According to Rounds, a California judge arbitrating a dispute involving the ill-starred EB-5 program during Rounds' tenure as governor gave him a pass on any connection to the fiasco. It's understandable that Mike Rounds feels that way, but the decision reads to me more like a judicial arbitration on the order of "a pox on all your houses" and denies any party's claim to anything. It lets both the State of South Dakota and the South Dakota Board of Regents off the liability hook and urges all the parties to declare a draw and go home. Jumping all over that inconclusive resolution, former Governor Rounds, in the throes of a tightening Senate campaign that has him in a dead heat with Independent Larry Pressler and just barely ahead of Democrat Rick Weiland, has declared a victory. Festooned as he's been by the EB-5 scandal, Rounds said immediately after the arbitrator's decision that "everything my opponents have been saying about EB-5 are lies, innuendo, and nonsense information."
That Rounds takes the decision to be a vindication is an illusion that's probably driven by some desperation setting in to his campaign. For one thing, Rounds has been saying all along that Joop Bollen, the renegade operative who set off the scandal's chain of events, was working for the South Dakota Board Of Regents, not him. Ergo, Rounds claims he knew nothing of what Bollen was up to. Baloney. All Rounds or anybody else has to do is check out the link to the decision I posted above, go to page 7, and find this about Bollen's status: "Funding for his position came from both NSU [Northern State University] and the Governor's office . . . he reported to both the University and the Governor's office." Can it get more straightforward? Bollen was funded by the Governor in addition to the BOR, and answered to both.
Meanwhile Rounds himself wasn't telling the truth when he wrote to the SD State Legislature's Government Operations And Audit Committee last month that he'd never been served with legal papers involving the EB-5 mess. Rounds was immediately corrected on that one by a tipster who handed documents contradicting his testimony over to the Rapid City Journal, which published them forthwith. A chagrined Rounds had to quickly amend his statement to reflect the fact that yes, his office had indeed been served with papers regarding the affair.
In fact, few, if any, of the issues raised in the list of questions from GOAC were addressed during the California arbitration. You can get a full rundown of the specifics that weren't covered by the arbitrator at Cory Heidelberger's excellent and informative blog The Madville Times, where Cory calls Rounds' assertion that he's been vindicated an "audacious lie." You can draw your own conclusions by scanning Cory's list.
Rounds' essential problem is that he can't comfortably distance himself from EB-5 because too many facts connect him to it. Responding to a KELO-TV question about Joop Bollen and whether Bollen needed more supervision, here's Rounds' evasive and irrelevant response: "I think what the judge was trying to say was that he found no liability on the part of the state. And he went to the inception of the program in the 1990's and he found that there was no liability from the state and that everything we have been accused of in this has been wrong." Today's just-concluded arbitration repudiates nothing, especially the fact that this entire cluster-fiasco occurred right under the nose of former Governor Mike Rounds.