CARROLL: Governor needs to clean up EB-5 mess

CARROLL: Governor needs to clean up EB-5 mess

A pall hangs over South Dakota like the smoke from summer fires. There’s no new thing to make us pause in wonder or surprise us. It’s all a tale told many times, the one where money and power combine to make a few people rich while others suffer the consequences.

EB-5 is not going away until the last rock is overturned and the last snake is held to account. I know this whole mess didn’t start on Gov. Daugaard’s watch, but it’s his mess to clean up. The governor owes it to the people of this state to end it, bring the facts to the light of day, and get rid of the money-sucking vampires once and for all so we can get on with life.

If Chinese or Korean business people are suing us for $18.5 million, money they paid with the expectation of promises fulfilled, don’t make us all go through a big circus of denial. Have the Legislature pay back the money and learn the lesson. Go through the ranks, figure out who took advantage of the system, fine them the amount they were paid for “advice” to the various programs and clean house.

If it turns out officials at the highest levels were to blame, let them come forward and own their part in it. If they don’t, hunt them down and hold them to account. There is no one in South Dakota above the law.

Every week brings new revelations. People used the money, millions of dollars, not for the purposes intended but to enrich themselves, their friends, their political cronies, and to defraud investors. Turning a blind eye or not knowing what’s happening directly below you is no excuse. The wounds from these several egregious acts cannot be allowed to fester.

Of course, we are innocent until proven guilty, but allowing officials to continue working for the government or serve on boards who have not satisfactorily and completely answered for their roles is unacceptable. Allowing people to continue to guide, direct or influence in any way ongoing programs is malfeasance.

The federal government is right to take away programs fueled by federal dollars, whether it’s the Indian Health Service or other programs. We are under close scrutiny for our mishandling of GEAR UP, a program that was supposed to help American Indian students “learn about“ how to access higher education.

How many students have degrees as a result of that program? Learning senior board members were being paid six figures as advisers is absurd. They should be held to account.

As with EB-5, the question is not whether anything illegal occurred but, rather, did officials adhere to the spirit and letter of the law. It appears Rick Melmer, Kelly Duncan, Marty Jackley, Joop Bollen and others know the answers.

It is not coincidental that things are, as Bob Mercer recently noted, blowing sky high. The best way to deal with public controversy is to be transparent; full disclosure. Let’s get this over with and move on.


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