Sunday, November 24, 2013

How Very "Improper" Of Them. Now Let's Move On, Shall We?

     There was a Looney Tunes-like quality to South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley's blow-off of any further state investigation of that 550 grand of the State of South Dakota's grant money being diverted from a meat packing plant (Northern Beef Processors) in Aberdeen to a private contractor.  The AG seemed to be saying the political equivalent of "that's all, folks"  in a Dirk Lammers/Bob Mercer-bylined article published in yesterday's (11/23) Rapid City Journal about the subject.  No state charges have been filed as a result of Jackley's conclusion that the grant money was, as the RCJ piece put it,  "improperly diverted" to a private entity that used it to pay off some of its obligations.  AG Jackley further went on to say that his office would assist the U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Department of Justice in their investigations of the matter.  The money was part of a $1 million dollar grant that was handed over in 2011 to the failed Northern Beef Packers venture in Aberdeen, South Dakota, intended to be spent on construction and equipment costs. Next thing you know, $550 thousand of it went to a private firm called SDRC that used it to pay "immigration loan monitoring fees" that were probably accrued as part of its business of seeking out foreign investors (via the federal EB-5 program) to put money into American ventures in return for visas that could lead to permanent residency in the United States.
     That  this was deemed "improper" strikes me as one of the classic understatements in recent official rhetoric, as I think words like "outrageous" and "incomprehensible" are probably more descriptive of this occurrence.  That Jackley announced no plans to investigate further strikes me as a weak response to what should be an alarming breakdown in the granting process itself.  I have no doubt that South Dakota's grant system has controls in it to make sure that grant money is used for its intended purposes and I want to know why those controls weren't applied to the meatpacking plant, which got the million for capital costs and turned over more than half of it to a separate, privately-held entity to help that entity cover its operating costs.  To me this seems absolutely incredible and more than worthy of deeper investigation.
     I recently urged Governor Daugaard to step into this whole venture and call for a comprehensive state audit of every single transaction between and among the State of South Dakota, Norther Beef, SDRC and any other individuals involved in our state's involvement with the EB-5 program.  More immediately, I want to know whose oversight went missing when a significant chunk of cash was ripped off from a state grant and handed over to an enterprise that had nothing to do with the grant's intended purpose. 

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