Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Chance For Accountability In South Dakota Government

     South Dakota's House of Representatives has a chance at advancing the cause of government accountability on Wednesday, February 22.  A bill (HB 1076) that would establish a
Why Is This Man Laughing?
SD Is The 49th On The Integrity Scale
bi-partisan board empowered to investigate charges of official misconduct in state government goes to a committee hearing that day.  Its fate is a test of our SD government's commitment to pursue the intent of the voters when the legislature and Governor Daugaard quashed a law (Initiated Measure 22, an omnibus campaign and government reform measure) passed by the people last November.  In their cavalier revocation of IM 22, government officials repeatedly--and independently of final judicial affirmation--called IM 22 "unconstitutional" and vowed to propose a set of laws that would reflect voter intent.  

     House Bill 1076 is one of those measures.  Conceptually it does answer the crying need for some sort of accountability enforcement structure in state government, a need highlighted in recent years by the twin and tragic (suicides and murders were left in their wakes) fiascoes of EB-5 and Gear-Up.  The first involved investment money from foreigners seeking American residency, costing the state more than $100 million according to the Center for Immigration Studies.  The second was a badly managed educational opportunities program that diverted millions of dollars from its intended recipients.  Since then it has become clear that SD Government needs oversight, needs it badly, and needs it now. The Center For Public Integrity ranks us 49th on the integrity scale, a status that became disturbingly obvious during the state legislature's kid glove investigation of the EB-5 mess, in which the chief perp Joop Bollen wasn't pressed personally, but allowed to provide written answers to written questions.  That joke of an official examination was at least partially ameliorated in recent weeks when SD Attorney General Marty Jackley successfully prosecuted Bollen, gaining a felony conviction for at least one aspect of Bollen's involvement in the EB-5 money machine.  
     Bollen's conviction still leaves so many questions unanswered, questions about how and
49th Worst In The U.S.
Wrong Side Of The Curve
under whose noses he was able to scam the state, that a satisfactory conclusion may never be reached.
The accountability board envisioned by HB 1076 would probably make it tougher for future EB-5s to materialize. That it "may" (according to the language of the bill) instead of "shall" refer alleged violations to state or local prosecutors weakens it a bit. But just having the board in place would be a start toward enforcing integrity in South Dakota government. Rejecting this opportunity to do so will be a signal that our political class has no intention of finding a way to police itself, at least not now.  

3 comments:

  1. Not being a constitutional scholar, I probably shouldn't even post what I am going to post. I would like to know under what part of either the US or the South Dakota constitutions, economic development ever became the purview of either of those two governments? It would seem to me that the combining of government and business interests reeks of fascism.

    In a country so worried of anything that smells, sounds, looks or feels like socialism, (in other words something for the people) we look the other way at fascistic practices of government, be it economic development or the continual expansion of military hardware and funding of unending wars.

    Your blog post John, alludes to the 100 million dollar loss of state funds through EB-5. But I submit to you that is just the Beef packing plant in Aberdeen. When one looks at the money spent by the state on the expansion of dairy, (some of which went bankrupt and all of which pollute our water and land) the attempts to expand coal burning in SD (both of which sites did not pass muster) and the failed attempt to have an oil refinery and another coal burner on some of the richest farmland in the State, as well as the failed Anderson Seed company which failed to pay 100s of farmers for their seed.

    One must also not forget the uranium mining by companies not in the US, pipelines by foreign and out of state companies, which are allowed to eminent domain South Dakotans property to build their pipelines, and then nothing done to force those companies to have to clean up after themselves in case of spills or uranium contamination.

    And then of course last session, being short all of the funds wasted on the failed projects having to put another half cent sales tax on, in order to give the teachers the pay raise that they have deserved for a quarter century.

    My guess, is that South Dakota ought to get out of the economic development business and stick to doing the things that State government was created to do.

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    1. I haven't looked at the EB-5 numbers in a while so I relied on the Center for Immigration Studies' estimate, as I have in the past, with nary a challenge. I agree with your assessment that SD's attempts at economic development don't seem to have done much for the state in the aggregate if using tax revenues as a guage of success is the measure. The state would do well to create a tax-supported intellectual and material infrastructure that would encourage young people to stay and investors to build growing, dynamic businesses here.

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  2. It seems the moral to the EB-5 scandal is:
    ($2000 fine, 2 years probation)
    if you're going to steal from South Dakota
    ...steal BIG!



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