Let's make one thing clear: This Dan Nelson Automotive fiasco is not the bloggers' fault, not KELOLAND's fault, not the Iowa Attorney General's fault, not my fault. Let's take a look.
There were THOUSANDS of complaints against DNA in Iowa to the Iowa AG. All of those people weren't Democrats.
"Buy here pay here" is a controversial means of selling people with distressed credit vehicles, particularly when interest rates are 25% in a time when interest rates in general are at historic lows. The Iowa AG's investigation apparently found not just smoke but fire at DNA.
John Thune had a close, long term relationship with Dan Nelson. Dan Nelson had a close, long term relationship with MetaBank's Tyler Haahr. Large loans that were made on the cusp of DNA's bankruptcy by MetaBank. John Thune sat on the Board of Directors at MetaBank at the time. There is an appearance of conflict of interest with Thune sitting on the board (where the buck literally stops) and Nelson. What we don't know is if Thune pulled any strings for Nelson. We're still trying to figure out if there is actual conflict of interest. That hasn't been proven or disproven yet.
Thune has denied he has pulled any strings for Nelson. That is yet to be proven or disproven.
The reporting on MetaGate, even by the Lefty blogs, has been almost exclusively based on public records and court filings. There is a paper trail and my buddies on the Left have simply followed it. Now, some of the SDMSM is also following it.
A formerly small, family owned Iowa bank could be in financial trouble because of its bad loans. The full extent of that trouble, if any, has not been determined yet.
This case is ultimately about Dan and John's own personal responsibility and DNA's and MetaBank's own corporate responsibility. I find it funny that some Republicans like John Thune are great about preaching responsibility but when things get a little hot that they are involved in, it is suddenly somebody else's responsibility. Like the bloggers. Geez.
Sen. Thune said in the Senate campaign that he was better than Tom Daschle because he "had the President's ear" on Ellsworth and generally had more clout. Then, when EAFB goes south, he suddenly has no clout and is no better than an unknown freshman Senator from a small state. He puts on this "oh poor me" act about having to throw hardballs at the President's head to get his attention on issues like the Bolton nomination and CAFTA. Again, geez.
Same with MetaBank. You have to imagine he was put on the MetaBank board because of his connections (former Congressman, Congressional lobbyist, former legislative lobbyist, former Senate staffer, former SBA staffer), ties to President Bush (convinced him twice to run for Senate), friendship with Nelson, and the distinct possibility that he would be the next U.S. Senator from South Dakota. Now, he says he's a Lee Harvey Oswald-like "patsy" who just went to a few meetings and lots of other people signed off on loans.
If Thune was put on the MetaBank board because of his friendship with Nelson, that in and of itself is not a problem. That is how business works. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. The problem is if Thune knew of the extent of Nelson's problems at DNA and whether he disclosed those problems to MetaBank when they were considering the loans.
Either Thune has clout and connections or he doesn't. He apparently turns his clout on and off like a faucet, depending upon the the political mess he is in.
Todd D. Epp is an attorney, Democratic activist, former broadcast journalist, and editor of "S.D. Watch" (thunewatch.squaresapce.com)