After this morning's piece in the Rapid City Journal contradicting Republican Senate Candidate Mike Rounds' testimony at a SD legislative committee's hearing on the ongoing Slaughterhouse EB-5 fiasco, Rounds made a retraction. Reporter Seth Tupper's piece in the RCJ documents Rounds' mis-statement about not having been served with papers connected to a lawsuit filed against the state in a case involving the EB-5 "cash for green cards" program administered in South Dakota. Rounds has been claiming all along that the EB-5 fiasco had nothing do with him or the Governor's office. He wants us to believe that all the shenanigans and the huge missed financial opportunity for the State of South Dakota (we're talking about SD missing out on as much as $120 million in revenues from foreign investors) were under the purview of the South Dakota Board of Regents and a state official, since dead by suicide, named Richard Benda. The fact is, the governor's office was indeed served with papers. And the news was so startlingly contradictory to what candidate Rounds had said to the legislators investigating the imbroglio that the former governor and present senate candidate was prompted into making a retraction.
Here's the full statement, as published on today's Sioux Falls Argus Leader website:
"It has come to our attention that the governor's office was indeed secondarily notified of the Board of Regent's petition order. An assistant in the governor's office had received the notification. As a clerical function, we assume the document was simply forwarded to the Board of Regents, the attorney general's office or the general counsel. I had not seen that particular document until yesterday, October 1, 2014. Prior to receipt of this document in 2009, the Attorney General had already appointed an attorney to represent the SD Board of Regents in the Darley matter. At that point of secondary notice, the matter was clearly being handled by the Board of Regents, not the Governor's Office. The Board of Regents does not fall under authority of the Governor. State government is sued frequently and the governor, any governor, would not necessarily see every summons delivered to the state. To put it into context, the state was sued 111 times in 2012 and 107 times in 2013 – on average once every three days. As a result of this new information, I acknowledge that the governor's office did receive secondary notice of the petition. As a clerical function, I just hadn't seen that particular document and was not aware that the secondary notice had been delivered until yesterday."
Giving Rounds the benefit of the doubt and all that goes with presumptions of innocence, the retraction is still a self-damning document. Consider that this was a matter involving foreign investors, hundreds of millions of dollars, the very program that Rounds used as the vehicle for getting his dream of a slaughterhouse in Aberdeen financed, and an economic development program that Rounds himself has been touting as a boon for South Dakota. Rounds in his statement now expects us to believe that a lawsuit of such magnitude, touched off by one of his centerpiece initiatives, was just another one of the many lawsuits against South Dakota that he routinely passed over while he was Governor. Suspending disbelief for a moment, the only conclusion we can draw from Rounds' retraction is that he was utterly indifferent to the matter and that, because in his view it was the business of the Board of Regents, he wasn't aware of the problem, much less its magnitude. Therefore, in addition to his indifference to the papers being served on him, he was clueless about what was going on anyway, because it was the BOR's problem. To hear him tell it, Rounds sat by in ignorance during a financial debacle that cost his state as much as $120 million. That $120 million, by the way, was just about the size of the state's budget deficit inherited by Rounds' successor, Dennis Daugaard.
South Dakota common sense makes me wonder why this indifferent and clueless former Governor thinks he can hack it as a United States Senator.