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Thune Mumbles EB-5 Reform, Williams Says Promoting Investment More Important Than Selling Visas

SDPB’s Lee Strubinger gets Senator John Thune to say the obvious: we need to reform the EB-5 visa investment program:

“It’s a program that’s had a lot of problems,” Thune says. “I think, if it’s going to continue, it needs to be fixed, it needs to be reformed. So, I’m hoping that at least we will be able to find the collective will to make those reforms and to make those changes. I know there are a lot of states who benefit from it. There are a lot of states who are committed to keeping it. But, I just know that it’s had enough problems, which, I think, if it’s going to be continued need to be fixed” [Lee Strubinger, “U.S. Senate Candidates Call for EB-5 Reforms… Culture Change and More Transparency,” SDPB Radio, 2016.08.01].

Senator Thune had a chance to convince his fellow Senator Mike Rounds and his ticketmate Rep. Kristi Noem of the need to fix EB-5 last December, but Rounds and Noem voted to continue EB-5 at Christmastime without any fixing.

Maybe Thune’s challenger, Democrat Jay Williams, would be a bit more persuasive:

“I don’t think the EB-5 program is actually what the problem was or is,” Williams says. “The problem is the administration of it. The South Dakota guys came in and, instead of doing the legitimate thing with EB-5—which is try to promote some investment, foreign investment in a place like South Dakota—they just saw it as a way to sell visas. And I’m not surprised that the investors must be really really unhappy with that” [Strubinger, 2016.08.01].

Note that either Thune nor Williams cite specific reforms, like the Grassley-Leahy-Conyers-Goodlatte proposal to end the gerrymandering of Targeted Employment Areas and focusing EB-5 investment on manufacturing and infrastructure projects, or Rep. Jared Polis’s EB-5 Integrity Act, or the six reforms I suggested last November when Thune last mumbled his vague passive-voice concerns about EB-5. But John Thune has been hanging around Washington, D.C., for twenty years, and in all that time, he hasn’t thought up any specific reforms for EB-5, even after seeing the massive EB-5 scandal that has cost his home state the trust of the USCIS. If we want to get something done on EB-5, we’re going to have to try a new Senator… preferably not one connected to the people who lined their pockets with EB-5 money.


  1. Rorschach 2016-08-02

    Is Thune just an an armchair quarterback, or is he on the team? The problems with crooks hijacking EB-5 for fun and profit have been apparent for years in SD. Thune has his own staff. The fact he’s just sitting back and suggesting that somebody ought to do something is nonfeasance on his part.

    Changing from football metaphors to baseball, I quote a young fan from the game I attended the other night. “We want a pitcher, not a belly itcher.” Even a 5 year old girl gets it.

  2. Roger Cornelius 2016-08-02

    Senator Thune or Senator Rounds don’t want to fix EB-5, they just as soon it all goes away.
    First of all Thune doesn’t have a clue on how to fix ‘it’, and second of all if the senate gets into the repair business they’ll have to find out what precisely is broken with EB-5.
    Rounds can’t afford to go before a senate committee and explain what he did with EB-5 in our state. I’m doubtful the senate would accept his poorly handwritten excuses he provided to GOAC.
    There are headlines to be made here if the senate tries to fix EB-5, Rounds and Thune can’t afford for that to happen and our two senators know it.

  3. leslie 2016-08-02

    an independant forensic investigation needs to occur of SD’s ENTIRE involvement and omissions, and political benefits. Not just Joop and Benda’s roles must be understood, but EVERYONE else involved must be examined to determine what fraud occurred. We don’t know how much damage occurred. $600 million dollars has been said to have been churned.

  4. Kurt Evans 2016-08-02

    Donald Trump has already done more harm the EB-5 program, and Thune won’t even oppose Trump.

  5. Moses11 2016-08-03

    Armchair quarterback.Thune nothing but photo ops and lip service.

  6. Jon H 2016-08-03

    Thune–unfortunately I cannot think of anything he has done—I remember people saying about how his predecessor looked after South Dakota—anyone what to speak up on this?? I have heard he has always been on the Vice Presidential list–if he was not picked by Mr. Trump then when is he going to be picked–how could Trump miss his chance to have someone just like him— That acts like he does something or is somebody—Come on South Dakota–time to let this guy go!

  7. happy camper 2016-08-04

    Turns out many countries have something like EB5 who knew. Canada stopped their program as not beneficial but a “growing number of wealthy foreigners are buying their way into Europe as hard-pressed countries trade their passports for cash. Foreign investors who purchase real estate are granted residency rights, and in some cases full European Union citizenship.”

    Money gets you to the front of the line everywhere I guess. Global big money. In places like Vail the billionaires are pushing out the millionaires.

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