The FBI’s public acknowledgment of an ongoing investigation into South Dakota’s management of a federal visa program was part of a larger political move to damage GOP Senate candidate Mike Rounds, says a spokesman for the Rounds campaign.
The investigation into the program’s management during Rounds’s tenure as governor was revealed for the first time in the final weeks of his campaign for Senate. Wadhams, a Republican consultant in the state, says he thinks FBI Minneapolis Division chief counsel Kyle Loven, who first acknowledged the ongoing investigation, was told to do so by his superiors.
“I do think this is pure politics by the Department of Justice and they’re trying to affect the outcome of this election,” Wadhams tells National Review Online. The FBI, meanwhile, has declined to answer NRO’s questions on the matter until next week. The investigation involves the EB-5 program that awards green cards to immigrants who invest large sums of money in businesses that create jobs for American citizens.
Former FBI officials told NRO that the FBI, the South Dakota United States Attorney’s Office, or both groups, must have approved the FBI’s decision to announce the ongoing federal investigation last week.
Wadhams, who was the architect behind Senator John Thune’s victory over then–Senate minority leader Tom Daschle in 2004, sees the fingerprints of South Dakota’s U.S. attorney Brendan Johnson all over the FBI’s announcement. A spokesman from South Dakota’s U.S. attorney’s office responded to requests for comment in an e-mail saying, “The United States Attorney’s Office did not have any role in the FBI’s statement regarding the EB-5 program.” The spokesman did not comment about the substance of the ongoing investigation, and Wadhams says the Rounds campaign believes Johnson is remaining silent about it in order to make it appear as though more will come out.
Johnson, the son of South Dakota’s Democratic senator Tim Johnson, may have political aspirations of his own, but Wadhams thinks his role in the controversy will reflect badly on him. “I think Brendan Johnson is going to be in a real awkward position after the election,” Wadhams says. “I hope there is some public pressure that’s brought to bear on him after this election’s over with.” Wadhams says he hopes Johnson suffers some “political fallout” after the election ends when he is forced to “come clean.” Wadhams predicts Rounds will win the Senate seat, and Johnson will emerge shortly after the election and say that the investigation is complete and the Justice Department will take no further action.
“Why won’t they just tell the people of South Dakota what they have?” Wadhams says. “And the reason they don’t is because they don’t have anything, and they’re trying to convey the impression that there is something out there. And as long as that vague impression is there, it feeds into the Democrats contention, ‘Oh there’s more to come after the election. That’s why you cannot elect Mike Rounds.’ ”
Rounds is not the only GOP candidate running for election this fall who has been scrutinized for his proximity to a federal investigation. Kansas governor Sam Brownback’s former chief of staff and current campaign adviser, David Kensinger, is reportedly under investigation by the FBI too. Whether Rounds’s candidacy will be affected by the announcement of an investigation in South Dakota remains to be seen, but Rounds is leading in recent polling by as much as 14 percentage points over his Democratic opponent.