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Published December 23, 2013, 09:48 AM

'Jackley isn't doing his job'

The EB-5 immigration visas for cash controversy is difficult to follow.

By: The Rapid City(S.D.) Journal, Agweek

The EB-5 immigration visas for cash controversy is difficult to follow. We admit to some confusion over how South Dakota got itself in a broil over employing a legal federal program that trades visas for foreign investment dollars to keep the Northern Beef Packers plant in Aberdeen, S.D., open. The FBI is investigating the state’s use of the EB-5 program, and we are inclined to let federal investigators dig and find out what happened.

We would let it go at that, except $550,000 in state funds from a $1 million Futures Fund grant intended to pay for construction and equipment costs at the Aberdeen plant was diverted to South Dakota Regional Center Inc. for loan monitoring fees. SDRC is a private company hired to administer the EB-5 investment and visa program for the state. Former Secretary of Tourism and State Development Richard Benda ran the investment program for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and later with SDRC. Benda had been questioned by the FBI when he committed suicide in October.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard says the visa program predated his administration, and that a state investigation had uncovered the redirection of state funds.

Daugaard has ordered reviews of the grant programs, an audit of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and an independent internal control examination. But, because SDRC is a private contractor, the state can’t audit the company.

The diversion of $550,000 in state funds to pay loan fees for SDRC is a serious matter that should be investigated. Who authorized the diversion, and what, exactly, did the money pay for?

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says he turned the investigation over to the FBI, which was already investigating the EB-5 program. He says it’s a federal matter, and he isn’t going to try to recover the state’s money.

Jackley isn’t doing his job, in our view; the state should investigate where state funds went and how they were used.

Editor’s note: The Associated Press released this excerpt from the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal from Dec. 12.