Press "Enter" to skip to content

Ross Quits Mitchell Paper over Strange Sveen Retraction

Last updated on 2014.11.18

Last Friday, at the behest of lawyer Jeff Sveen, the Mitchell Daily Republic retracted a single statement that it printed four weeks ago asserting that Sveen was a "partner" of EB-5 czar Joop Bollen. Sveen has worked as Bollen's lawyer, but he asserts that he is not Bollen's "partner."

I found the retraction curious. The retraction made Denise Ross furious. She wrote the original report, including the statement from California financier David Kang about the relationship between Sveen and Bollen. Ross stands by her story and her source. She tells the Madville Times that the "unwarranted" retraction is so "problematic" that she has quit the Mitchell paper.

In this country, running a news company and working in journalism are a public trust. The lawyers and corporate brass of Forum Communications in Fargo breached that trust in printing this correction/retraction.

David Kang had a specific reason for identifying Jeff Sveen as a 'partner' of Joop Bollen's.

If the boys in Fargo had as good a reason for ordering the correction/retraction, it was not revealed to me [Denise Ross, response to Madville Times inquiry, 2014.11.17].

The Mitchell paper is having a tough time keeping talent. They shed editor Seth Tupper earlier this year; he jumped right into writing powerful reports on the EB-5 scandal for the Rapid City Journal. Let us hope Ross is able to make a similar soft landing and find a new platform for her excellent reporting on the most important corruption story in South Dakota.


  1. Tim 2014.11.17

    I still think the paper got a call from republican brass.

  2. Troy 2014.11.17

    I'm sure I'm about to be blasted. My statement is only intended to be possibly explanatory.

    Kang said Sven was a partner. It is possible Kang was speaking based on how it looked to him operationally. At the same time, "partner" is a defined legal position in a partnership. For one thing, SDRC is a corporation and not a partnership so it can't have partners by definition.

  3. leslie 2014.11.17

    wow. kathy tyler, denise ross.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2014.11.17

    Since the SDGOP corporatist effectively removed Kathy Tyler from office for telling us some truths, they have now exerted that power to South Dakota media. Aside from getting Denies Ross to resign, remember that they threatened various media outlets with lawsuits over PAC ads.
    There is something is true in Denise Ross' reporting for Sveen to demand a retraction by the paper, what part of Sveen story is he nervous about? Will the paper trail left by Bollen eventually lead to Sveen, too?

  5. Bill Fleming 2014.11.17

    Troy, not so, corporations can be partners in LLCs. And yes, I understand what you mean about operational appearances. It could be that they weren't actually partners in anything. But if Joop's corporation and Sveen's corporation were partners in an LLC, the only thing keeping them from not being 'partners' would their respective corporate veils.

    One would have to look at each person's portfolio to know whether or not the two shared mutual ownership in any given company.

    In any case, that doesn't change the fact that Kang told Ross what he told her, and she in turn reported what she was told verbatim. I don't blame her for being upset with her publisher over this. It sounds like they were trying to discredit her for just doing her job.

  6. Jana 2014.11.17

    Denise is a pro. It's sad that the paper didn't stand behind her for reporting what she was told.

    So every time a GOPer says something that is factually wrong to a reporter and they quote them, then the reporter should resign?

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the end of reporting.

  7. grudznick 2014.11.17

    Didn't she quit the Rapid City paper in a similar huff?

  8. Jana 2014.11.17

    Grud, do you mean like Kevin Woster? I'm sure he's just another ink stained scalawag reporter making stuff up all the time...kidding Kevin!

    Guessing the old Blogmore gang will back Denise's journalistic integrity.

  9. Troy 2014.11.17


    I thought Bollen's compant was an "Inc" which doesn't have partners but I could be wrong. "LLC's" also don't have partners but members. However, LLP's do which is what I assume you meant above. I can't recall the organization structure of Bollen's company.

    Anyway, if Bollen's company was an LLP, my comment is irrelevant. If it is organized as an Inc. or LLC, my above comment may be relevant.

  10. 96Tears 2014.11.17

    Troy is probably correct about the literal meaning of "partner" in the formal business arrangement. But it's been clear Sveen and Bollen are tied at the hip in business, and the term "partner" is correct in at least the informal sense. If Kang is, at the worst, technically incorrect, this is an extremely frivolous matter. It is pure arrogance (and ignorance?) for the corporate overlords at Forum Communications to pounce with that ridiculous retraction. If the purpose was to clarify or create a correction, it stirred up a lot of attention about how ham-fisted and petty the big boys are. They also didn't do Joop Bollen any favors drawing attention again to a blockbuster revelation of corruption in the Governor's Office.

  11. Nick Nemec 2014.11.17

    Your comment is of no relevance what so ever Troy. Denise Ross reported what a man in California perceived. That Mr. Kang, the California financier, identified Mr. Sveen as Mr. Bollen's partner may be technically incorrect but the quibbling over the fine points of partnership is entering the "it depends on what the definition of "is" is" territory.

  12. Les 2014.11.17

    Sveen has a financial interest in Joop's financial interests from an investment standpoint? Isn't that why we run LLCs?
    On topic, thanks for being one of a handful of honest hard working reporters, Denise! Your character is a rare element now days and will hopefully be rewarded.

  13. mike from iowa 2014.11.17

    SDIF LP6 which is Bollens is a limited partnership-I assume. According to Wiki- Such corporations must identify themselves as professional corporations by including "PC" or "P.C." after the firm's name.[2] Professional corporations often exist as part of a larger, more complicated, legal entity; for example, a law firm or medical practice might be organized as a partnership of several or many professional corporations.[citation needed]

  14. Bill Fleming 2014.11.17

    I always considered my friend Tom Franklin to be my business partner.

  15. Les 2014.11.17

    Good link, mfi. Hadn't seen it.

  16. David Newquiset 2014.11.17

    In presuming to define words for us, does anyone do something as obvious as consulting a dictionary anymore? Here are two Googled examples of definitions for partner.

    • one of two or more people, businesses, etc., that work together or do business together.

    • a person who shares or is associated with another in some action or endeavor; sharer; associate.

    What Denise quoted Kang as saying is not a meaning buried in some arcane jargon of business. It is clear to anyone who has been using and hearing the English language for a year or two.

    As for the retraction, it is in the tradition of what passes for journalism in South Dakota. In the past year, there have been eight or ten studies which have pur the state in the top ten of states for corruption. The state media has aided and abetted that enterprise. Corrupting the language is an essential part of the enterprise.

  17. Les 2014.11.17

    Can I get you to knock on the door over at SDRC, Doc? 416 Production Street North, Aberdeen, SD 57401 USA
    It's kind of quiet on their web,
    I'll kindly await your report.

  18. Bob Klein 2014.11.17

    "State" media? You mean Forum Communications, News Media Communications, Gannett? Which are the "state" media in SD?

  19. David Newquist 2014.11.17

    Bob, I mean any medium which operates within the state, whoever owns and runs it.

    Les, I’ve been there. It is the address of the Aberdeen Development Corporation, an operation which gets city and county funds. When Bollen got the boot from NSU, they provided him office space. The Corporation was a strident supporter of the Northern Beef Packers scheme. The executive director retired after the bankruptcy. It has, indeed, been very quiet over there.

  20. tara volesky 2014.11.17

    Mitchell Daily Republic: Tom Lawrence, gone. Ross Dolen, gone. Seth Tupper, gone. Dennise Ross. gone. WTH

  21. Les 2014.11.17

    These reporters need to start their own internetwork news, Tara.

  22. tara volesky 2014.11.17

    Yes they do Les, but unfortunately, it doesn't pay what they where making. It's time for an Independent News Network.

  23. Joe K 2014.11.18

    Time to get Lee Stranahan on this!! Oh, wait... he bailed as soon as the money dried up. Madville times is already the independent news network you are calling for Tara.

  24. JeniW 2014.11.18

    It took four weeks to request a retraction?

    Usually when there is a retraction is is done within days. What took Sveen so long?

    Something in Pierre stinks, but it is not the goose poo.

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.18

    Troy, I won't blast you. But I will agree with Nick's statement that the legal parsing of the word "partner" has little if any bearing on the accuracy of Ross's report. Let's review the text in context. The main point was that in mid-2009, when David Kang came on the scene to straighten out the finances, Joop Bollen and James Park were running Northern Beef Packers and running it poorly. Ross then writes:

    Richard Benda also was involved in the plant, Kang said, although not to the extent of Bollen and the Hanul law firm. He was working to promote the project but was not involved in day-to-day operations. Aberdeen attorney Jeff Sveen also was involved, Kang said, as "one of Joop's partners."

    Sveen's signature appears on several documents related to Bollen's EB-5 company, SDRC Inc. Sveen is a partner in the Siegel, Barnett & Schutz law firm [Denise Ross, "Source: Bollen, Lawyer in Control of Northern Beef Operations, Finances," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.10.17].

    The use of the word "partner" in the first paragraph does not seem to refer directly to SDRC Inc., but rather to the off-book, de facto operation of NBP. Maybe Kang was speaking from documents he reviewed while trying to fix NBP's finances in 2009 in anticipation of the $30 million loan from Epoch Star. But it seems at least as likely that Kang was speaking from operational observation (which Troy himself suggests is possible). He probably gave less of a darn about whose name was on the papers as to who was actively making his job difficult.

    Ross, the good reporter, goes looking for documents and finds Sveen's name on SDRC Inc. papers. But she doesn't say those signatures make Sveen a partner in SDRC Inc.; she's just trying to show independent evidence that Sveen has worked with Bollen in things related to NBP and EB-5.

    The retraction does not make clear which sense of "partner" Sveen disputes. The screwy nature of EB-5 makes me expect the dispute hinges on some very technical legal interpretation, but the language of the retraction makes no such specification; it just uses "partner" in a general, arguably categorical sense: "Sveen has since advised The Daily Republic that he is not one of Joop's partners. Accordingly, The Daily Republic retracts its statement that Sveen was a partner of Joop Bollen."

    We probably can't go further into the semantics unless we hear directly from Sveen. (Jeff, if you're out there, the comment section is open to everyone, including you and Joop.) But it is very possible that Kang and Sveen are using the word "partner" differently, with reference to different actions, and that the Mitchell Daily Republic has switched definitions, retracting a statement that it didn't actually make.

  26. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.18

    As for other outlets for Ross's reporting, remember that Ross wrote a pretty good blog of her own, The Hoghouse Blog. Her resignation from the Mitchell paper should make me nervous: maybe she's going to re-enter the blogosphere and blow me out of the water with her reporting skills!

  27. Troy 2014.11.18


    I disagree it isn't relevant. There is a significant difference between whether one is a partner/owner/member (legal rights and responsibilities) or whether the relationship is otherwise or whether there is no relationship.

    Words mean something and their misuse (regardless of intent) create misunderstanding and possibly innuendo that isn't true. It is similar to my comments on the US Energy Loan Program. It might be doing better financially than projected or doing better in other areas but saying its is profitable when profitable has a distinct definition isn't good either.

    I get that sometimes people don't understand the nuance of words chosen whether they be politicians, the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, reporters like Ross or you or me. And, when misused inadvertently (whether by being rushed or a lack of technical knowledge), all one has to do is properly correct it. Not a big deal.

    Facts are facts. Sven is not a partner (with all that entails). What he is or isn't still is not known.

  28. mike from iowa 2014.11.18

    Troy,you are stating that Sveen is not a partner while claiming he could very well be a partner. Or not. Isn't that contradicting yourself??

  29. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.18

    Oh yes, Troy, words mean something. Maybe our problem here is that none of the published information has made exactly clear what "partner" means. But let's remember, Kang used the word first. Ross quoted him. His context seems to indicate that he was speaking of operations, not legal definitions.

    I think we need to know more about Sveen's disputing of the term. Is he saying he's not a partner of Bollen in any definition? His simply saying "No I'm not" does not establish fact or refute Kang's observation any more than Bollen's assertion that he didn't own SDRC Inc. until 17 months after he incorporated it moves that claim from fancy to fact.

    And we really need to know what Kang saw that motivated his statement.

  30. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.18

    And Troy, if it wasn't a big deal, why did the correction take four weeks and involvement from Forum Communications lawyers and brass?

  31. Troy 2014.11.18

    I have no answer to any of your questions. I am only saying that on its face, Sven is not a partner as defined and it is fair to Sven not to have that definition implied to him.

  32. Bill Fleming 2014.11.18

    Troy, that's all hair splitting and something Sveen and Bollen perhaps need to straighten out with Mr. Kang.

    The point here is that Kang told Ross the two were partners, and Ross reported it. It's not up to the reporter or her publisher to change something someone said into something that they didn't say. In fact, I submit, that would be bad journalism.

    If there is a correction to be made, it is up to Mr. Kang to make it. Perhaps (and let's hope) Denise Ross will follow this up and ask Mr. Kang how it is that he came to view Mr. Sveen and Mr. Bollen as partners. And perhaps (and let's hope) she will feel free to publish his answer without interference from either Mr. Sveen or anyone else who wasn't privy to what was actually said in the interview.

    Because if we've reached the point where reporters can no longer feel supported to tell the truth about what was said and/or not said in an interview, we're all in trouble.

  33. mike from iowa 2014.11.18

    Why do you get to decide how partner is defined,Troy?

  34. Troy 2014.11.18

    I don't. The law defines what a partner is.

  35. Bill Fleming 2014.11.18

    Hey Cory! Why not invite Denise in for a guest article? Have you met her? She's a champ. One of the best in the biz.

  36. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.18

    Bill, that's a capital idea. I'll see if Ross is interested.

  37. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.18

    Troy, is Kang unfairly implying that Sveen is a romantic partner of Joop Bollen? Could he have demanded a retraction on those grounds?

  38. Taunia 2014.11.18

    *shots fired*

  39. Nick Nemec 2014.11.18

    At the very least Mr. Kang's perception, as reported by Ms. Ross, that Bollen and Sveen were "partners" indicates the two were thick as thieves. They must have been working very closely with each other and left an impression of partnership with an out of state, big money, financier they were hoping to do business with. Rather than print a retraction based on Mr. Sveen's claims, the paper should have put Ms. Ross on the trail to figure out the true nature of the relationship between Sveen and Bollen.

  40. Nick Nemec 2014.11.18

    Cory, maybe Sveen and Bollen have a special interest in the recent court ruling handed down by Federal Judge Karen Schreier?

    Thanks for pointing out another widely accepted definition of "partner".

  41. Steve Sibson 2014.11.18

    First, I would argue that a paper does need to vet what they are being told. So I don't have a problem with the correction.

    Second, Ross also reported that Bollen was a "co-owner" of SDRC. Have we ever found out who the other owners are?

    Third, the media, as well as history books, only tell a small percentage of the story. What they don't tell is more important than what they report. So I appreciate Ross's determination to push the line as to what gets reported. Unfortunately, that comes with great risk, especially in an environment where the wealthy can exert their power.

  42. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.18

    Steve, in his November 10 GOAC letter, Bollen refused to name the co-owners of SDRC Inc. or any of his other corporations, claiming that is private and confidential business information. But he made this striptease comment: "I am willing to state there are no other owners who have ever been or currently are residents of South Dakota." Note the tricky wording: I would say it refers to current co-owners only and says they are not and never have been SD residents. That statement does not exclude the possibility that Sveen was an owner/partner in 2009, at the time to which Kang was referring.

  43. mhs 2014.11.18

    I'm guessing the "partner" quote was not the problem. That is a direct quote attributed to Kang. I think the problem is the morph to the next paragraph saying Sveen's signature appears on various documents. What capacity he signed the documents in is not stated (at least in the above clip). If he signed as a Notary Public, as an attorney giving a legal opinion, as an attorney given a statutory-required attorney's signature (a few instances in SD law), etc., the story may, I repeat, may, since we don't know, have been misleading as written.

    Denise may have had Sveen's capacity in her story, which was edited out for brevity, may have been missed or a host of other things.

    Just a guess.

  44. Troy 2014.11.18


    Good point. Or it could have been acting with Power of Attorney at instruction from client.

  45. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.18

    MHS, as I recall the referenced, documents, Sveen appears as the registering agent. I can check my files for specifics.

    The morph is significant, but note that the retraction doesn't address the morph. It addresses the specific word "one of Joop's partners." If your speculation were true, and if a connection drawn by Ross were elided by MDR's editors for brevity, the proper correction would have been to print Ross's full explanation, not to retract the lead-in statement.

    I await Mr. Sveen's letter asking that I retract Nick's comment that Sveen and Bollen may have been "thick as thieves." I will, of course, require legal definitions of "thick" and "thief".

  46. Troy 2014.11.18

    If he is just the registering agent, I can assure you I don't want my registering agent as a partner (unless of course she takes only a share of the losses) and she certainly wouldn't want to be referred to as my partner.

  47. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.18

    O.K., Troy, but Kang's context isn't about SDRC Inc. He doesn't say "SDRC Inc." was running NBP. He says Bollen and Park were, and he says Benda and Sveen were also involved. We get back into why Bollen appears to have created SDRC Inc. and all his sub-corporations: to complicate legal matters and shield any of the players from being held accountable for bad decisions.

  48. Troy 2014.11.18


    And that is my point. This is a complex legal and business matter where words chosen/used have distinct meanings from which correct conclusions can be made. Wrong words almost always result in wrong conclusions. If we want the truth, it is critical that attention is given to properly using words and not making assumptions definitions/usage based on context.

    Let me give you an example. Not long ago, I was in a discussion on how to represent earnings for valuation. NI, EBIT, EBITDA, EBITDANCE all are under the general category "earnings" but the difference is significant.

  49. 96Tears 2014.11.18

    "When you see a turtle on a fencepost, you know it didn't get there by itself."

    The urgency of the corporate brass to elbow their way into the sanctity of a newsroom and post a very curious retraction deserves examination. On its face, Sveen’s demand should have been dismissed as “too late, too insignificant, too bad.”

    As one who is drilled in the use of the Associated Press Stylebook, it’s peculiar to see the familiar use of Sveen’s name as used in the voice of “the brass” in the correction. Here’s how the second half of the retraction appeared as published:

    Sveen has since advised The Daily Republic that he is not one of Joop's partners. Accordingly, The Daily Republic retracts its statement that Sveen was a partner of Joop Bollen.

    -Note the use of Bollen’s name in ‘he is not one of Joop’s partners.’
    -The AP Stylebook insists it should have been phrased, ‘he is not one of Bollen’s partners.’

    This indicates a competent editor did not have the final say to make sure the newspaper’s voice was consistent with the AP Stylebook, the Holy Bible of American journalism. So, why didn’t AP style get used in what must have been a tedious, confrontational experience to set the record straight, according to the brass’ definition of straight? Did the editor object and get shoved aside? Or was the editor so uncaring he/she didn’t bother to read the brief, tightly-written retraction carefully? If so, why?

    What were the events leading up to this extraordinary event inside the Mitchell paper and its corporate headquarters? Did Sveen threaten to sue for libel and on what grounds? How could he prove his case since libel and slander must prove intent to defame, and how could Sveen have posed a threat to Denise Ross’ writing since she was quoting a key figure in a lawsuit? If he could shake up Forum Communications’ lawyers, he must have had something big to get this result. Or are they that dumb?

    And that makes me wonder where were the feds in this event? Did they say something in their investigation in the last few weeks that would cause Sveen to jump up and demand relief from Forum Communications?

    While we’re running down the rabbit hole pursuing les mots justes, I find this quirk more consequential than if Kang meant the legally formal use of the word “partner” or was making a cursory and informal use of that word in his statement to Ross.

  50. larry kurtz 2014.11.18

    sure makes the definition of legitimate rape seem reasonable.

  51. Taunia 2014.11.18

    The legal definition of "is" (partner) aside, I think this post went over my head.

    No name screw up, the general issue does not appear to be in question, no plagiarism, no visible cries of bias from the masses.

    Why would a retraction of this seemingly small item cause a seasoned journalist to quit her employment? What am I missing?

  52. Bill Fleming 2014.11.18

    To me, this is the most problematic language... the retraction itself:

    "Accordingly, The Daily Republic retracts its statement that Sveen was a partner of Joop Bollen."

    I don't see in any of this where The Daily Republic ever stated that Sveen was a partner of Joop Bollen. It is only in the retraction that the paper appears to lay claim to making the statement. Denise Ross, by contrast, made it quite clear as to who said what.

    Now, I've heard of someone falling on one's sword before, but it's beyond me why The Daily Republic would borrow someone else's sword and then fall on it.

    As in, "Hey, let's say we said something we didn't actually say so we can retract it."

    It doesn't clarify anything.

    In fact it actually makes things more confusing.

    No wonder Denise quit.

  53. Roger Cornelius 2014.11.18

    MDR has really screwed this up, royally.

    At the least they should have published a clarification as to Sveen's concerns. At the most they should have Sveen's partner concern as a news story, including the publication of Sveen's letter demanding a retraction.

    Sveen waited a month to express his concerns, there is still time for MDR to make this a new story.

  54. mike from iowa 2014.11.18

    You dunnit now,Cory-

    This term does not sufficiently describe the ties that hold Bollen and his lawyer together and they will prolly wan't more incendiary terms used to 'splain their partnership that is not a legal partnership. Sibson's behind this,ain't he.

  55. Bill Dithmer 2014.11.19

    All this talk about partners got me real curious.

    Would it be the Jeff and Joop setting in a tree kind of partners?

    Or the hello, "I'm Jeff," "and I'm Joop." "I'm pitchin," " and I'm catchin," kind of have fun partners.

    Evidently, limited liability means they can limit and control the "conversation" about them. I'll have to remember that the next time I get ready to C&P from one place to another.

    Or course there is such a thing as limited liability love. If you dont believe me just think about Bill and Hillary.

    The Blindman

  56. leslie 2014.11.19

    grudz-did I hear correctly that Christie Noem is/was sleeping with someone in congress, or similar tryst? you voted for her, right?

  57. leslie 2014.11.19

    SDCL 20-11-3. Libel defined. Libel is a false and unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, effigy, or other fixed representation to the eye which exposes any person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or which causes him to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure him in his occupation.

  58. Les 2014.11.19

    Give us the sdcl on slander, leslie.

  59. leslie 2014.11.22

    Trystie Kristie

Comments are closed.