Press "Enter" to skip to content

Gutless, Incurious Legislators Blame Dead Benda for EB-5 Trouble

Last updated on 2014.12.09

  • chimpsSenator Larry Tidemann, Chair
  • Senator Phyllis Heineman
  • Senator Jean Hunhoff
  • Senator Blake Curd
  • Senator Larry Lucas
  • Representative Dan Dryden, Vice Chair
  • Representative Melissa Magstadt
  • Representative Justin Cronin
  • Representative Mark Mickelson
  • Representative Susan Wismer

These ten South Dakota legislators, the current members of the Government Operations and Audit Committee (GOAC), are responsible for a farcical travesty of legislative inquiry and public accountability. These ten legislators have foisted on South Dakotans the insult masquerading as a report fulfilling their duty to investigate the Governor's Office of Economic Development and South Dakota's troubled EB-5 visa investment program.

Lied to by former governor and now Senator-Elect Mike Rounds, bamboozled by lawbreaking EB-5 profiteer Joop Bollen, and spun by the shifting story of Attorney General Marty Jackley, these ten legislators have shrugged and endorsed the cowardly, sandy-headed fall-guy narrative that dead and defenseless Richard Benda was the source of all ills in the GOED/EB-5 scandal. GOAC essentially rewrote the campaign propaganda that the South Dakota Republican Party sent to tamp down concerns about EB-5 in October.

The report rubber-stamps the audits and reforms discussed last winter, before GOAC received its legislative charge to investigate GOED and EB-5. It accepts without challenge the Swiss-cheese stories told by Rounds and Bollen. The only new work products produced by GOAC itself are two pieces of legislation that would tighten conflict-of-interest restrictions on state employees and make those restrictions last for one year after an employee leaves the state payroll. Even in proposing those modest reforms (the sort of no-duh rules that we should be embarrassed that we don't already have), GOAC focuses solely on Benda's alleged crimes and completely ignores Bollen's conflict-of-interest violations that cost the state millions.

GOAC makes its stonewalling stupidity clearest on page 5 of its report. Making hay of Richard Benda's diversion of $550,000 from Future Fund Grant #1434 (a grant Mike Rounds signed for Northern Beef Packers, with Benda pressing, knowing that Benda was going to be involved with the beef plant when he left Pierre, which facts trouble GOAC not one whit), GOAC mentions that it asked Bollen about how that chunk of the grant got converted into Benda's hefty pay as NBP's EB-5 loan monitor.

When asked about the $550,000 loan monitoring fee collected by Richard Benda from NBP, Mr. Bollen stated that he had no specific knowledge of Richard Benda collecting the loan monitoring fee [GOAC final report, 2014.11.28, p. 5].

This reading of Bollen's comments is incorrect and inconsistent with GOAC's own bogus conclusions. In his arrogant and cynical written response to GOAC after the election (oh, did I mention conveniently delayed?), Bollen said he set up the loan monitor job for Benda [page 9]. Bollen said Benda worked for Bollen's EB-5 management company, SDRC Inc. [Question 15, p. 13]. When GOAC asked Bollen how SDRC Inc. compensated Benda, Bollen said "Mr. Benda was paid pursuant to the terms of a contract for loan monitoring the NBP project, which was required under the loan with NBP. The terms of the contract contain private business information" [Question 8, p. 12]. Bollen's response that he had "no specific knowledge" of "how and why... Benda [was] involved in collecting the loan monitoring fee" [Question 20, p. 14] was at best legalistic if not patently absurd: he created the loan monitor job, hired Benda, and knew the terms of the contract well enough to choose to hide them from GOAC.

Bollen knows exactly how and why Benda collected his hundreds of thousands of dollars. He hid that information, and GOAC went "Ro-de-do-de-do, we don't need to know!"

To top off their obtusity, Tidemann and friends ignore Bollen's dismissal of their whole Benda-as-fall-guy thesis. Bollen cites NBP lawyer Rory King's argument, floated to Bob Mercer a year ago, that the loan-monitoring fees were perfectly legitimate. Senator Tidemann, when you simultaneously cite a source to support your thesis then ignore that source's rebuttal of your thesis, you come out looking like monkeys.

I hate to include the Democrats on this committee, Rep. Susan Wismer and Senator Larry Lucas, in the monkey pile. Rep. Wismer did expose GOAC's stonewalling and bring the EB-5 issue back to life last summer. Senator Lucas brought forth most of the substantive questions about Benda, Bollen, Rounds, and other players in the EB-5 scam, but he also strangely and incorrectly declared Senator Tidemann's conduct of the GOAC hearings "fair and non-partisan." Senator Lucas says he's considering filing a minority report, although why he and Rep. Wismer haven't already written that report and demanded its inclusion on the record is beyond me.

But this shame falls on all ten members of the Government Operations and Audit Committee, on all of a Legislature that accepts Chairman Tidemann's conclusion that "no further action was necessary," and on all of South Dakota, for electing such gutless, incurious, and feckless legislators.

Update 06:15 CST: Senator Lucas tells AP that minority report will happen, along with a call for a special prosecutor and further GOAC investigation. But he also says "it’s our due diligence as state officials to make sure we have covered all our bases in the matter" and that "Right now I’d say we’re about on third base." Third base? I don't know what puritans Larry's been making out with, but in my backseat, GOAC hasn't even gotten to first.


  1. Tim 2014.12.02

    They pulled the wool over on the eyes of a disengaged electorate, and effectively ran out the clock. Business as usual in one of the most corrupt states in the nation.

  2. SDBlue 2014.12.02

    I have one last hope for holding Rounds and Bollen accountable in this whole fiasco. The FBI's investigation is still active, right? They can step in any time now.

  3. barry freed 2014.12.02

    If they were going to risk exposing their own misdeeds in the matter, the Democrats would have already done something about EB-5.

  4. Loren 2014.12.02

    Do I remember correctly that information on Mr Benda's suicide was withheld after AG Jackley said he wouldn't mind releasing the info, but he COULDN'T because of the family request? Do you suppose the family might change their mind now that their relative is the SOLE owner this fiasco? I hate to get all conspiratorial, but this is such a blatant whitewash, I feel dirty just reading about it!

  5. leslie 2014.12.02

    Also quoted from GOAC's report, based on Jackley's advice it did not:

    summon witnesses and issue subpoenas...conducting hearings of...EB5...; not wishing to compromise the federal investigation.

    Finally, again the report writer characterizes Daugaard, Rounds and Bollen written responses as "testimony", which it is likely not as it is all unsworn. (take note of atty. abourezk's previous posted law citation of lying before the legislature, i believe.)

  6. leslie 2014.12.02

    bf-u are so full of sheit.

  7. Liberty Dick 2014.12.02

    So is this EB5 witch hunt over now??? I was tired of hearing about it 2 months ago. We all knew it was going to end this way. Let's come to grips with reality, move on, and be outraged by something else now.

  8. JeniW 2014.12.02

    Have the feds come to the same conclusion?

  9. leslie 2014.12.02

    GOAC's report as quoted:

    GOAC did not pursue obtaining additional records from SDRC, Inc. ...a private entity...and in the opinion of the Committee was outside the scope of GOAC's authority.

    Chronology shows Bollen likely stole SDRC state records (as a state sub-agency), when he cleaned out NSU and formed SDRC, Inc. Outside the scope of Republican analysis, but surely not objective, law enforcement, legitimate investigation, anyway!

  10. leslie 2014.12.02

    ld-limp: your bengahzi, watergate, white water, obama lawsuit, obstruction, filibuster, that what you mean?

  11. leslie 2014.12.02

    GOAC report 1st claims it didn't want to "compromise the federal investigation" (see above post) but then makes a big deal of asking AG Johnson TWICE to come in and what, "testify"??

    Republicans are morons.

  12. mike from iowa 2014.12.02

    The Attorney General has indicated that, other than Richard Benda, he did not find
    probable cause to charge any current or former state official with a crime. The GOAC found no
    4evidence that any state official, other than Richard Benda, knew of the prepaid loan monitoring
    fees from NBP to SDRC, Inc. totaling $550,000.

    Jackley did not find probable cause to charge anyone other than Benda. Jackley didn't bother talking to the three main suspects-one was dead,the other two still have the answers the state is not seeking. Maybe Jackley ain't smart enuf or ambitious enuf to indict a ham sandwich.

  13. leslie 2014.12.02

    The report writer, this time, says Johnson's invitation to attend, was merely to a "MEETING" (emphasis/quotations added).

    GOAC is doing back-flips to mischaracterize what happened in this final report to the legislature. Putrid.

  14. mike from iowa 2014.12.02

    Here's a new outrage,Liberty Dick. Wingnuts who were gung-ho in favor of Common Core 2 years ago are now vowing to repeal what they are calling "Obama-core." Ain't it just outrageous Obama inserted his name in their trying to steal wingnut's thunder?

  15. Disgusted Dakotan 2014.12.02

    I am sure Rep Hickey will have another news conference to protest this. He'll say again that we need to know more, but he knows enough to know Mike Rounds was distantly removed from all of the criminal actions.

  16. larry kurtz 2014.12.02

    How did Mark Michelson evade the mansion rape scandal?

  17. Lynn 2014.12.02

    Would someone please remind me why we need a legislature anymore? Why are we sending these people to Pierre?

  18. 12 2014.12.02

    Good question, Lynn. Could it be... just perhaps.... that it's because the Republicans in SD (er... sheeple...whatever...) deemed that these fine folks were all doing such a bang up job that we should not only re-elect the red team, but put more of them in office? *smh*

    How about next time... EVERYONE that kvetches here about how the Republicans are so effing corrupt DOES something about it... like run for office... volunteer for a Dem running... support a campaign by writing a check? Hmmm? Then and ONLY then will you start to see a difference being made in Pierre.

  19. Larry Lucas 2014.12.02

    Cory, It is easy to be critical of individuals elected to serve a constituency. I feel I have done that in the 18 years I have served in the Legislature. While I do not agree with the GOAC final report, Senator Tidemann allowed representative Wismer and myself to ask all the questions we wished. As well, Tidemann put time on the agendas of the meetings for public testimony. Outside of the media and press and the GOAC information, no one has given any other evidence of wrongdoing. I agree, Joop Bollen's answers and written remarks are not satisfactory. I hope the 2015 Legislature will follow-up on the inconsistencies and give direction to bring charges against individuals who broke the law. All logic from the information uncovered since the death of Richard Benda indicates there were others that knew of the EB-5 scandal.

  20. Disgusted Dakotan 2014.12.02

    Hickey? Hickey? Where's the outrage? Where's condemnation of the major players in this fraud that costs 100s of millions? You spare no outrage for fellow shiester Annette and Chad, but hide from the big ones.

  21. Flipper 2014.12.02

    Ah yes, the tried and true method...blame it all on the dead guy. The only one who can't speak up.

  22. WayneF 2014.12.02

    We knew all along that GOAC would blame the dead guy and say, "Move along folks. Nothing to see here." That's how investigations work in a one-party state when the defendant is a member of the party in power.

    Leslie, Republicans aren't morons. If they were, they wouldn't have been able to pull off this masquerade.

    Senator Lucas and Representative Wismer ... if you truly wish to serve your constituents, please follow through on your minority report. Nice that the committee allowed you to ask questions. But that means nothing unless you and others (in both parties) get answers to the serious questions you ask.

  23. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.12.02

    I was wondering about the feasibility of a Minority Report too. I'm thinking about the eloquence of RBG's SCOTUS dissents. Okay, it wouldn't have to be that well-written. But something with a little passion, a little outrage, and a high dose of precision would be very nice. It would let all the South Dakotans fuming at being played for dupes, that they are not alone, that Someone has their backs. That would be extremely powerful.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.02

    Senator Lucas, with respect for your efforts in elected office, I note that Senator Tidemann allowed questions from you and Rep. Wismer, but he did not allow you to ask those questions in live hearings, with the key witnesses in front of you, under oath, available for visual and aural evaluation and follow-up questions. Chairman Tidemann's resistance to in-person testimony from Rounds and Bollen left us unable to assess the extent to which their answers were their own honest answers. Chairman Tidemann shut down some of Rep. Wismer's attempted questions in open session. Chairman Tidemann shut the door on inquiry into key areas of GOED's EB-5 dealings. Chairman Tidemann's decision facilitated the agenda of the party that wanted to minimize discussion of this issue. I must thus respectfully disagree with your assessment of Chairman Tidemann's leadership thse GOAC hearings as "fair and non-partisan."

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.12.02

    On minority reports: in 2006, Senator Stanford Adelstein appears to have joined members of the South Dakota Task Force on Abortion in issuing a minority report to accompany the majority propaganda submitted to the Legislature. Is that precedent for a minority report in this situation?

    (Hey, I'm having trouble finding that minority report online. Anyone have a copy?)

  26. Jana 2014.12.03

    Looks like there will be no help from Jackley. He's busy with his partisan hackery and filing suit against the President of the United States for his immigration plan.

    More and more it seems that the AG position in states is to secure political points from a justice perspective.

    Ewwps...I think Marty spells justice "Just Us."

  27. mike from iowa 2014.12.03

    Cory,no disrespect intended,but you took the long way around the barn to let Senator Lucas know he's full of prunes. Eloquence must be french.

  28. leslie 2014.12.03

    Rounds and Bollen's snark in responses is remarkably like those of investment banker types caught in the arrogant greed after the 2007/08 bubble burst recession, which surely have tie-ins w/ Joop's EB5 background and resume.

    He made a fool of Rounds and the rest of involved SD government. Their lawyered-up manipulation of the evidence made sure the public confusion of the fraud was incapable of "proving evidence of wrong-doing" prior to the election and now.

    Lucas and Wismer simply did not have sufficient legal "horse-power" and budget to swim upstream against the SDGOP flood of majority party disinformation, obstruction and abuse. IMO

  29. mike from iowa 2014.12.03

    Got an OCLC 76874953 number for the report. Don't have a liberry around here big enuf to house the minority report.

    S Adelstein,Kate Looby,Maria Bell,Linda Holcomb authors

  30. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.12.03

    I was at that committee meeting in 2006 for every word. It was a farce and the behavior of the Republicans, including Brock Greenfield, was shameful. Read the report FMI.

  31. Jane 2014.12.06

    Liberty Dick: if Joop Bollen who committed Intellectual property theft when he obsconded with all that EB-5 collateral and placed them under his own company to divert millions of money to himself, all the while he was a paid employee of the state, is a witch hunt for you....I wonder what lawless world you belong. We have laws in this country. Please clean up this local state level corruption. Don't do the rest of the country any favors, because it's doin just fine.

Comments are closed.