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].
Senator Rounds is referring to the GEAR UP scandal, which, just like the EB-5 scandal, got 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.