GOAC will take limited look at Future Fund grants

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.

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About Bob Mercer

I am a newspaper reporter in Pierre where I cover state government, issues and politics for the Aberdeen American News, the Black Hills Pioneer, the Mitchell Daily Republic, the Pierre Capital Journal, the Rapid City Journal, the Watertown Public Opinion and the Yankton Press & Dakotan. I began covering the Legislature in 1985 and have lived in Pierre since December 1986. I grew up in Wisconsin, worked my way through college, took my first full-time newspapers jobs in Wyoming, and have lived in South Dakota since the summer of 1984 when I moved to Aberdeen to join the American News. I worked for the Rapid City Journal as its state government reporter in Pierre from late 1992 through late 1998. I spent four years as press secretary and a senior aide to Gov. Bill Janklow during his fourth and final term from late 1998 through 2002. I returned to journalism in January 2003 as a self-employed reporter, providing state government coverage to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre and, depending on the year, Aberdeen newspapers. In 2008, the Aberdeen American News offered to hire me as full-time member of the AAN staff, with my reports continuing to be available to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre, Yankton and Rapid City papers. The new arrangement has been in effect since January 2009 as the seven papers continue their remarkable dedication to their readers and the general public, as the only South Dakota news outlets with a full-time reporter covering state government in Pierre throughout the year. In addition to focusing on the Legislature during the annual winter session and its various activities during the interim periods between sessions, I spend many days throughout the year -- traveling as often necessary -- to cover state government boards and commissions which oversee the state universities, technical institutes, outdoors, water, environment, business, public schools, banking, agriculture, utilities, health care and various other areas of public interest. I purposely don't register to vote because of my profession; the last time I recall voting in a presidential election was the first time, 1976, when I had just turned 18. I think I voted for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford. Make of that what you want, just don't make much of it.

2 thoughts on “GOAC will take limited look at Future Fund grants

  1. Stan

    It might be very interesting, to anyone who cares, to see who the GOAC chairman was in 2007 and 2008 – and who appointed that person to the position. This was the time that this misbehaviour started, and as you suggest above, GOAC should/could have detected the shenanigans.

    I would suspect that more will be heard on this subject before the summer elapses.

    Stanford Adelstein, former Senator District 32

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