isn't this the way capitalism works? A few make out like bandits at the expense of many. Lives are ruined,but for one,brief shining victor.....

  13. Roger Cornelius 2014.10.06

    96 Tears,
    "Follow the money" isn't just a phrase, it is an action.
    As I understand it, the FBI started investigating Bollen's SDRC back in November 2013, we have heard nothing since. With all that Cory has reported since that time, it is probably a safe assumption that the feds know something.
    Bollen could not have pulled this off by himself, there had to others involved, others with more authority and power than Bollen.
    If you recall the Watergate scandal, a large number of prosecution and convictions of the players worked for CREEP, the Committee to Re-elect the President. Since the start of this scandal I've always had the thought in the back of my mind, how much of this money has been laundered and put into Republican campaigns and their PAC's.
    Before this scandal broke, Mike Rounds was bragging about his $9 million campaign war chest, as soon as this scandal broke, he quit bragging. Why? Did he know he could not access Bollen's money without someone looking into it? Today, Argus leader showed Rounds having a little over a million dollar in cash on hand, a far cry from $9 million.
    Yes, follow the money, Cory has done a great job so far, but wouldn't you like to have a look a bank deposits and wire transfers from Bollen, Benda, Rounds, Jackley, and all the rest of these players?

  14. jerry 2014.10.06

    Here is one more I would like to see bank deposits from, Kristi NOem during her time in South Dakota state corruption. You and 96 tears bring up some interesting observations that make you wonder where the hell did the money go. Maybe it is in plain sight. I understand that Bollen has some real estate adventures, those are good places to bank some cash. The "9 million" though, that is interesting. Maybe Bob Mercer could ask the twerp that question, "what about the 9 mill Mr. Rounds"?

    How many brothers does Rounds have? How many are appointed to various state government pay checks?

  15. larry kurtz 2014.10.07

    Anyone believing Noem jumped on the human trafficking bandwagon altruistically after voting against against reauthorization of VAWA is delusional: she was tipped off about Bendagate as a front for the Chinese sex trade.

  16. wal 2014.10.07

    why is this letter not dated? The claim is that it was written in 2007 yet is on a piece of letterhead from 2010. Next is Benda and Boolen are "endorsing" Hanul and Darley in this letter. In other words they are assigning their responsibility of recruitment over to Hanul and Darley. Did Benda and Boolen have the authority to assign responsibility of recruitment? This type of letter is used as a show and tell for Hanul and Darley. It says to ALL potential investors, you MUST go through us and nobody else. You MUST go through us in order to get to Benda, Boolen and SD. This letter was not written to investors it was written to benefit Hanul and Darley. It is written in English, not Chinese, Korean etc. This letter was not, I repeat directed to Asian investors of EB-5. This letters intention was for the benefit of control assigned to Hanul and Darley.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.10.07

    Ah, wal! Bob Mercer asserts that the letter was produced in August 2007. The 2010 at the bottom is a logo for the "2010 Initiative," Mike Rounds's mostly failed economic development agenda launched in October 2003.

    On the audience for this letter: if the analysis is correct that it is aimed at supporting Darley, then it spectacularly undermines the claim Bollen made in his argument to federal court in August 2008 that Darley's boss merely contacted him mid-2007, that Bollen simply gave Darley information and directed them to Hanul, and that no relationship was formalized until Hanul and Darley signed their contract in October 2007. This letter says that SDIBI approved the formal business relationship with Darley in August 2007. That means Joop lied in his argument to federal court. And that's naughty.

  18. wal 2014.10.07

    It makes sense about the letterhead. And for most of us lying is not a good thing, considering the outcome of the CA case with Darley, I guess it paid off for Boolen.

  19. wal 2014.10.07

    PS I know these types of letters and understand the intent.

  20. Francis Schaffer 2014.10.07

    Okay someone help me on this one, did Hanul and SDIBI have an agreement?

Comments are closed.