News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bill in South Dakota legislature to change title from governor to capo.

The state legislature has voted down any measures that could provide a comprehensive view of the nature of state government's role in economic development, the way government and private businesses and organizations intersect, and the degree of influence and control that business interests exercise over state government.  After the bankruptcy of Northern Beef Packers and the subsequent revelations of the state's efforts at economic development and the handling of EB-5 loans along with state money, an abundecance of evidence that indicates conspiratorial corruption exists, but the forces in place carefully word their findings and conclusions to evade any serious confrontation with malfeasance and misfeasance and they make any insidious findings sound like minor accounting errors.

Although state officials are careful to withhold from the public any substantive information for which the citizens have the right to demand an accounting, the reports issued on the Governor's Office of Economic Development contain an abundance of evidence of corruption and graft.  A frequent explanation bouncing around is that some acts which have been uncovered may seem unethical, but they aren't illegal.  They were conducted within the law.  There are two major aspects of the South Dakota Legal Code that promote and protect malfeasance and misfeasance as a way of doing business:

  1. Every statute which purports to require public access to information is laden with exceptireons and loop holes that effectually nullify the access by giving state officials the discretion and power to determine what is released.
  2. An absence of laws requiring the keeping of full records of the proceedings of government agencies.  Where there are no records, there is no information for which government agencies and officials can be called into account.
The Northern Beef Packers-Richard Benda-EB-5 affair demonstrates in many aspects how the government has been structured and operated to permit wholesale malfeasance.  The principles by which it operates are to keep unhealthy and criminal alliances with business interests and avoid any direct examination of those alliances by setting up jurisdictional barriers.  When the Department of Legislative Audit released its report on the Office of Economic Development last week, its cover letter carefully erected a jurisdictional barrier to prevent any examination of the collusion of government and business:

However, we considered responsibilities the SDRC, Inc. had to individual EB-5 investors, contractors, related limited partnerships and the projects receiving loans outside the scope of our audit.

 The legal code and the standard operating procedures of South Dakota government permit the establishment of relationships with business interests and the delegation of functions of government to private entities so that the government can disclaim any responsibility for any negative effects that arise.  South Dakota has in effect legalized graft to evade any responsibilities for the schemes it sponsors. 

In most states, such evidence of corruption and collusion would incite much activity by the press to obtain information about what went on and make it public.  Examples are the Chris Christie connection with the George Washington Bridge lane closures last fall.  But South Dakota has, perhaps, the most feckless and bumbling press corps in the nation.  Despite a few tepid editorials demanding information, such information is never forthcoming and the press backs away to keep its cozy relationship with government officials and the business community.  The South Dakota press is easily cowed into submission.

Then there are the bloggers.  Thorough and effective investigative reporting requires the careful coordination of effort and information as a team function.  Such coordination is needed to produce a comprehensive and coherent account of what is taking place.  Many times investigative reports involve legal counsel who helps the reporters and editors produce a story that conforms to presentation of evidence for a legal prosecution.  Bloggers tend to see their fellows as competitors, not team members engaged in a coherent pursuit of facts.  

However, when sound information is presented in some blogs, it is rendered useless by the  comments it inspires.  The many silly attitudes and ill-informed opinions expressed in comment section reduces good information to level of gossipy chatter and hard, astounding facts get flushed away in the wash.   

If ever the people of South Dakota are to be given an accounting of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, the South Dakota Regional Center,  Northern Beef Packers, and te death of Richard Benda, it will have to at the hands of some national news agency that exists outside of the fearful climate of South Dakota.  The problem is that to the national press, South Dakota is not a place of enough consequence to warrant national attention.

Meanwhile, malfeasance and misfeasance are the rule in South Dakota. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States