Put Down The Crack Pipe, SC


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#313 May 13, 2010
John Spratt Is Confused By Obamacare

In an article ironically entitled “Democrats Sell Benefits of Health Reform,” U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt admitted this week that he was unsure of exactly what was in the final version of the $2.5 trillion socialized medicine bill that he rammed through the Congress two months ago.

From The Politico:

Much of the challenge, one representative explains, lies in how much the bill evolved in the reform process. With the law changing between different versions, and still changing as new regulations get written, answering constituent questions can pose a significant challenge.

“You need to know what you’re talking about and this is extremely complex,” said Spratt, who faces a potentially tough re-election race.“It’s really difficult to remember,‘was this in this bill, or was this in the bill Senate side.’”

It’s an issue that Spratt and others acknowledge needs to be addressed, likely sooner rather than later.

“Lord knows,” said Spratt,“we have not done the job we need to do communicating it to the people …”

For those of you who’ve already forgotten, Spratt was the lead sponsor of the legislation as well as the lawmaker who shepherded it through the committee process – even after he had previously expressed reservations about the bill.

Spratt’s opponent in the November race for the fifth district, S.C. Senator Mick Mulvaney, wasted no time in exploiting the opening.

“Has he decided if he likes the bill yet?” joked Mulvaney.

Previously, Spratt said that he only voted for Obamacare because he wanted to “fix” its flaws in the U.S. Senate. Of course, Spratt later reversed his position by championing the administration’s version of the bill, adding that Obama had “done a magnificent job” on health care.

“I wish he would just be honest and say he didn’t read it but voted for it because that’s what he was told to do by the President and Mrs. Pelosi,” Mulvaney added.


Obviously Spratt’s votes – on Obamacare, the bailouts and “cap and trade”– are bad enough, but these ongoing verbal gaffes are making matters worse. Oh, the fact that Spratt was also too busy ramming Obamacare through the House to do his job and pass a budget probably won’t help him either … particularly among independents.


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#314 May 13, 2010
Shame on S.C. Treasurer Converse Chellis, whose first TV ad includes a gratuitous shot at former S.C. Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, the Lowcountry fiscal conservative who resigned in the wake of a drug scandal three years ago.

“When crisis rocked the State Treasurer’s Office, South Carolina turned to Converse Chellis,” the incumbent’s introductory TV ad proclaims over images of ‘Ravenel Indicted’ headlines.

The ad goes on to say that Chellis “restored integrity and stability” to the office, before claiming that he is a “proven conservative.”

Here’s the clip …

First of all, if Converse Chellis is a “proven conservative,” then we’re f*cking Daffy Duck.

In addition to a long history of fiscally reckless votes in the legislature and on the Budget and Control Board, Chellis has also funded bailouts for money-losing private maritime museums – the definition of “picking a loser” in the marketplace. Also, if you’re going to “restore integrity and stability” to the office, it might help to actually BE in the office – which has apparently been a bit of a problem for Chellis (who makes $92,000 a year and has all sorts of taxpayer-funded perks in his “part-time” position).

But here’s our real beef with this ad – it’s the way that Chellis brazenly seeks to profit from the misfortune of a guy who has done nothing but take his medicine like a man.

Say what you want about Thomas Ravenel (and people have said plenty), but the guy took responsibility for his actions – he didn’t duck and run like a coward. Nor did he pull a Mark Sanford and turn his personal crisis into an ongoing Narcissistic rant.

What did he do? He accepted his sentence and did his time in a federal prison – never once bitching about the fact that he got set up or that he was incarcerated out of politically-correct spite.

Oh, and whatever personal failings Ravenel may have had, he never let them interfere with protecting the taxpayers, which was the job he was elected to do in the first place.

Obviously, we disagree with most aspects of U.S. drug policy, but the case of Thomas Ravenel was a political hit – one that was called in as soon as the political establishment in Columbia (notably Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman and House Ways and Means Chairman Danny Cooper) recognized that the new Treasurer wasn’t going to vote in lockstep with the liberal “tax and spend” agenda supported by his predecessor.

Chellis, incidentally, has been a reliable “big government” vote for Leatherman and Cooper ever since taking his seat on the board …

Restoring integrity?

Please …

UPDATE: Forgot to mention … Ravenel declined to comment for our story.


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#315 May 13, 2010

By PalmettoWatchDog on May 13th, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Chellis is wrong for South Carolina. He’s part of the problem and I plan on fixing it on June 8th. Loftis is the people’s choice and he has my vote.

By John on May 13th, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Chellis was sued for fraud and sexual harrasment by his former CPA partner and his insurance company paid a large 6 figure settlement to keep the case from going to court. He is the typical Columbia Insider that chases skirts, sells favors and calls himself a Ronald Reagan Conservative. He is disgusting.

By Maggie on May 13th, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Maybe Ravenel never bitched “about the fact that he got set up or that he was incarcerated out of politically-correct spite” because those weren’t facts at all, and he and everyone else knew he was guilty as sin. I dunno, just a thought.

By Bob on May 13th, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Chellis has 99 problems, and work ain’t one.

By McCord on May 13th, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Chellis is not independent and owes his livelihood to the legislators who installed him into his office when Thomas Ravenel went to jail. I agree with FITS — this man is a mockery of independence. He is a stool-pigeon who calls his legislative handlers before making any important decisions. Something like their not-so-secret “control” or “mole” in the Treasurer’s Office. Like Kim Philby for the KGB. But here the mole and the Treasurer are one and the same. No intermediaries needed.

By Hell of a drug on May 13th, 2010 at 5:10 pm

I’d rather have Ravenel coked out cutting taxes than Chellis sucking off cooper and leatherman any day.

By ChellisDeChump on May 13th, 2010 at 5:12 pm

Chellis has no record so he runs on smears and attacks against anyone and anybody as long as he thinks he will profit by it. Ravenel was just convenient. You can’t believe a word Chellis says.

People in Summerville will tell you of a man and wife that have played hard (mainly with other people’s husbands and wives) drank hard (Sharon got a DUI with children in the car!), and were altogether selfish people that took far more than they have given.

I think he is going to lose this election.

By A real CPA on May 13th, 2010 at 5:16 pm

I am a CPA and have been watching Chellis a long time. He is a fraud.
Chellis says we have an AAA credit rating. We don’t as Standard and Poors downgraded us.

Chellis says his office made no mistake in the “missing 60 million dollars” but now emails have emerged showing that Dept of Revenue pleaded for the account number and that Chellis dragged his feet causing a real budget crises.

Chellis is a nasty man that was given an office by his friends in the legislature. He works part time and drives around in a taxpayer supported SUV, acting like some plantation owner while fleecing the taxpayers. Let’s dump this guy on June 8th and send him packing.

By Groundball on May 13th, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Gosh ….. you guys don’t like Chellis?

By Lilly Collette on May 13th, 2010 at 5:55 pm

News flash film at eleven:
I have no respect for any of them; south carolina is a leporus pustule on the back of decent human beings.


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#316 May 14, 2010
By FITSNews || In case you haven’t noticed, we bash the ever-living crap out of RINOs (a.k.a. DICs) on this website.

Seriously … if these so-called “Republicans” are going to raise taxes and grow government during the worst economic downturn in eight decades, we’re going to call them out for it.

Simple as that.

Anyway, our brutally-honest approach hasn’t won us many friends within the S.C. political establishment (which our founding editor Sic Willie re-discovered during a rare visit to the State House this week), but there is actually one RINO who has proven over the years that he knows how to “take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.”

Sen. John Courson (RINO-Columbia) is always high on our list of targets, but he’s also always been one of the few lawmakers who understands how to handle criticism. In fact, in spite of all the slings and arrows we fire off in his direction, every year he sends Sic Willie a copy of the latest legislative manual with a handwritten note on the inside cover.

This year’s note?


I hope that you enjoy our new legislative manual.


Awwww … it only took him, what, a quarter century in the S.C. Senate to figure it out?

Anyway, thanks to Sen. Courson for his honesty … and for his sense of humor. It’s all too rare in this business …

UPDATE: We would be remiss not to mention that in a rare show of fiscal conservatism, Courson was one of thirteen State Senators to vote in favor of sustaining S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford’s veto of a cigarette tax hike on Thursday. Props where props are due!


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#317 May 15, 2010
South Carolina’s most notorious big government boondoggle still needs tens of millions of dollars in public funding – despite the fact that the controversial project has already blown through $140 million and failed to produce anything resembling the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in private investment that it promised.

The Innovista “research campus”– which has become a costly monument to the failure of government-run “economic development” schemes – was supposed to lure the “hydrogen economy of the future” to downtown Columbia, S.C. Years later, however, all the project has done is erect two unfinished buildings and a pair of parking garages – while “creating” a handful of taxpayer-funded jobs.

Now, Innovista officials say they will need another $20 million to finish two vacant buildings while the University of South Carolina pursues a dramatically-scaled back version of its “research campus.” In fact, according to a story in Friday’s La Socialista – a.k.a. The (Columbia S.C.) State newspaper – it appears that the University is no longer aggressively seeking private investment.

USC is still open to private development on its campus. But,(USC Vice President Ted) Moore said, in an economic downturn,“it’s not a lucrative approach right now.”

“We have been dealt a hand by the economy,” Moore said.“There’s a lot of risk out there, and we have a lot more careful planning in place.”


And there you have it … and from the project’s premier promoter (as well as its insurance policy against bad press over the years), no less.

Here’s the bottom line: Like the $140 million already poured down the drain on this unmitigated disaster, Innovista is going to continue robbing us of our tax dollars until we kill it.

In fact, in the latest version of the state budget, S.C. Speaker Bobby Harrell and his “tax and spend” legislative allies continue to pour cash down this speculative sinkhole (while at the same time forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab for core government services like law enforcement and our court system).

That’s pathetic if you ask us.

UPDATE: Innovista also paid off nearly $900,000 in “foundation” money to its SECOND failed developer, La Socialista reports. Because contributions to USC’s foundation are tax deductible (and used for University purposes, obviously), we contend that this is “public” money. We’ll have more info on this aspect of the Innovista scam soon, though, so stay tuned …


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#318 May 15, 2010

By Commonman on May 14th, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Every other state in the Union is reducing expenditures, except for South Carolina. The Gen. Ass. can’t, or won’t, fund the Judiciary , but they throw money at this project. Tuition will be rising, but the Gen. Ass. says this is not a tax increase. This state is going down with all of this fiscally conservative, Republican leadership. Barry Goldwater is spinning in his grave when these guys use the phrase conservative to describe themselves..

By myles keogh on May 14th, 2010 at 7:51 pm

“Innovista also paid off nearly $900,000 in “foundation” money to its SECOND failed developer, La Socialista reports.”

I saw where the law school dean is leaving. What is this…the fourth dean in 10 years? The Law School continues to be in shambles and the rest of the university under this president and Board of Trustees is right behind.

The Board and President need to be investigated along with the legislature criminal negligence in their failure to uphold their fiduciary responsibilities as trustees. DISGRACEFUL!

By anonymous on May 15th, 2010 at 9:35 am

Goons Sanfraud, Davis, and Stern attempt to ripoff SC with Port Circle Jerk. Bend-over and take it in the Port.

Charleston developer to buy Port of Port Royal for $16.75 million

Buyer signs $16.75M contract for Port of Port Royal


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#319 May 16, 2010
Eric Bedingfield doesn’t look (or sound) the part of a principled reformer. He’s a good ole boy … and in South Carolina that invariably means he’s all about corruption, hypocrisy and wasting your tax dollars.

But while Bedingfield walks and talks like a typical “Columbia joker,” he sure doesn’t vote that way. In fact, last year Bedingfield was one of only fifteen lawmakers (out of 176) in the entire S.C. General Assembly to earn an “A” grade from the S.C. Club for Growth for his votes to limit government spending. That’s consistent with his voting record in the past, and is a performance he is reprising this session.

Yet what makes Bedingfield’s brand of fiscal conservatism noteworthy is not only how he votes, but how willingly (and publicly) he speaks out against the “tax and spend” RINOs (DICs) who make up the legislative leadership of both the S.C. House and the State Senate. The most recent example of this occurred during the debate over the cigarette tax, where “Republican” leaders like Speaker Bobby Harrell and Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman pushed through the state’s largest tax hike in more than a quarter century – and did so without a corresponding tax decrease or long-overdue reforms to our state’s broken tax code and health care delivery system.

Anyway, in standing up against the tax hike, Bedingfield once again hit the nail on the head when it comes to diagnosing the fundamental problem with the SCGOP.

Here, in its entirety, is Bedingfield’s statement from last week’s debate:

When I first ran for the House of Representatives, I was overwhelmed with the constant urging of those in my community who asked me not to turn my back on them the way Washington Republicans did. I gave my promise that I would not let Columbia and its tax and spend constituency consume me.

My friends, our single most unifying message—a message that has attracted millions to elect a Republican majority in South Carolina– is that we stand against the tax and spend agenda.

Today, I am standing up as I promised those who elected me I would, to say enough is enough. We are a party with core values, and those values require us to say no to raising any tax that funds a Medicaid program that is spiraling out of control with waste, fraud and abuse. I know the cigarette tax is popular among some, but it is just plain bad public policy to use it as a program funding source. As a legislative body we can cobble together support to tax just about anything… but just because we can to it doesn’t mean it’s right. Yes, we are in tough budget times right now. We will be for some time to come. After we pass this tax, what comes next? We have infrastructure needs. Are we going to increase the gas tax next?

As Republicans, and as South Carolina’s leaders, I am urging my colleagues to do what is right. Stop this tax increase to fund Obama’s Medicaid mess and get back to our core values.

Amen, people. Amen.

Bedingfield’s words were even more pointed during a closed-door GOP Caucus meeting that took place prior to the House voting 90-29 to override Gov. Mark Sanford’s veto of a fifty-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase. We’ve also been told that the Upstate lawmaker has been threatened with retribution by Speaker Harrell for his aggressive pro-taxpayer advocacy.

That’s a shame, but it’s not surprising from Harrell – who has demonstrated he’s more than willing to be vindictive in his efforts to preserve South Carolina’s “tax and spend” status quo.

The bottom line, though, is that South Carolina’s “Republican-controlled” General Assembly is simply not listening to leaders like Bedingfield – whether on the cigarette tax hike or on a host of other tax and spending increases that are currently part of next year’s $21.1 billion budget, which is the state’s largest ever.

Until they start listening (and start fulfilling the “less government” portion of their campaign rhetoric), our state will continue to be an anti-competitive economic wasteland …


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#320 May 17, 2010
With no accompanying reform and no corresponding tax relief, South Carolina’s “Republican-controlled” General Assembly has voted to raise the state’s cigarette tax by fifty cents per pack – overriding S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford’s veto of the legislation last week.

It was a boneheaded move for several reasons.

First, the “revenue” generated by the tax will completely vanish within the next few years – completely absorbed by annual Medicaid premium increases.

Second, South Carolina’s border counties will lose out on hundreds (maybe thousands) of jobs now that our state’s cigarette tax is more expensive than both Georgia’s and North Carolina’s. This trend will be particularly pronounced on the Georgia border in places like Aiken County, which is why Sen. Shane Massey’s decision to support the tax hike is especially troublesome.

Most troublesome, though, is that raising the cigarette tax in this way not only squanders taxpayer money – it squanders a golden opportunity to reform our state’s antiquated tax code as well as its hopelessly fragmented health care delivery system. Those aren’t easy tasks, to be sure, but lawmakers should have been looking for ways to lower the state’s overall tax burden and consolidate health care agencies – not routing pork barrel spending to Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman’s district or guaranteeing a fat annual marketing contract for one of the state’s most liberal PR firms.

Once again, lawmakers took the easy way out – and legislative leaders padded their pockets in the process.

This is also the second major tax hike on smokers within the last thirteen months, following a 62-cent per-pack increase imposed by the federal government last April.

Irrespective of whether you supported the cigarette tax hike, though, there’s something to be said for elected officials keeping their word, isn’t there?

Sure there is. Unfortunately, 19 state lawmakers – four Senators and fifteen Representatives – broke their “No New Taxes” pledge by voting to override the governor’s cigarette tax veto.

According to Americans for Tax Reform, they are:

Sen. Dick Elliot (D-Horry)
Sen. Mike Fair (RINO-Greenville)
Sen. Yancey McGill (D-Williamsburg)
Sen. Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington)
Rep. Jimmy Bales (D-Richland)
Rep. Bruce Bannister (RINO-Greenville)
Rep. Kenny Bingham (RINO-Lexington)
Rep. Bill Bowers (D-Hampton)
Rep. Joan Brady (RINO-Richland)
Rep. Marion Frye (RINO-Saluda)
Rep. Jim Harrison (RINO-Richland)
Rep. Chip Huggins (RINO-Lexington)
Rep. Lanny Littlejohn (RINO-Spartanburg)
Rep. Jay Lucas (RINO-Darlington)
Rep. Jimmy Merrill (RINO-Charleston)
Rep. Rex Rice (RINO-Pickens)
Rep. Murrell Smith (RINO-Sumter)
Rep. Roland Smith (RINO-Aiken)
Rep. Annette Young (RINO-Dorchester)

Had these lawmakers simply honored their pledges, the governor’s veto of the tax increase would have been easily sustained.

Of course there are also a number of other lawmakers who claim to be fiscal conservatives on the campaign trail (i.e. Rep. Deborah Long of Lancaster or Sen. Mike Rose or Dorchester) who voted in favor of overriding Sanford’s veto as well.

We’ll be addressing their treachery in future posts …


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#321 May 17, 2010
A South Carolina bank that received nearly $350 million in bailout money has been sold to a Canadian bank in a deal that will cost shareholders tens of millions of dollars and U.S. taxpayers more than $216 million.

The South Financial Group (TSFG)– whose former chief executive Mack I. Whittle received a $12 million golden parachute in 2008 – has been sold to Toronto-Dominion Bank for $191.6 million, although just $61 million of that will actually go to shareholders. The majority of the sale price –$130.6 million – will go to the U.S. Treasury Department, which pumped $347 million into the failed bank as part of the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout.

All told, it’s a $216.4 million loss for taxpayers – although that’s a better return than shareholders of the bank are slated to receive.

As recently as 2007, TSFG shares were trading at more than $24 apiece.

What will they be sold for in this deal? Twenty-eight cents.

TSFG has been hemorrhaging cash in recent months, losing hundreds of millions of dollars as its top executives and board members – including Whittle and University of South Carolina trustee Darla Moore – have hurriedly scurried from the sinking ship.

TARP was signed into law by President George W. Bush less than two weeks before Whittle received his bailout incidentally.

In spite of Whittle’s “situation,” S.C. lawmakers recently reappointed him to a four-year term on the USC board. Moore, meanwhile, is S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford’s appointee to the USC board.

Not surprisingly, Whittle and Moore are two of the chief backers of USC’s “Innovista” boondoggle, which has seen more than $150 million in tax dollars wasted on a speculative “economic development” deal.


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#322 May 18, 2010
As recently as ten days ago, S.C. Rep. Nikki Haley’s campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination was a mere afterthought as “the experts”(us included) computed the Palmetto State’s political calculus. With less than a third of the available cash on hand as her three “establishment” competitors, Haley seemed destined for a fourth-place finish. In fact, many had written her campaign off completely.

Yet through it all, Haley remained surprisingly upbeat about her chances.

“We’re going to win this thing,” she told us two weeks ago.

What happened?

Well, for starters, Haley was buoyed by a $400,000 ad buy from Reform SC, a group that was formed a few years ago by supporters of S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford. The Reform SC ad – which focuses on Haley’s support for transparency in government – certainly wasn’t the best-produced spot we’ve ever seen, but it did serve its purpose of introducing Haley to voters without forcing her campaign to spend money that it didn’t have.

(Haley’s own ads will begin running Tuesday, incidentally).

Then, last Friday, Haley received the support of former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin – perhaps the highest-profile endorsement in a S.C. gubernatorial primary since Carroll Campbell threw his support behind Sanford in 2002.

These two events have dramatically reshaped the landscape of this race, with sources telling FITS that two new internal polls taken over the weekend (after the Palin endorsement) show Haley leapfrogging U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett and moving into a tie for second place with S.C. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer. In addition to Barrett’s free fall, these polls are also said to show an erosion of support for S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster, long considered the GOP front-runner.

Obviously, we’ll have to wait and see what the results of an impartial survey show – but internal polls taken prior to the Palin endorsement showed Haley climbing as well.

Meanwhile, rumors abound in Palmetto political circles as to whether Haley will receive additional third party support, with the national Club for Growth possibly making its presence felt in the race.

All of this is obviously in addition to Haley’s war chest of approximately $530,000 – some of which could go toward paying for an ad featuring Palin.

“We’ll see how things play out over the next three weeks,” Haley spokesman Tim Pearson told FITS, when asked about the possibility of a Palin ad.


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#323 May 18, 2010
Republicans and Democrats in the S.C. Senate are stalling on a pair of qualified nominations to the state Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC), the latest example of trial lawyers running the show in the S.C. General Assembly … and running our state’s economic competitiveness into the ground.

This time the liberal machinations may backfire, however, because one of the two nominations being held up by the Senate is a widely-respected woman seeking reappointment to a post she’s held since 2004.

Why does that matter? Well … the S.C. Senate is currently comprised exclusively of males, which makes blocking qualified females from even receiving an up-or-down vote is problematic.

Nonetheless, both Susan S. Barden (who has served with distinction as a Workers’ Comp commissioner for the past six years) and Lewis Creel (an Alcoa executive who has helped draft a series of pro-business workers’ comp reforms) are currently languishing in legislative limbo – with the Senate refusing to even schedule a hearing for either nominee.

Barden was scheduled to receive a hearing this week, but that session has since been canceled.

Gov. Mark Sanford submitted the nominations of Barden and Creel to the Senate back in February 2010.

Sources tell FITS that Senate leaders are hoping to “run out the clock” on both Barden and Creel’s nominations, operating under the assumption that either SCGOP gubernatorial front-runner Henry McMaster or Democratic gubernatorial front-runner Vincent Sheheen would replace their nominations with status quo Workers’ Comp Commissioners.

As we’ve noted on many occasions in the past (most recently here), lawyer-legislators like Horry County RINO/DIC Luke Rankin wield a disproportionate amount of influence at the S.C. State House. Repeatedly, these practicing workers’ comp attorneys have “gamed the system” in an effort to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing into their pockets each year.

We’ve never seen them block nominations, though.

In addition to the political incorrectness of an all-male legislative body blocking a qualified female appointment, the Senate’s refusal to schedule a hearing for Creel is viewed by some as a slap in the face to Sen. Paul Campbell (RINO-Berkeley), a retired Alcoa executive.

Of course given Campbell’s staunch anti-business voting record, we’d be surprised if he even lifted a finger on Creel’s behalf.

Anyway, count on FITS to keep you updated on the status of these two nominees.

Specifically, it will be interesting to see if groups like the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and S.C. Manufacturers’ Alliance – all of whom claim to support these nominees – lift a finger on behalf of them.


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#324 May 19, 2010
Under the failed “total state control” system of the S.C. State Ports Authority (SPA), the Port of Charleston’s competitive position has plummeted while the last remaining deep water port site on the Eastern Seaboard has gone undeveloped in Jasper County.

It’s a colossal failure that has cost our state billions of dollars in capital investment and tens of thousands of new jobs, and it all stems from South Carolina’s refusal to simply follow the free market lead of almost every other state in America.

Needless to say, these failures have made South Carolina’s port system a hot topic in the upcoming gubernatorial debate, with virtually every GOP candidate (and the Democratic front-runner) putting the issue at the forefront of their economic plans.

But what, specifically, are these gubernatorial candidates proposing to actually do? And more to the point, does it really matter what they propose given the constitutionally-neutered of the position they are seeking?

S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster’s 10-point “Path to Prosperity” merely says that as governor he would “improve and strengthen our state ports facilities.” Obviously, that means absolutely nothing – and McMaster’s advisors are joined at the hip with some of the very forces holding our state back as it relates to this debate.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett’s otherwise underwhelming “jobs plan” does include some language we support, but it’s unclear whether or not he would follow through on the all-important details. Specifically, Barrett says he would “support port expansions, particularly for Charleston, through expanded public-private partnerships,” although he fails to specify whether that means landlord-tenant agreements that open the door to the kind of capital investment that our competitors in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Alabama have scored for their states in recent years.

Also, Barrett’s “particularly for Charleston” reference is a gratuitous sop to the powerful Charleston shipping elite, whose petty regionalism continues to hold this state back (we can thank S.C. Senator Glenn McConnell for that).

Meanwhile, Democrat Vincent Sheheen says in his jobs plan that he will “appoint professional business leaders and port operations experts to run the port operations and maximize the transfer of goods in and out of our state,” which is a slap at S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford, who for the most part has failed miserably to appoint free market fiscal conservatives to the Ports Authority board.


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#325 May 19, 2010
Like his Republican rivals, Sheheen’s plan says nothing substantive about how he will actually accomplish expanding port capacity, and if you think for one second that this status quo Democrat will appoint true free market advocates to the Ports’ board, you’re crazy.

Also, does it really matter what any of these candidates propose (generically or otherwise)? As with everything else in South Carolina, the General Assembly will continue to determine the direction of the port – which (again, as with everything else in this state) at this point remains a friggin’ nose-dive.

The answers to South Carolina’s port conundrum (which we’ve been trumpeting for years) are remarkably simple, people.

First, the Ports Authority board must vote to authorize landlord-tenant deals – which the legislature should then make part of permanent state law. Then, the Ports Authority should begin the process of turning over management of port infrastructure (which the state would obviously continue to own) to private companies, while soliciting bids for new infrastructure when market conditions permit.

Some say this would “pave the way for unionization” in South Carolina, which ignores the reality that the majority of port workers are already unionized (and have been for years).

Second, the state must immediately begin the process of developing a Jasper County port – an elusive goal its leaders have paid lip service to for decades. If this can be done cooperatively with Georgia, then by all means South Carolina should continue engaging in that discussion, but if not then the court fight (which the Palmetto State will win) must commence sooner rather than later.

It’s “go time.” In fact, it was “go time” two decades ago, but McConnell and Co. continue to deliberately drop the ball in an effort to “protect” Charleston.

Getting a new port constructed may be a decades-long process, but every day that we refuse to start the clock on the Jasper development (whether on account of Stalinist port management or Charleston snobbery) is a day that South Carolina continues rejecting the capital investment and jobs that all of its politicians claim to covet.

Incidentally, while Sanford, state lawmakers and port leaders have failed miserably to chart a course for the true maximization of our state’s port assets over the past decade, S.C. Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) has been an aggressive champion for free market expansion in Charleston and Jasper. More than any gubernatorial candidate, Davis is the port leader South Carolina needs to follow if it is to turn all of these sound bites into substantive, job-creating state policy.


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#326 May 20, 2010
A circuit court judge in Spartanburg, S.C. has ordered a group supporting Rep. Nikki Haley to pull its television advertisements from the Palmetto state airwaves – a politically-motivated decision that clearly runs afoul of established campaign law.

Acting on a complaint filed by the campaign of U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, Circuit Court Judge J. Mark Hayes II issued a temporary injunction against the ads – alleging that they were part of a “coordinated scheme” which could be “intentionally designed to unlawfully evade accountability measures required by South Carolina law.”

The ads – which tout Haley’s support of government transparency legislation – began airing last week. They are paid for by Reform SC, a group which was formed in 2007 to advance the agenda of S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford. Three members of Reform SC actually joined Barrett’s campaign as parties to the lawsuit, which was filed by former State Rep. Scott Talley.

The law of the land governing political ads is Buckley v. Valeo, a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established the ground rules for political campaigning in the television era. Within that context, Buckley v. Valeo identified “eight magic words” that constituted the definition of attempting to influence the outcome of an election.

Those eight magic words (or terms) are “vote for,”“elect,”“support”,“cast your ballot for”,“(candidate name) for Congress”,“vote against”,“defeat” or “reject.” The Reform SC ad on Haley’s behalf – while clearly an effort to aid her campaign – uses none of those words. It does, however, urge viewers to contact their lawmakers and support Haley’s transparency legislation.

Interestingly enough, Barrett’s gubernatorial campaign has previously benefited from ads paid for by his Congressional account – a move his supporters justified by saying that Barrett was defending his Congressional record.

Haley’s campaign bitterly denounced the ruling, calling it an attempt to keep legislative voting records in the dark. Speaking of which, FITS has learned that the judge who issued the ruling was appointed (and reappointed) by state lawmakers via unrecorded voice votes.

For most of the 2010 campaign, Haley and Barrett have been battling it out for third place – with S.C. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Attorney General Henry McMaster leading the field. Recently, however, Haley’s campaign has picked up considerable momentum – with some polls reportedly showing her tied for the lead in the race with McMaster.

Stay tuned for our take on the politics of this ruling …


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#327 May 20, 2010
Chellis deputy campaigning for him on taxpayers' dime, time

By Lane Filler

Published: Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 3:15 a.m.

It is not unusual for political candidates to be accompanied by campaign staffers when they come in for a sit-down with our editorial board, so it wasn't particularly surprising when State Treasurer Converse Chellis walked in Monday afternoon around 3:30 with Scott Malyerck. I've been running into Malyerck, an omnipresent political operative in Republican circles, for years.

About 20 minutes into the sit-down, asked Chellis was summarize what his agency does on a day-to-day basis. He explained how his agency functions for several minutes, ending with an explanation of what Malyerck's department does, at which point alarms started chiming.

"You work for the Treasurer's Office?" I asked Malyerck.

Malyerck: "Yes."

Me: "Then what are you doing here?"

It is illegal for government employees to to be involved in political campaigning in any way, shape or form while on the clock. The law is so clear on this that when Malyerck walked in I figured he worked for the Chellis campaign, an assumption that also made sense because he has always, in my contacts with him, been a political operative and not a government employee.

Malyerck hesitated for a moment, then said he and Chellis also had some banking business to take care of on this trip and that was why he was along.

Two things you should know:

u About 80 minutes before the pair arrived, I received a call from the Chellis campaign saying he had just left Columbia and would probably be a few minutes late.

u It was now after 4 p.m. and we were nowhere near being done, nor were they at all antsy to go.

So we chatted about treasurer stuff for another 20 minutes and as the two were getting up to go and the hands were being repeatedly shaken, I asked Malyerck, "What banks are you heading to?" He said they just needed to meet with a couple of institutions, and when I asked again which ones, indicated he couldn't tell me.

Me: "It's public business you're doing. Not only do you have to tell me, I may come to the meetings with you."

Malyerck changed his story then, saying they had actually already handled their banking business in the Upstate, the justification for his presence, before they sat down with us, and the office could send me a copy of the day's calendar.

I said, "Really? Because your people called 80 minutes before you showed up and said you were getting a late start leaving Columbia and were coming straight here."


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#328 May 20, 2010
My boss thought they might have come in separate cars, which would have explained some things, but as I followed them toward the stairs, repeatedly demanding to know if they had ridden together, Malyerck finally admitted they had.

At no point during the two confrontations on the issue did Chellis, our treasurer and Malyerck's boss, say a word.

Malyerck has been in his post as deputy treasurer of South Carolina since 2007 and currently earns $117,160 per year. In a 2007 interview with political blog SCHotline, he described a career in politics that included stints working on Republican political campaigns in New Hampshire, as executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, working for a public relations firm, a trade association, in state government, as executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party and for political campaigns in South Carolina.

It is not a resume that would suggest he should be deputy treasurer of South Carolina.

Tuesday, in a phone interview with Malyerck, I again asked him to explain his presence with Chellis at a campaign interview, and he offered a totally different, third explanation, saying he and Chellis had a meeting with Spartanburg County Treasurer Oren Brady after they left us.

I immediately called Brady and asked him about it and Brady responded, "They just stopped in for a second to say hello. I think they were coming from another appointment."

Malyerck got a Monday schedule for Chellis to the Herald-Journal via e-mail Wednesday. It listed the meeting with the Herald-Journal, Brady at 4:30 p.m. and a "private event" in Spartanburg from 5-7 p.m.

Malyerck's presence at our meeting was a clear violation of state ethics laws, and his manner in the meeting indicated that assuring Chellis' re-election is most of what he does.

The fact that the taxpayers are giving him $117,160 per year, at least in part to help Chellis run, is disgusting and unethical.

The fact that he offered three different justifications as to why he accompanied Chellis was ridiculous.

The fact that Chellis felt no need to comment on the issue when we were questioning the men at our office was telling.

How important is it? That's for you to decide on June 8.

Copyright © 2010 GoUpstate.com — All rights reserved. Restricted use only.


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#329 May 20, 2010
S.C. Rep. Nikki Haley is officially the new front-runner in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in South Carolina.

According to the results of a new Rasmussen Reports poll, Haley has opened up a double-digit lead over S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster – receiving the support of 30 percent of likely GOP primary voters compared to McMaster’s 19 percent.

U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett is in third place with 17 percent while S.C. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer is bringing up the rear with 14 percent.

Eighteen percent of voters remain undecided.

“With South Carolina’s Republican Primary for Governor less than three weeks away, State Representative Nikki Haley, coming off a fresh endorsement by Sarah Palin, now leads the GOP pack,” Rasmussen’s pollsters say.“The new findings mark a dramatic turn of events for Haley who ran fourth in March with just 12 percent support. McMaster earned 21 percent of the vote at that time, with Bauer at 17 percent and Barrett at 14 percent.”

The poll is the latest evidence of Haley’s surging popularity as the race for governor hits the homestretch.

Given up for dead as recently as two weeks ago, Haley’s campaign has been buoyed by the Palin endorsement as well as $400,000 in third party ads touting her support for government transparency – specifically,“on the record” voting.

Those ads were pulled from the air Wednesday, however, by S.C. Circuit Court Judge J. Mark Hayes II – a politically-motivated ruling that has First Amendment advocates in South Carolina (including several “Haley haters”) up in arms.

“It’s the most egregious suppression of legal political speech I have ever seen,” said one of those advocates, who is supporting Bauer’s gubernatorial bid.

By fitsnews on May 20th, 2010 at 10:09 am

We were called this morning by a prominent Bauer supporter and authorized to use that quote provided we did not attribute it by name.


The person we spoke with is what we like to call a hard core free speech advocate. They do not care for Haley, but they (obviously) will fiercely defend the first amendment.


P.S.– This supporter also told us that there were at least three Supreme Court cases that would have to be overturned for this judge’s ruling to stand. For whatever reason, we did not include that quote in the story.


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#330 May 20, 2010
Newly-minted S.C. gubernatorial front-runner Nikki Haley wasted little time pressing her advantage Thursday, releasing a statement from her campaign seeking to maximize the impact of a new poll showing her ahead of her nearest Republican opponent by 11 points.

The data comes less than two weeks after most Palmetto political observers had written off Haley’s candidacy given her anemic fund-raising performance and a fourth place showing in various internal polls.

Since then, however, the GOP frontrunners – Henry McMaster, Andre Bauer and Gresham Barrett – have produced several less-than-stellar TV spots, while Haley’s campaign has benefited from $400,000 in television ads from an organization affiliated with Gov. Mark Sanford. Haley’s campaign also received a tremendous boost from the endorsement of GOP rock star Sarah Palin last Friday.

The latest independent poll – conducted by Rasmussen Reports – showed Haley receiving the support of 30 percent of likely GOP primary voters (or nearly three times what internal polling showed her receiving as recently as two weeks ago). McMaster clocked in at 19 percent in the poll, while Barrett and Bauer received 17 and 14 percent, respectively.

Here’s what Haley’s campaign had to say about the polling, courtesy of spokesman Tim Pearson:

This is a huge boost for us because it confirms what you’ve always known – that Nikki is the only true conservative reformer in this race who can bring about real change in Columbia. It comes on the heels of several good weeks for the campaign. From the endorsements of Governor Palin and former South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford to the backing of newspapers in the Third Congressional District to the release of our new television ad this week, our campaign is in the strongest position we’ve ever been.

But we cannot rest on our laurels. Nikki is poised to make the runoff and take this election, but with our momentum will come new attacks and misrepresentations about her record from our opponents. Like Nikki has said before, career politicians and Columbia insiders are running scared because they know she’s the only candidate willing to bring accountability and transparency to the status quo.

Obviously,“running scared” is an accurate assessment. The heat on Haley is intense, as FITS has spoken with numerous sources who are in the process of pulling out the longest of long knives in an effort to sink her chances.

In fact, if we had a nickel for every new Nikki Haley rumor we’ve heard in the last 24 hours alone, well … we’d have a lot of nickels.

Meanwhile, here’s what McMaster’s campaign had to say about the polling, courtesy of its lead strategist, Richard Quinn:

We were in the field Tuesday night with a statewide poll as opposed to the Rasmussen survey, which was completed on Monday. So, our numbers are more recent and we believe more accurate than the automated Rasmussen survey. We show State Rep. Nikki Haley in second position, at 23%, two points behind Henry McMaster at 25%. Congressman Gresham Barrett and Lt. Governor Andre Bauer are tied at 14% each.

There is no question State Rep. Haley has enjoyed a temporary bump in the polls, which is not surprising. After all, Governor Mark Sanford’s PAC spent $400,000 on TV ads promoting State Rep. Haley.

However, our research and experience shows most Republican voters are ultimately suspicious of unknown candidates with slick TV campaigns promising hope and change. A majority prefer conservative reformers with a record of results. We believe the preference for proven leadership will benefit Henry McMaster on election day.

Hmmm … they better hope so.

While McMaster’s pollsters remain optimistic, the only word to describe the response to the poll from Gresham Barrett’s campaign is “delusional.”


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#331 May 20, 2010
Here’s what “Team Barrett”(they didn’t even put a name on this nonsense) had to say:

This morning Rasmussen Reports released a new poll. With just 19 days to go, the race is really taking shape and it looks like we’re headed to a runoff between Nikki Haley and Gresham Barrett.

There’s a couple of key dynamics we should look at here:

1. Henry McMaster’s Campaign is in a Free Fall. Ever since the campaign started, McMaster has been the presumptive favorite in the primary race. How quickly things change. Despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in television and internet advertising, McMaster has actually lost ground since the last Rasmussen Poll which was conducted in March. Needless to say, he will be swimming upstream against a wave of momentum in these closing weeks.

2. For Gresham, Strong and Steady Wins the Race. Gresham’s campaign is built on a firm foundation of a positive message and plan for job creation. He was only one of two candidates to gain since March and his numbers are not the result of a superficial endorsement bounce. Despite all the negative attacks from his opponents, Gresham is actually moving up in the polls, and that’s very good news for our campaign.

3. The Palin Factor. There’s no denying it. Nikki Haley got a bounce from Sarah Palin’s endorsement. But here’s the thing – this poll was conducted at the best possible time for Haley, just days after receiving a major endorsement. But now the sands are already shifting. Since the poll was conducted, Haley has received a great deal of negative press for her hypocrisy on the Obama stimulus bailout, her attack ads which targeted every other candidate in the race and the fact that a judge ordered the shadowy third party special interest group ads promoting Haley must be pulled down immediately.

The Bottom Line

Gresham is making strong, steady progress. Henry is dropping like a rock, and Nikki got a temporary Palin bounce. But, all that happened before a judge ruled that Haley and a shadowy third party group may have illegally coordinated, and before damaging revelations of her two votes in support of Barack Obama’s stimulus bailout.


Clearly, somebody needs to put the crack pipe down. Barrett’s campaign is in full-scale meltdown mode, people. In fact, multiple sources (including some on the Barrett campaign who are looking for new jobs) tell FITS that the Congressman completely lost his composure on a recent conference call with his finance team – screaming at his staffers and at one point breaking down into tears.

That figures. And Barrett obviously has plenty to cry about … particularly given the massive amounts of money his campaign has wasted on such an abysmal showing.

Bauer’s campaign, incidentally, did not immediately respond to our request seeking its analysis of the latest polling data.


“If you can't be a good example”

Since: Mar 07

be a warning

#333 May 21, 2010
Just call it “envelope-gate.” Or the “Coastal kickback.”

Either way, new life was breathed into a major S.C. campaign finance scandal when it was revealed Friday that the president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce handed U.S. Congressman (and current Republican gubernatorial nominee) Gresham Barrett an envelope full of checks from a shady network of “shell” corporations. Barrett received $84,000 worth of contributions in an envelope handed to him by Chamber president Brad Dean – part of more than $320,000 doled out to public officials as alleged payback for their support of a tax hike that routed millions of dollars into the Chamber’s coffers.

The chairman of the Chamber’s board, Brant Branham, also acknowledged doling out contributions to local elected officials.

Previously, the Chamber had repeatedly denied having any connection to the suspicious funds – which were administered by a former Chamber board member and which many believe originated from the revenue created by the tax increase.

From The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News:

Barrett’s money was among $324,500 in donations given to him, four City Council incumbents and seven state legislators in the months after the council members and state legislators passed laws that allowed the sales tax increase in Myrtle Beach.

Money from that tax is given to the chamber for tourism advertising purposes.

Brant Branham, the chamber’s board chairman, also has insisted for months that there is no tie between the chamber and the campaign contributions. Branham said he solicited the contributions on his own from “like-minded businessmen and women.”

Branham also said he “delivered these contributions to candidates that deserve re-election.”

S.C. Reps. Thad Viers, Nelson Hardwick, George Hearn and Alan Clemmons were among the candidates receiving contributions from this network of “shell” companies, as was S.C. Sen. Ray Cleary. With the exception of Viers, each of those lawmakers is considered to be on the fiscally liberal end of the Republican spectrum.

The only lawmaker who refused to accept the money was S.C. Rep. Tracy Edge, who like Viers is more fiscally conservative.

The chronology on the donations is highly suspicious – and has some alleging that the entire scam was orchestrated by the chamber as a massive “kickback” to the officials who supported the tax hike.

In the Spring of 2009, Horry County’s state legislative delegation pushed through a state law enabling the City Council to approve a new “ad tax,” which it did. The proceeds from that tax hike began accruing to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce on August 1 of this year.

Shortly thereafter, politicians began receiving their money.

Two months ago, FITS wrote a story concerning the glaring lack of investigation into this matter.

It’s good to see The Sun News doing its job and staying on top of things … and we hear from our sources on the coast that bigger stories are coming soon.

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