Thursday, October 9, 2014

I Noted Tuesday That Mike Rounds Is Delusional And Desperate. Today I Add That He Might Be In Serious Trouble.

     Yesterday, when Rapid City Lawyer Pat Duffy spoke his piece about Rounds' false testimony to a legislative hearing last month, I was a little dubious about how far this thing could go.  Duffy argued that Rounds, in a written statement denying that he'd been served legal papers regarding the political and economic catastrophe I call Slaughterhouse EB-5, clearly broke the law, felony-style.  As it turned out, a tipster quickly presented contradictory information to the Rapid City Journal, which published it on October 2, forcing Rounds to retract his false statement and acknowledge that he had, indeed, been served with papers.
    Why was I dubious about Duffy's call for a special investigator to look into the matter? I just figured that Rounds deserved a pass for making an oversight, busy guy that he is, trying to explain away his involvement in the EB-5 imbroglio and all.  However, on further reflection and after some information I gleaned from the legal community, I'd have to say that Duffy got it right and that Rounds could be in for a serious brush with the law.
     Turns out my instinct about giving Rounds the benefit of the doubt is completely irrelevant to the matter.  It's not up to me or any other outside observer to give Rounds a pass.  It's up to the criminal justice system.  There's no question that Rounds provided false testimony.  Rounds conceded as much by sending in a retraction and the correct information--but only after he was caught.  What I took to be an oversight might fit with a presumption of innocence, but at this point, now that the event has clearly taken place, it's up to the law to determine intent.
     The facts merit investigation.  A few days ago in a piece in the Mitchell Daily Republic, reporter Denise Ross wrote that Mike Rounds' brother Dennis managed the state's Risk Management office when (2009) the legal papers were served.  Dennis, whose job included "litigation management" told Ross that he "did not recall" the lawsuit related to those papers.  Mike Rounds contends that the whole thing was a "clerical, process issue."  Considering that the suit was directly connected to an economic development centerpiece of the Rounds administration, that Slaughterhouse EB-5 initiative, you'd have to conclude that this is at best a lackadaisical reaction to the matter.  At worst, "did not recall" and "clerical, process issue" come off as pretty lame reactions to an event of some enormity.  At issue is whether or not Governor Rounds knew any of the details of the EB-5 fiasco. He says no, but his relentless finger-pointing is being challenged by the facts.
    As if blowing it off so blithely isn't a bad enough indictment of Rounds' competence in the statehouse, the whole thing has now erupted in his face with a call for an investigation by legal authorities.  That the lawsuit didn't garner much attention from Rounds at the time is one thing. Presenting false testimony about his involvement with it is another.  So was it oversight or criminal intent?  Like Duffy, I'd like to see it investigated.

10 comments:

  1. The unvarnished truth is sufficient to deny Mr. Rounds the coronation he has been expecting, but Mr. Duffy insists on varnish nonetheless. Duffy was billed as an attorney for the Democrats, not a party hack. He has some obligation to take his professional role seriously.

    Bombastic bullying by Mr. Duffy (I wonder if he knows the RCJ's anonymous "tipster") is a manipulative insult to the public. It adds nothing to the discussion, and in fact gives Mr. Rounds some undeserved cover, as the over-the-top charges imply that other attacks against Rounds are similarly lacking in principle.

    Duffy claims the Rounds misstatement violates state law (maybe so), and then says that leaves Rounds unqualified to serve "until a judge rules otherwise" (clearly wrong). As the Rapid City Journal points out, such state laws do not apply to federal offices; Duffy almost certainly knows that, or ought to, and his weasel-words simply permit him to make headline-grabbing charges based on what I think is a willful misconstruction of the law. There is no need for this, and no utility.

    Recent comments, columns and stories by Mr. Tsitrian, Bob Mercer, Denise Ross, Seth Tupper, and (spectacularly) Cory Heidelberger, have given Mr. Rounds much to account for. Duffy himself has contributed substantially and materially to the discussion. Making up ridiculous legal theories is mere political theater, which ultimately benefits Mr. Rounds.

    Don Frankenfeld

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    1. Your point, as always with your points, is well taken, Mr. Frankenfeld. My feeling on this is that false testimony given to a legislative inquiry is serious enough to merit investigation. In this case, Rounds was able to produce the correct document instantaneously when he got called on the misstatement, which makes me think it was easily obtainable, if not at his fingertips. The facts lead to a couple of conclusions, one exonerating, the other incriminating. Was it an oversight or was there felonious intent? I think at this point it's up to the criminal justice system to reach a conclusion. I would like to see it investigated.

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  2. Very intelligent comments, the both of you. I agree that we can hang Rounds politically on everything that was said pre-Duffy. Mr. Frankenfeld points out reasonable arguments against Duffy's legal construction: Rounds not in office, statute not applicable to federal office, etc. I have no idea if a judge or jury would accept the argument, and I suspect we won't get to find out any time soon, since the Attorney General would have to bring the charges, and odds of that are nil.

    But if we're throwing spaghetti, consider how well this stuff sticks. What responses does Rounds have available?

    —I lied, but technically, this statute can't punish me for that lie?
    —I was simply mistaken, because I didn't get the facts before spouting off to GOAC?
    —EB-5 brought 5,000+ jobs to South Dakota... so what was the question?
    —Responding to such questions is beneath my dignity?

    Which of those responses puts votes back in Rounds's column?

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  3. John, I don't think that MMR has any legal problems because of this gaff in his testimony. As Mike Myers pointed out on SDPB's broadcast last evening, of the Governor's debate, hands of the questioned need to be placed on the Bible, to have any legal significance. That is why the legislative committee taking this testimony was so wrong in allowing the answers to the questions to mailed in.

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    1. I'll buy that, Lanny, but would like to have it applied by an authoritative entity in this case.

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  4. I am proud to be friends of both Don Frankenfeld and Pat Duffy. I mean, after all, can't we just get along? (Insert silly smiley face emoticon). I have thought about this blog thread for a day or so. I think it's fair to call for an investigation and refer to the retracted and revised statements as false statements to a government agency. Why? For the very simple reason that he did make false statements. That's serious stuff. Rounds' whole strategy has been to pretend that he really know very much about his pet South Dakota Certified Beef Project and he only did what people told him to do. I think that there is a likelihood that, operating with this strategy, he thought he could get away with saying that he never knew about a lawsuit--never even got served. An investigation would maybe reveal that, yes, his staff just didn't bother him with the lawsuit. I think it may be possible that we would see staffers pleading the fifth. Clearly, if you believe what Mike Rounds says, he is incompetent. If you don't believe him, well then..................................he gave false statements to a legislative committee. That's lying.

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  5. I meant to include "didn't" in the sentence about Rounds' strategy and his knowledge about the project.

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    1. Gotcha, Wayne. I agree that false testimony to a legislative body is nothing trifling. If the system overlooks this, the next guy who messes up has some kind of a "precedent" to use as a dodge.

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  6. In a state government not controlled by a political machine, all the inter office memos, emails, etc., would show Mike Rounds & Dennis Daugaard's involvement in all of these matters. When you have an Attorney General, appointed by Mike rounds, that is willing to create and invoke privacy exclusions to a WHOLE investigation of a very public death investigation? Very doubtful that any actual documentary evidence would be allowed to be released by such a diligent political appointee..

    To put Jackley's complicity truly in perspective, political junkies should remember the abuse of power Daugaard and Jackley engaged in going after attorney Brandon Taliaferro and when they turned out the full force of the state to go after their political opponents trying to enforce a repealed (and never before enforced) misdemeanor statute for robocalls informing voters about Daugaard's bill to cut a major national guard education benefit.

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  7. Rounds has to have a Teflon coat and brass balls to slick through the mess he created in the fertile environment of 40 years of one-party rule.

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