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COLUMN: Let light shine on EB-5

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Recently, I urged the Government Operations & Audit Committee to obtain more information about the management and outcome of the EB-5 program, specifically regarding Northern Beef Packers. I motioned to subpoena Joop Bollen, former director of the EB-5 program in South Dakota. While I tried to bring transparency and balance back to the South Dakota state government, Republican legislators on the committee tried to silence me.

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I won't be silenced. This is the rest of what I wanted to say during that meeting.

I've come to believe that this committee is not faithfully executing the charge our Legislature gave under House Concurrent Resolution 1010. The resolution gives the right to seek additional information, yet members of the committee have sought no information outside the parameters dictated by the Gov. Dennis Daugaard administration. The resolution gives the right to order additional audits, yet despite Cayman Island bank accounts and unaccounted funds, a full and forensic audit to uncover potential abuses at the Governor's Office of Economic Development has not been ordered. And most importantly, the resolution gives the right to question persons involved, summon witnesses and issue subpoenas -- yet Republicans on the committee deliberately avoided talking to the highest officials in the Rounds-Daugaard administration who oversaw this project.

At the end of the day, most of the wealthy foreign investors got their EB-5 visas, and former Rounds-Daugaard employees made millions administering the program for the state. But now a man is dead, a beef packing plant is bankrupt, South Dakota taxpayers have lost millions of dollars from a Rounds-Daugaard administration program and the Republicans on this committee refuse to ask questions. South Dakota's good name was used to recruit wealthy foreign investors who got their investment immigrant visas while South Dakotans lost millions of dollars, and I'm not going to idly stand by while Republicans in the Legislature try to hide the truth.

On behalf of South Dakotans, I called on all members of the Government Operations and Audit Committee to seek answers and subpoena key Rounds-Daugaard administration officials. That request was ignored, but I promise to continue fighting corruption on behalf of taxpayers -- and I will not be bullied into submission until all the questions about the EB-5 program are answered.

It's time to let the light shine on EB-5. South Dakotans deserve answers. We deserve to know how our tax money was handled. We deserve a government that conducts business honestly and ethically. EB-5 is just one of the many symptoms of a bigger problem -- years of one-party rule in our state government.

We need balance, transparency and accountability in Pierre. Let's work together to hold our government officials accountable for their actions. Let's continue to ask the tough questions about the management of EB-5 and the Rounds-Daugaard administration's involvement. The future of transparency and openness in our government depends on it.

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