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Mercer Finds No Solid Evidence to Back Rounds Claim of 5,000+ EB-5 Jobs

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rounds repeated in Thursday's SDPB candidates' debate that his EB-5 program brought over $600 million and over 5,000 jobs to South Dakota. Aberdeen attorney Rory King, who provided legal counsel to bankrupt EB-5 project Northern Beef Packers, says Rounds drew $400 million and created "directly or indirectly" over 8,000 jobs.

Journalist Bob Mercer questions all of these fat numbers being thrown around to distract from the malfeasance committed under Rounds's administration of EB-5. He reviews available data and concludes Rounds's and King's numbers are exaggerated at best:

There weren’t “over 5,000 jobs created.”

Instead, there might be just hundreds of new jobs, many of them in dairy operations in the I-29 corridor and at the casino complex in Deadwood.

And there might have been hundreds of jobs preserved — but that we really don’t know, at least not at this time [Bob Mercer, "Analysis: EB-5 Jobs Data Highly Elusive," Aberdeen American News, 2014.10.24].

Voters, Mercer comes to the same conclusion I came to last month from real South Dakota jobs data: there is no hard evidence to support the claims Mike Rounds is making about EB-5's economic benefits. In other words, voters, Rounds is telling you things that he can't prove are true.

Related Reading: Meanwhile, by Denise Ross's diligent calculation, Joop Bollen may have generated $13 million for himself in fees from running EB-5 through his private company while he was still on the state payroll and operating from a state-funded office in 2009. Stay tuned!


  1. Tim 2014.10.25

    The Rounds ads being run out here also claim 40,000 jobs from building the pipe across SD as well, this has also been debunked as pure BS but they still claim it and uninformed voters still believe it. I find it hard to believe, in this day of the internet and all of the info available, that people still buy into the crap being tossed about.

  2. john tsitrian 2014.10.25

    Given the fairly static performance of Deadwood's gambling-centered economy, I wonder if many or all of those 200+ jobs just shifted over to Deadwood Grand from closed casinos and can't really be considered "net" new jobs. I don't think the Deadwood pie has expanded all that much in the last decade or so.

  3. Bill Fleming 2014.10.25

    John, good point. It's always been kind of a musical chairs game among casino workers up there, even among the casinos that stay open.

  4. john tsitrian 2014.10.25

    BF, it could also be argued that the Grand crowded out an existing casino or two, essentially giving a competitive edge to foreign EB-5 investors over our locals.

  5. Bill Fleming 2014.10.25

    John, almost certainly.

  6. lesliengland 2014.10.25

    denise is gonna get rick elected!

  7. jerry 2014.10.25

    The other 116 have not been born yet in the Rounds accounting system. See, that is why they needed the two B's, Benda and Bolleen to do the adding and sharing of the profits. These two guys could count and Benda realized that for all the work he was doing, Rounds, Daugaard, Skunkendorfer and the rest of the in crowd, were getting a better deal. Benda wanted more and was successful in getting the check. A million bucks on top of other income, another gold mine. Maybe he thought that he might find another vein with the ability he had then?

    Rounds needs to be hammered with ad after ad, playing the quote that "there is still an active investigation" into the EB-5. The endless ad that will finally resonate with sitting on the fence voters. The ad that says the whole republican system here is corrupt and who do you think they will blame?

  8. Nick Nemec 2014.10.25

    John T. I was thinking along the same lines concerning the Mountain Grand, does it increase business or just shift the pieces of the same pie. It should be a relatively simple exercise to check the gaming and sales tax receipts in Deadwood pre and post Deadwood Grand.

    Another thing that has always bothered me about the Mountain Grand is why does a casino need government help to get established? Don't casinos basically have a license to print money?

  9. Roger Cornelius 2014.10.25

    Agreed and by making EB-5 investments into the Mountain Grand the state showed favoritism in highly competitive business. Those smaller casinos in Deadwood must have taken a real hit delivered by the state of South Dakota.

  10. Lynn 2014.10.25

    Is there a list of who owns Mountain Grand Casino? I'm curious if there are any names I'd recognize and if they were big donors to Rounds.

  11. Steve Sibson 2014.10.25

    I including this report on my analysis of the US Senate race that will be broadcasted on KCPO-ATAV tomorrow on "The Facts" 10:30Am, 2:30PM and 10PM:

  12. Nick Nemec 2014.10.25

    Absolutely Roger, it's a classic case of government picking winners and losers despite all the BS Republicans toss out about businessmen pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.

  13. john tsitrian 2014.10.25

    My take is impressionistic, Mr. Nemec, but given the steady stream of reports showing downward gaming numbers in recent years, I'd say the pie has diminished in size. In 2011 the Grand was hoped to be a "game changer," particularly with its concert venue drawing tons of people into town, but I'm pretty sure overall gaming revenues have trended downward since then. I think the Gold Dust almost promptly closed after the Grand opened (I'm correctable on timing of the closure) and is just now re-opening with a face lift, probably anticipating new games being allowed in hopes of drawing more people. An investigation into the SD Dept or Revenue website will reveal trends in sales taxes for the town, not sure about gaming receipts. I know one thing, being invested in the hospitality industry myself, I sure as heck wouldn't be happy about a government-assisted competitor showing up in town. Creating more supply without a corresponding increase in demand is bad news, any way you look at it.

  14. Roger Cornelius 2014.10.25

    In many ways Deadwood was DOA when gaming was legalized.
    Until this state allows Vegas style gaming and provides entertainment for adults and families, Deadwood will remain stagnant or continue to ride an economic roller coaster.

  15. Roger Cornelius 2014.10.25

    It could be said that those Communist Chinese investors own the Mountain Grand.

  16. Rorschach 2014.10.25

    If EB-5 funds were used, SDRC, Inc. is an owner in the casino. According to Denise Ross the Joopster took a 1% equity stake in every project on top of the hefty fees he was charging. Hey, I wonder who the Joopster's partners are in SDRC, Inc.?

  17. Sid 2014.10.26

    To show how the numbers have been played, the investment into Dakota Provisions should have increased employment in Beadle County by 1200 jobs from 2009-2012. This would have been a 16.9 percent increase in the number of jobs in that period. However, there is no indication that such a number was ever created, thereby meaning that the green cards should have never become permanent, and if they were, then someone provided false information to USCIS.

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.10.26

    R, yes, that equity stake is part of the calculations Kathy Tyler put out at the beginning of September, numbers that the GOP has never challenged. Joop has 1% equity in Dakota Provisions, Northern Beef Packers/New Angus, Deadwood Mountain Grand, and the Deer Creek station. That's pure gravy for his portfolio.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.10.26

    Sid is exactly right. In my earlier analysis, I found that Beadle County employment rose from 8,690 to 9,580 from 2003 to 2013. If we look specifically at the 2009 EB-5 investment, Beadle County jobs from 2009 to 2011 rose from 9,290 to 9,490. That's 200 jobs over the two-year period that EB-5 investors have to "prove up" by creating ten jobs. That 200 should include all of the direct jobs at the turkey plant and all of the local indirect/induced jobs around it. If we give Dakota Provisions credit for every new job in Beadle County over that period, only 20 investors should have gotten their green cards. Denise Ross tells us the 2009 investment included 99 EB-5 investors.

    Voters, can you see the flim-flam here?

  20. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.10.26

    You know, Rorschach makes a great point in wondering who were Bollen's partners in SDRC INC. I have wondered for a long time how in the world, he could have gotten by with changing a state run institute, SDIBI to a private firm SDRC Inc, simply by drawing up a contract and signing it himself making himself an only employee in a solely owned proprietorship without drawing at the very minimum, curiosity from those who would have been or should have been the overseers of such a change.

    Could it be that in order to look the other way on these dealings, those who should have been doing the overseeing, were promised and received a share in each $30,000 annual fee charged for each $500,000 visa (greencard) application?

    Is it possible, that this is why the federal investigation is taking so long? They have to track down who all got a piece of the pie.

    This takes silent partner to a whole new level.

  21. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.10.26

    Tim, I was going to post on that 40,000 job claim, but you beat me to it. I hope that he will be challenged on that in the next debate. I am sure he believes throw it against the wall and it will stick with enough voters that it should win him the election.

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.10.27

    Hey, Sibson! Tell KCPO they need to put their political broadcast on YouTube. They would actually get an audience that way.

  23. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.10.27

    Thanks Francis, I did not enjoy it, but like you, I was not surprised. Great find!!!

  24. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.10.27

    For those of you who did not read Francis' web post from above, at least now we know where part of those 30K annual fees on the greencards went:

    Michael C. Carlos Museum

    Museum Lovers Advocate for Antiquities
    Collector and friend Joop Bollen has generously donated several important Egyptian works of art to the Michael C. Carlos Museum, including a Middle Kingdom wooden sarcophagus and a large19th Dynasty limestone relief slab called a stela. Bollen is one of many benefactors who helped the Carlos Museum raise more than $31.3 million during Campaign Emory, and the museum continues to seek assistance in continuing its work at Emory and in the community. Top priorities for philanthropy at Carlos Museum include support for expansion and renovation and increasing the museum’s endowment.

    “We are fortunate to have so many dedicated donors and patrons who believe in our work. We could not sustain the Carlos Museum’s level of excellence without their support. ” says Bonnie Speed, director of the Carlos Museum.

    Bollen, a businessman based in South Dakota, is a longtime collector whose interest in antiquities led him to a close association with Peter Lacovara, senior curator of Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern Art at the Carlos Museum.

    “When you are collecting antiquities, you have to be knowledgeable. Peter’s advice gave me theconfidence I needed to be able to identify authentic artifacts,” Bollen says. “When someone gives you good advice and does it in such an altruistic way, it makes you want to do something for them.”

    As he builds his collection, Bollen says he encounters pieces he realizes are destined for amuseum. His recent gift of a large Egyptian mummy mask from the Late New Kingdom period is a rare find of ancient Egyptian funerary art.

    “The only other examples in the country are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York,” Lacovara says. “Made of fragile cartonnage, a paper mache-like material made of papyrus and linen, it is a miracle the mask has survived in such wonderful condition.”

    Because of its beauty and rarity, Bollen knew the cartonnage mask belonged in a museum where others could learn from it. “Peter is such an asset to the university, it seemed like a meaningful way to show my gratitude to him,” says Bollen.

    Carlos supporters find the museum a unique resource both to Emory and the community and are committed to supporting the museum and strengthening the museum’s collections, education programs, and conservation work.

    Like Bollen, some patrons make direct gifts of art to the Carlos to support collections. Among the donations made by James and Elizabeth Ferrell of Kansas City are two bronze disks and a glazed vase, while museum member Louise Gunn donated a Hellenistic marble statue of a draped female to enhance the museum’s Greek and Roman collection.

    Adjunct Clinical Professor of Pediatrics Stanley Cohen and Jamie Cohen have invested in the African collection to help the museum share the art and culture of Africa with all audiences. Walter Melion, chair of Art History Department at Emory, and John Clum are making an estate gift to strengthen the Works on Paper and Art of the Americas collections.

    Others provide philanthropic gifts that allow the museum to acquire important artifacts to strengthen its collections.

    Longtime supporter Anne Cox Chambers has generously given funds to grow the Carlos Museum’s Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern collections, enabling the purchase of a number of rare artifacts.

    Emory alum and Carlos Museum board member Eleanor Ridley volunteers in the museum’s conservation lab once a week and has been a museum donor for more than 30 years. She and herlate husband established the Eleanor and Clarence Ridley Endowment Fund to support conservation, education, and exhibitions at the museum.

    Carlos Museum board member Joan Sammons has established the Family of Ted and Joan Sammons Endowment Fund for Exhibitions and Exhibition Design, while fellow board member Bill Zewadski 66C is supporting the museum with an estate gift to strengthen the collection of Greek and Roman artifacts.

Along with these and many other investments in the Carlos Museum, donors are providing critical funding for all of the museum’s programs.

    To learn how you can support the Carlos Museum, please visit

  25. Bill Fleming 2014.10.27

    LOL. Talk about priceless skeletons in Joop's closet! Great find, Francis and Larry! Adds a whole new Indiana Jones/ DaVinci Code dimension to the screenplay.

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