Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Is Bernie Hunhoff Being Coy? If Not, Why The Reluctance To Name Names? This EB-5 Thing Ain't Over, Folks

Democratic State Senator Hunhoff
Just who are those "certain parties," Senator?
(photo from legis.sd.gov)
     The "Slaughterhouse EB-5" scandal isn't over.  Reporter/blogger Bob Mercer came up with an excellent recap of the much-recounted "cash for green cards" affair in last Sunday's Rapid City Journal.  In this morning's RCJ, the editorial board noted that it's "bad" that the investigation of the mess by the South Dakota legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee (GOAC) so far has amounted to government investigating itself.  The RCJ editors muse that it might be time for the feds to step in.
     Actually, the feds, in the form of the FBI have already stepped in.  Last October the federal investigators announced that an investigation into the fiasco is "active." Nothing about the matter has surfaced from the agency since, but presumably the federal gumshoes are sorting through this incredibly complicated mixture of events and participants. The federal EB-5 program designed to accelerate the immigration process for foreigners willing to invest sizable ($500k) chunks of money into American enterprises was a lucrative source of cash to its operators in South Dakota, who apparently took the program away from its state overseers and ran it privately for themselves.  They subsequently pocketed significant sums of money in the form of fees and charges for their services.  Last September the non-partisan  Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies calculated that $120 million was the amount that South Dakota gave up by letting the operation go private.  Just who was responsible and how they let it happen is at the heart of the matter.  
     The poor excuse for an investigation conducted by South Dakota's GOAC didn't turn up much, mainly because it wouldn't exercise its subpoena powers and get the main players to testify under oath in front of the committee.  GOAC blamed it all on a dead guy who committed suicide and drew its conclusions after accepting the probably intensely lawyerized written statements from the other main participants, a character named Joop Bollen who engineered the transfer of the program from the State of South Dakota to himself, and Senator-elect Mike Rounds, who was governor at the time the mess cowas occurring.  
     I can't say that I blame South Dakota State Senator Bernie Hunhoff, a Democrat from Yankton, for being frustrated and fed up by the cursory look at the fiasco by GOAC.  Mercer quotes Hunhoff and his complaints quite extensively in the RCJ piece, mainly drawing from written statements that Hunhoff made on the heels of the committee's final report.  That I agree with Hunhoff on every count doesn't stop me from wondering why Hunhoff made this intriguing comment:  ". . . a deeper search might have been too embarrassing for certain parties."  Say what?  That sounds an awful lot like Hunhoff has "certain parties" in mind and that he possesses some information that would be "embarrassing" to them.  
     I've followed Hunhoff closely enough over the years to know that he's too smart to toss around incendiary remarks like that without being able to back them up.  So my questions to the Senator is this?  Who are the "certain parties" you alluded to when you made that remark?  And what information do you have that "might" be "embarrassing" to them?  As this fiasco occurred under the noses of the state's leading Republicans, it's reasonable to conclude that Democrat Hunhoff is playing politics here unless he can attach names and information to his otherwise coy observation.   


  1. The bankruptcy of NBP has never been summarized in terms of how much money was generated, how much was spent on the plant and how much on ancillary fees. The disposition of the TIF bonds has never been explained. The complicating factor is how and why the Regents imposed a program on a university that was an economic development, not an academic program. From the Aberdeen perspective, that is an inquiry no one wants pursued. The answers would be quite a bit more than embarrassing. At least one university president has partially answered the questions, at his peril.

  2. Bernie is a nice guy, but he and the Democrats fumbled the ball. They had headlines and the iron was hot to strike the issue hard during the last legislative session and they punted the ball thinking it was better to let the issue simmer in the press till after the primary. They had bi-partisan support with some of the principled Republicans willing to support a full legislative audit and review of the scandal. Making the whole legislature weigh in on the issue would have made all of the Republicans take a public stance on the issue during an election year. By putting it off and allowing the GOAC sweep it under the rug, Republicans were able to drag out hearings and control the scope.

    This fumble was about as bad as them not running a candidate against Thune a couple years ago.

  3. I agree that the Dems dropped the ball and the GOAC provided cover for the guilty and the voters of South Dakota continue to elect the same people and expect better results. Denny do-gooder really sold S.D. citizens a bill of goods while appointing his own party AG to investigate the wrong doings and the alleged Benda suicide. Rounds, Daugard, and Warner all have stains on their hands and should have to testify under oath. Sure would be too bad if our situation is similar to Watergate where the guilty go elected, but a true independent investigation proceeded and the two reporters of the Washington Post did true investigative reporter.