Mr. Mercer notes that Speaker Wink's constitutional conflict-of-interest excuse for firing Democratic House caucus secretary Kathy Tyler lies in the same topic bubble as House Bill 1023, which may be the only action the South Dakota Legislature takes in response to the EB-5 scandal. I gladly take up the comparison.
HB 1023 outlaws what EB-5 czar Joop Bollen did in 2008 and 2009:
- The state paid Bollen to manage it's EB-5 visa investment program.
- In January 2008, Bollen created a private company to do the work that the state was paying him to do.
- In summer and fall 2009, Bollen negotiated a contract between the state and his private company.
- On December 21, 2009, Bollen quit his state job.
- On December 22, 2009, the state formally approved the contract Bollen had negotiated to pay his private company to continue running EB-5, allowing Bollen to claim profits that otherwise would have gone to the state.
Actually, state law already makes illegal what Bollen did in 2008, creating a private company to profit from his ongoing state job. HB 1023 simply extends that prohibition on a conflict of interest to one year after leaving the state's official payroll.
Joop Bollen far more directly and intentionally violated state law in 2009 than Kathy Tyler and the Democrats did. Kathy Tyler voted for a general appropriations bill last year that funds the ongoing position of House caucus Secretary, a job Tyler had no intention of seeking when she voted for the budget last March, since she intended to return to Pierre as a legislator from District 4. Voting for the general appropriation for the Legislature was not an effort to stitch a golden parachute for herself.
Republicans immediately fire Tyler for her debatable infraction. Republicans take no action to reclaim the funds Bollen illegally funneled into his own bank account with his violation of existing statute; they only consider a meager amendment of statute and stay mum on the crimes that arose under their own administration.