Rounds Unaware of Wrongdoing in GEAR UP

South Dakota’s junior Senator Mike Rounds sums up his political acumen in one sentence:

I’m still not aware of anything [Sen. Mike Rounds, in Angela Kennecke, “Senator Rounds Addresses GEAR UP Accountability During His Administration,” KELO-TV, 2016.05.26].

Governor Mike Rounds and Bureau of Indian Education director Keith Moore, honored at SD Indian Education Summit, Oct 2010. Photo by Lakota Country Times.
Governor Mike Rounds and Bureau of Indian Education director Keith Moore, honored at SD Indian Education Summit, Oct 2010. Photo by Lakota Country Times.

Senator Rounds is referring to the GEAR UP scandal, which, just like the EB-5 scandalgot rolling under his gubernatorial watch. The attorney general he appointed files criminal charges against three GEAR UP officials, and Mike Rounds still isn’t aware of any wrongdoing.

We’ve noted connections between then-Governor Rounds and GEAR UP players Stacy Phelps and Keith Moore. Kennecke says she has gotten a former GEAR UP worker to offer the following anonymous assessment of Rounds’s connection with Phelps and GEAR UP:

The former worker, who spoke to us, says there was no accountability with the GEAR UP grant money under Phelps’ direction.

“The people he was getting all this money from – they needed to watch him. It unraveled. Guilty, I could be guilty of sitting there watching it unravel, but it unraveled, nobody was watching him. Governor Rounds was coming to GEAR UP every summer, he was coming all the time, he was like Stacy’s friend and it just seems like nobody was watching him. We could spend all this money on stuff and we weren’t doing crap—we weren’t doing anything anymore” [Kennecke, 2016.05.26].

Even if we take Mike Rounds at his word, his failure to see any signal of corruption in his EB-5 and GEAR UP programs signals a gullibility, incuriosity, or simple stupidity that is partly to blame for the loss of seven lives and millions of tax dollars. I guess if I were Mike, I might prefer to remain unaware of my own shameful legacy of failure to protect South Dakota from such corruption.

18 Responses to Rounds Unaware of Wrongdoing in GEAR UP

  1. right

  2. Catherine Ratliff

    Stupid, gullible, incurious. And corrupt. Hire all your friends and relatives and then look away. Disgusting. I voted for Rick Weiland.

  3. Watch the kelo interview when Angela pushes him, he denies being aware of any wrongdoing in gear up during his time as governor. During this response, he is shaking his head side to side the whole time which is a classic subconscious response to being deceptive. May want to work on your tells Mikey, you will be on the stand soon!

  4. Lanny V Stricherz

    The incredible and sad part of this, is why wasn’t KELO doing this investigative stuff before the 2014 election? I am so happy to see Ms Kennecke has become more than just a news anchor, and that is even spreading to Don Jorgenson, as they are doing more than fluff pieces. I have switched back to KELO as my station of choice for local news.

    Sadder still is the fact that the Senator, who could only garner 27% (if memory serves) of the vote in his party’s primary, but was able to rally the party troops to his cause and get over the 50% in the general, so that there was not a runoff.

  5. I am so happy with KELO Angela Kennecke’s reports. I follow them. And they are doing real news. But, why doesn’t Mr. Jackley do more? Or FBI ? or someone? These higher-ups are the ones that are going to walk away. It takes real guts and putting your political career on the line to pursue the truth.

  6. How about EB-5? Has he heard of that? Is he aware that Joopster is looking a little questionable? Has he heard that Mr Benda has passed? Gee, Senator, what publications do you read? It’s been in all the papers! I imagine, like Sarah Palin, “You know, all the usual…”! Be proud, SD, be proud!

  7. Want to watch a world class dirtbag lie without any hint of conscience?

    Watch Mike Rounds answer that he knew nothing about the Gear Up gravy train. Watch Mike Rounds answer the press and the legislature that he knew nothing about the EB-5 gravy train.

    It all happened on his watch. He wasn’t a bystander. He knew those people. He was in charge. They answered to him. There wasn’t that much distance between his desk and their activities, especially when someone wanted a photo to help seal a deal.

    Again, the only reason anyone outside the Rounds inner circle knows about any of this is because of the violent deaths of seven people. The likelihood that this kind of graft is much more common and widespread in the Rounds network is very strong.

    It is regrettable that the slop from Mike Rounds’ corrupt machine has damaged the reputation of Gov. Dennis Daugaard. The fact Mike Rounds got rewarded with a U.S. Senate seat and Dennis Daugaard’s reputation is permanently stained is the result of a systemic failure of the news media in South Dakota to aggressively do its job as The Fourth Estate. [I’m leaving Marty Jackley out of this.]

    They let a few reporters take a stab at it but failed to work together and muster resources to reach deep and expose the corruption as professional news media in other states have done for decades.

    The real Mike Rounds story was more than an opportunity for national award winning news writing, it was a calling to serve society that was ignored, perhaps because the people in charge of the editorial boards and TV and radio newsrooms don’t understand their own obligation to their communities. Even after the S.D. Democratic Party hired the brilliant attorney Patrick Duffy to make a paint-by-the-numbers presentation of the EB-5 racketeering scam and its criminal path, the mighty Sioux Falls media gave it a collective “meh.”

    It was an election year, right? The media wouldn’t let the focus drift past the horse race. Mike Rounds knew that. He confidently ran down the clock right in front of everyone’s face.

    I agree with Lanny. It’s sad they didn’t inspire Angela Kennecke to set a more professional standard for her peers back in October 2013. Folks, we’re coming up on three years of letting Mike Rounds off the hook. How can that be allowed to stand?

  8. I am not liberally inclined, but I do appreciate these articles about GEAR UP. Your commentary about Mid Central is what caused me to start following Dakota Free Press. The people involved in corruption do need to be shamed. Hopefully this will discourage others.

    Continue shining the spotlight of truth on corruption in South Dakota.

  9. Correction, Lanny: Rounds cleared 50% in both the GOP (Greedy One Percent) primary and in the general election:,_2014

  10. mike from iowa

    @ Tim-then you aren’t the Tim from Rapid City who used to post here? Welcome aboard!

  11. Lanny V Stricherz

    Whoops, went back and checked you are right. I must have been thinking of the October 2013 poll, the first one in which he dropped below 50%, but then he was still at 46%. The last one before the primary, being none of the much deserved mud was sticking, (mainly because the MSM except for Mercer, would not get involved with the investigation), was back up over 61%. Thanks for the correction Cory.

  12. @ Mike — I am a different Tim. Thanks for the welcome.

  13. Steve Sibson

    “Even if we take Mike Rounds at his word, his failure to see any signal of corruption in his EB-5 and GEAR UP programs signals a gullibility, incuriosity, or simple stupidity that is partly to blame for the loss of seven lives and millions of tax dollars.”

    I agree, We also should apply gullibility, incuriosity, or simple stupidity to those who promote public education and Indian welfare.

  14. I think: some I can prove, some is theory. Rounds put Melmer in place, Melmer put Guericke in place, Melmer put Moore in place, Moore put Phelps in place and the table was set. Melmer rushed to get the grant, waited until all was set and good to go, took some time to make sure the money was flowing and then resigned his position at DOE so that he could legally take part of the money. Moore resigned a short time later so as not to look to suspicious, so he could also get his share.
    Tim Oster followed Melmer into the Secretary of DOE office but didn’t last long. I am guessing he wasn’t willing to play the game, but Schopp was. Not only was she willing, but she had been there within the department and either was in on the game or she had figured it out. And Schopp had proven over and over that she was willing to do anything. So Schopp took over and made sure that the money kept flowing and that no one interfered, that is until two representatives got suspicious and started questioning in public. Schopp never makes one move without the governor and with input decides to take gear-up money away from mid-central as the least disruptive move. It backfired and four children died. Four children died, is anyone but keloland listening to their voices?
    Then along comes damage control and it is amazing that within an hour all was being managed by Jackley, just another gamer. One of the first things an investigator does is talk to the people who were face to face with the victims (scott) during the last hours of their lives. This was never done. My theory is that Scott was going to come clean and had to be stopped. His time on the phone that evening is interesting. Why talk for so long unless there is a disagreement.
    Rounds had made a big deal about how SD’s native children needed help. He did that after finding out about Gear-Up money. He needed to broadcast the need (the need is actually very real, but it was used to validate the plan) to get the public to think he was actually trying to help. And the office of Indian Ed was created within the DOE. It is the only office within the department that has no employees other than the director, not even its own secretary. That is completely unique and was looked at with suspicion from others within the department. By the way, current employees of DOE are not allowed to refer to the gear-up scandal in anyway. An employee who asked an innocent question about another grant given to mid-central was threatened with career ruining.
    Remember, four little kids were murdered.
    Thank you Keloland and Angela Kennecke for not letting the big boys and girls shove these four little kids off to the side.

  15. Lanny V Stricherz

    What a great critique, Vic. I realize that part of what your wrote is supposition, but most assuredly, we will never find out if it is all true or not since the State will never do the right thing. As far as Rounds being concerned about the Native kids as in his stuff on the IHS, think back to when he stuck up for the hog confinement builders from Iowa moving their pig factory to two miles above Marty’s daycare and dissing the Native protesters who were trying to get it stopped.

    And while thinking about those four little kids, think of the Native kids who had their life altered because they did not get the education funds that were meant for them in Gearup.

  16. Roger Cornelius

    What is ‘Indian welfare’, Sibson?

  17. Lanny V Stricherz

    You make a great point, Roger. Some people see the US Government fulfilling its treaty promises as welfare. And the government has done a great job of teaching corporate America the same lesson. Corporations have figured out how to steal the pensions and healthcare away from the people who had worked for them. Just because it was in the terms of your retirement doesn’t mean that you will get it.

  18. Jeff Barth

    It was not until they took Angela off the “read the news” gig that she started kicking butt. The Argus never thought beyond “the dead guy did it”.