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Rounds Knew Benda Was Going to Work for Northern Beef Packers “Investor”

Some of my readers think David Montgomery has sold out to the good-old-boys' network on whom he and his employer depend for access and advertising dollars.

If that were the case, I don't think that Sioux Falls paper would slap this headline on Montgomery's latest EB-5 report:

Rounds knew of Benda conflict in final days of term

This headline comes not from diligent investigative reporting but from Mike Rounds's own mouth. The Republican Senate candidate said in yesterday's live interview with 100 Eyes that he knew Richard Benda, his economic development chief, was going to work for an "investor" in Northern Beef Packers, the stalled economic development project toward which he directed $2.36 million in state grants during the last few weeks of his governorship.

Benda didn't identify which investor he would be working for, and Rounds said he didn't press. Benda went to work for SDRC Inc., a company managing EB-5 foreign investments for projects, including Northern Beef. On Tuesday, Rounds said he now feels Benda "misled" him by not disclosing where he was going.

At the time, though, Rounds didn't ask Benda for more details.

"I said 'Good, I'm glad to hear that he's going to be actively involved in the beef plant,'" Rounds said in a live interview on the Argus Leader's "100 Eyes" online show.

Rounds' focus at the time, he said, was on which of his Cabinet secretaries "should I meet with to find out if they need assistance in finding other opportunities" — not whether they were "leaving government with a conflict of interest," as Argus Leader managing editor Patrick Lalley asked Rounds. Benda already had lined up a job, so Rounds said he focused attention elsewhere [David Montgomery, "Rounds Knew of Benda Conflict in Final Days of Term," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.10.22].

Permit me to paint a managerial scenario, and you tell me whether I'm viewing the situation with hindsight or South Dakota common sense:

  1. I'm an outgoing governor, tying up loose ends in the Capitol.
  2. Among the loose ends are various fiscal and policy decisions to keep one of my marquee legacy projects alive. It's running over two years late and way over budget.
  3. I'm taking a risk writing some pretty big checks to keep the legacy project alive.
  4. I can't afford any bad press dragging this precarious project down.
  5. I find out one of my cabinet members who's been key in saving that project is now going to work for that project.
  6. I say, "Wait a minute, Richard. What exactly are you going to be doing for the project?" I listen closely. If I sense any hedging, I say "Cut the crap" and get the full story.
  7. Whatever answers I get, I think ahead to appearances, if not legal questions, and I say to my cabinet member, "I think it's best that, for these last couple weeks, we put a big brick wall between you and any policy decisions affecting the folks you're going to work for."
  8. I review all of the checks and other papers I've signed over the past few weeks for the project and make sure everything looks kosher.
  9. And above all, I make sure my guy going to work for the project is not the guy who carries the million-dollar state check to that project.

Rounds gets to my step 5, then veers off the road of good management, saying, Rich has a job? Great! Now I can focus on helping all my other pals get golden parachutes.

Rounds said at Dakotafest in August that if he'd known what Benda had been up to with respect to Northern Beef Packers and EB-5, he'd have fired Benda. In yesterday's interview, Rounds said, "Richard Benda did some things in the last couple of weeks (of Rounds' term) that I did not know about, and that I'd like to ask him questions about." But when Benda was right in front of him, and the issues all hot on his plate, Governor Rounds chose not to ask.

And the day Mike Rounds didn't ask Richard Benda those questions at the end of 2010 may have been the day that Mike Rounds lost the election of 2014.


  1. mike from iowa 2014.10.22

    I thought Daugaard fired Benda.

  2. Jenny 2014.10.22

    The most important question Patrick Lalley didn't ask yesterday Mike Rounds yesterday on 100 Eyes, "Where is the money?"
    SD Republicans need to come to terms that it's looking very much like Mike Rounds has some ethics issues going on. Maybe ol' Don didn't raise him that way and maybe his insurance business isn't run that way, but it looks like the power and temptation of politics has weakened his morality.

  3. 96Tears 2014.10.22

    Correction, the Argus headline says "Benda ‘misled’ me, says Rounds.” It would have been better if the newspaper used the headline you attribute which actually came from Monty's blog.

  4. twuecker 2014.10.22

    Was just going to point that out, 96Tears. My dead tree version used the headline you quoted, and I threw down on the breakfast table in frustration at how much the headline missed the point of the story ... and in favor of Rounds' whining. David Montgomery's online headline is MUCH more accurate.

  5. jerry 2014.10.22

    @twuecker, wonder why the Argus put in the different paper headline to the online version? Great reporting that gets lost because of the political nature of the print headline. The Argus should issue a retraction on this and then produce the online version.

  6. Roger Cornelius 2014.10.22

    Mike Rounds professes he is a businessman, why did he not know the revenue potential of Bollen's immigration fee scam. A responsible governor would have said to Bollen, "Whoa, those immigration fees belong to the state".
    Mike Rounds operated the EB-5 scam as a godfather runs his family, he knows that the intent of the operation but by appearance and the layers of people carrying out the criminal activity may not know the "transactional details".

  7. Jana 2014.10.22

    Just a little tribute to Ben Bradley.

    "Follow the money."

    This all goes back to the South Dakota Certified Beef program. Has anybody followed the money on this program? Was this driven by campaign donations? Was it used to drive campaign/Governor's Club slush money donations?

    Who pushed this program to Mike Rounds and who made money on promoting it? Are the same players silent or rushing in to defend the money they made?

    Just guessing this opens up a whole new can of worms.

  8. Bill Fleming 2014.10.22

    Jana, my guess is, Brendan Johnson is out of the loop on this. That's why he's not said anything. It's not his case. Wadhams: "Ewps."

  9. Jana 2014.10.22

    Did I leave out what Marty Jackley has said? He's a partisan first...guessing he has played more than one misdirection card in all of this.

    Can we trust him?

  10. Jana 2014.10.22

    96...great catch!

    Ben Bradley and the courage of the media lives!!!

  11. Jenny 2014.10.22

    Rounds playing with other people's money.

  12. 96Tears 2014.10.22

    Weiland's friends should walk into Harry Reid's office with the Post clipping and a note on top that says: "Harry, you stupid f&$k!!!"

    Then they should drop a copy to every Democrat in the Senate and ask if maybe it's now time for a change for a competent Leader.

  13. Jana 2014.10.22

    Beefgate or Chinagate?

    Cory plays the Robert Redford part and Mercer gets to be Hoffman.

    Trying to think of who gets the Ben Bradley part.

    How fitting that it was a "Third rate burglary" that shook the world happening here in our own little state.

  14. Jana 2014.10.22

    So who's our rest of our cast?

    Liddy? Hunt? Dean? Sirica? Ehrlichman? Magruder? Sloan? Felt? Rose Mary Woods?

  15. Eve Fisher 2014.10.22

    Argus headline: "Benda ‘misled’ me, says Rounds.” Sure. Benda told him they wouldn't get caught.

    Seriously, what I find fascinating is that the same Republicans who expect Obama to keep track of every case of Ebola and somehow personally stop them - and every other immigrant - from coming into the country, think it's just fine that Rounds was, apparently, clueless about everything going on with Eb-5 under his watch. Or anything else that is "inconvenient" to his re-election.

    On the other hand, I totally understand why they're not having more of a fit about the $500,000/green card deal: after all, we're the state with God only knows how many "SD Residency for RVrs" places (Madison has My Dakota Address) where anyone with or without an RV, but with cash, can sign up and get SD Residency without ever living here - and thus (among other things) can vote in our elections. Why would they object to selling US green cards?

  16. Jim 2014.10.22

    I listened to the 100 eyes segment with Rounds and I found a few comments inconsistent with the facts, and previous statements he has made. Imagine that. The eb-5 stuff starts at about 16:40 into the interview.

    There are enough moving parts to this mess that Mike and his handlers have really had a hard time putting a consistent and plausible spin out the public can buy. As a result, more and more people are calling BS on his narrative and his campaign has lost the issue. He still can't bring himself to simply say, yes looking back on it we should have done a number of things differently. If he did that and was sincere about it, some people would forgive him. Not me. The way he has peddled the story is offensive. Here are some of the things I took away from the interview. If I go between first and third person once in a while, I take license to do so.

    At 19:05 Mike again lays the disaster off on the BOR, saying the Darly suit in 2009 was a commission issue, and being handled, and didn't really think further of it. Mike, as soon as you were advised the suit was a commission issue, you should of said, "Wait a second, people are being paid commissions on these millions in investments? Is it the State, and if not tell Richard I'd like to see him in my office."

    Mike, we also don't buy that the BOR was monitoring things. I know you didn't want Joop's depo to made public, but in it, and as others have confirmed, GOED and Tourism were calling the shots, and your office gave him leads.

    Mike claims later in the interview around 31:17 the BOR didn't view this as a profit center and at 32:50 says he didn't know it would be profitable, but doesn't know who beside Joop realized there would be profit to be made. Let me make a guess as to who had a hunch they could skim huge amounts of fees on the deal: Sveen and Jewett. A couple of things bother me about this statement of Mike's: Previously when asked about the massive fees getting skimmed, Mike has said he knew there would be "operational expenses" in characterizing the fees. And Mike, this wasn't a "profit center" at the time of privatization for the BOR because it hadn't set itself up as a Regional Center and weren't at the time receiving commissions. Did you or didn't you know huge amounts of fees were in play. If you didn't know, you shoulda.

    At 26:05 Mike says staff told him Richard Benda had found employment with an "investor" in NBP. At 26:15 Mike says Richard told him he had a job with an NPB investor. Was is staff or Richard or both? These are details he can't keep straight. At neither time did he follow that news up with, "hey, that's great Richard, which investor?" Mike, didn't you wonder if Richard was maybe moving to China or Korea? Those are where the bulk of the investors were. SDRC was not an investor.

    Mike, when you gave Richard that 1,000,000 check, you didn't ask: BTW Richard, which investor are you going to work for?

    Mike, tell us when you came to learn Benda was working for the Joop at SDRC. Be careful though, so you don't have to later ask to change your answer.

    At 24:45 Mike says the information he was getting was that things were going well at NBP, but gets a little rattled when Lalley asks him who was giving him that information. Richard of course, because he is dead, but he just kind of says other staff when pressed.

    Mike has the web entangled so intricately on this mess that what ever strand he moves, the whole thing vibrates out to the edges.

    At 24:05 Mike gushes about how the plant will eventually open with a billion dollar a year impact to the state of South Dakota, and will process 1,000 head of cattle a year. Mike, that would be about 2.5 cows a day. Did you mean 1,000 a day? Either way, let me know when the place opens up. Right now you aren't giving us any certified beef. Just certified bullshit.

  17. Sid 2014.10.22

    All good and well. Biggest news today is that the FBI stated that the investigation into SDRC is ongoing. As per KELO and the AL

  18. Mike Quinlivan 2014.10.22

    Can I play Felt? They never have to show my ugly mug; and I can wear a cool spy outfit the whole movie! Where is a shadowy part of South Dakota one could exchange political intrigue in? :)

  19. mike from iowa 2014.10.22

    So Benda was working for ? while he was still employed by the state? Rounds knew he was gonna work for ? and yet it was the next administration that canned him? Hello! Does Rounds recall ever having been governor?

  20. Jana 2014.10.22

    I'm more intrigued than ever now about the role that Daugaard has played in this tragedy.

    This new revelation that Benda was leaving before DD got there is in direct conflict with what the guy that shackled him with a hundred million dollar plus deficit. Why did DD say that he was the one that let Benda go? He's gone on the record, just can't find it quickly. I thought it was because he knew that there were some irregularities...who told him that?

    If DD does endorse Mike, Michael or Marion...then it's probably a pretty good chance that they have collaborated in obfuscating this story together...and there is something to hide in his closet.

    South Dakota voters deserve the truth out of everyone involved. If that's inconvenient for them, then they can wait and run again someday. But having this cloud hanging over them isn't fair to South Dakota.

  21. Jana 2014.10.22

    Just thinking about Rosemary Woods...Nixon's secretary erasing tapes during Watergate...what does Rounds' admin have to say?

    Has she been deposed as to what he knew and when he knew it?

    He did throw her under the bus on being served papers that he didn't receive before he admitted he was wrong?

    Will the mystery woman step up and go public with some of the facts that seem to be missing at her expense?

  22. Jane 2014.10.23

    Catch 22. If he didn't know, sign of incompetence. If he knew, evidence of corruption. Not nice blaming the deceased. It takes tow to tango, or three, or four,,,,not just one.

  23. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.10.23

    Roger Cornelius plays Ben Bradlee, of course.

  24. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.10.23

    mfi, that's a great line:

    "Does Rounds recall ever having been governor?"


  25. Roger Cornelius 2014.10.23

    Thanks Deb, playing Ben Bradley is the ultimate compliment.

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