While attention today is focused on state Attorney General Marty Jackley’s appearance tomorrow (Tuesday) before the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee (he reportedly will make some comments in the public portion of the meeting as well as going into executive session with the committee shortly after its 9 a.m. CDT start), the meaty part of the meeting might be commissioner Pat Costello talking about how the Governor’s Office of Economic Development used Future Fund grants awarded by Gov. Dennis Daugaard during the 2012 and 2013 calendar years. It would be worth knowing the results from the 2011 Future Fund grants awarded by Gov. Daugaard and the 2009 and 2010 Future Fund grants awarded by then-Gov. Mike Rounds. Those aren’t on the agenda.
We’re headed into the months that mark the one-year anniversary of the results from the attorney general’s investigation into Richard Benda’s activities while he was secretary of tourism and state development during the Rounds administration, and the actions taken by commissioner Costello, such as terminating in September 2013 the state contract that Benda signed with Joop Bollen of Aberdeen that made SDRC Inc. the administrator of EB-5 immigrant investor activities in South Dakota, and Costello then arranging for an independent auditing firm to look at Future Fund grant activities under Benda. Come Oct. 20 will be the one-year anniversary of the death of Richard Benda by a shotgun wound to his abdomen. The public statements by Gov. Daugaard and former Gov. Rounds after Benda’s body was found Oct. 22 are what lifted the lid publicly on this morasse.
The GOAC meeting comes one week before the Tuesday, August 5, deadline for candidates to withdraw from South Dakota’s general elections; Friday, September 19, is the first day for absentee voting in those elections. Tuesday, November 4, is election day. Unless the Libertarian Party sends forth a nominee, Jackley is unopposed for re-election as attorney general. Rounds is the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate and faces Democrat Rick Weiland and former Republicans turned independents Gordon Howie and Larry Pressler. Daugaard is running for re-election against Democratic Rep. Susan Wismer and independent Michael Myers. The GOAC chairman, Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, faces a re-election challenge from Democrat Jay Vanduch of Brookings.
It would be a public benefit if legislators from both major political parties decided they want to know results of the Future Fund grants made in 2009 through 2011. As chairman, Sen. Tidemann is in the position to make that happen. The money spent on Future Fund grants comes from every business owner in South Dakota who pays unemployment taxes.