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ISSUE 12.47
Nov. 22, 2013

RECENT ISSUES:
12/04 | 11/27 | 11/20 | 11/13

Index

News :
Follow the money
Photo :
Green shutters, Williamsburg County, S.C.
Legislative Agenda :
Meetings set for children, Mitchell
Palmetto Politics :
McConnell for lieutenant governor? Governor? President?
Commentary :
State needs to enforce law on political robocalls
Spotlight :
S.C. Policy Council
My Turn :
A new Carolina-Clemson competition: Books for kids
Feedback :
Send us your thoughts
Scorecard :
Politicians in the middle
Megaphone :
Walk the walk
Tally Sheet :
Search for S.C. legislative bills
Encyclopedia :
Charleston Museum

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

7.5%

That’s the state’s new seasonally adjusted October unemployment rate -- down 0.4 percent from September and the lowest rate in five years. According to the state Department of Employment and Workforce, the state had 162,613 unemployed people and was within 5,700 workers of having 2 million employed people.

MEGAPHONE

Walk the walk

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

-- President John F. Kennedy, assassinated 50 years ago today.

TALLY SHEET

Search for S.C. legislative bills

With the legislature adjourned until next year, it's easy to look at bills filed in 2013 to determine what's so far in the hopper for 2014.  Pre-filing of new bills for 2014 for House members and senators is December 3 and 10

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Charleston Museum

Founded in 1773, the Charleston Museum is the oldest municipal museum in the United States. It originated as an auxiliary of the Charleston Library Society dedicated to the collection, preservation, and study of "materials promoting a Natural History" of South Carolina.

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Thomas Heyward, Jr., were early curators. Botanical and zoological specimens and cultural artifacts have comprised the majority of the museum's collections since its founding. The collections moved often during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and were housed in private homes and public buildings.

From 1792 until 1815, the museum occupied the upper floor of the Charleston County Courthouse at Meeting and Broad Streets. In 1815, the collections were transferred to the Literary and Philosophical Society of South Carolina. The society obtained a state appropriation of $10,000 and funds from the city of Charleston to expand. Later in the century the museum was in the Medical College of South Carolina on Queen Street.

In 1850, the Literary and Philosophical Society transferred the collections to the College of Charleston. The museum secured its first independent home and autonomy in 1907 when it moved to the Thompson Auditorium at the corner of Rutledge Avenue and Calhoun Street. The institution adopted the name Charleston Museum and became an independent municipal institution.

Innovative directors, including Laura Bragg, the first female museum director in the United States, expanded the size and variety of the museum collections, published scientific and archaeological studies, and inaugurated ambitious public education programs.

In 1980, the museum moved to a new building at 360 Meeting Street. For the first time since its founding, the museum had a home for its collections, research facilities, and archives in a building designed to be a museum. The Charleston Museum sponsors publications and cultural events in addition to chronicling the natural and cultural history of South Carolina.

-- Excerpted from the entry by Alexander Moore. To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)

PALMETTO PRIORITIES

Palmetto Priorities Statehouse Report encourages state leaders to develop and implement Palmetto Priorities involving several issues to make the state better a better place. Click the link to learn more about our suggestions for bipartisan policy objectives.

Here is a summary of our Palmetto Priorities:

CORRECTIONS: Reduce the prison population by 25 percent by 2020.

EDUCATION: Cut the state's dropout rate in half by 2020.

ELECTIONS: Increase voter registration to 75 percent by 2015.

ENVIRONMENT: Adopt a state energy policy that requires energy producers to generate 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

ETHICS: Overhaul state ethics laws.

HEALTH CARE: Ensure affordable and accessible health care.

JOBS: Develop a Cabinet-level post to add, retain 10,000 small business jobs per year.

POLITICS: Have a vigorous two- or multi-party political system of governance.

ROADS: Strengthen all bridges and upgrade state roads by 2015.

SAFETY: Cut the state's violent crime rate by one-third by 2016.

TAX REFORM: Remove outdated special interest sales tax exemptions as part of an overall reform of the state's tax structure to be completed by 2014.

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News

Follow the money

South Carolina primed for outside influence, millions

By Bill Davis, senior editor

NOV. 22, 2013 -- One of South Carolina’s best defenses against big-money out-of-state political activism may be how gerrymandered its political districts have become.

A recent report from the Center for Public Integrity, based on filings in Colorado, showed the “super-PAC” Americans for Prosperity (AFP) spent $122 million nationally in 2012 to influence elections and voters.

But how much of that money filtered down to this state remains a mystery.

Spending big

Allied with the conservative industrialist billionaire Koch brothers, the political action committee AFP reportedly spent big to defeat President Obama and help swing Congress to Republican control, especially in states like North Carolina.

Federal financial disclosure forms from the AFP and its Koch-related Freedom Partners political action committee, which gave more than $30 million to AFP, do not break down how the money is spent in states.

But based on back-of-the-envelope math, South Carolina’s per capita share – that is, if the $122 million were split evenly based on population – would result in close to $1.8 million.

That amount would be enough to fully-fund 30 different House campaigns, according to sources in the state Democratic and Republican parties.

Freedom Partners spokesman James Davis said Friday morning that the money it doled out last year was for “general operating” donations to organizations, and that it had no oversight of how its money was spent, much less in what state.

Repeated calls to AFP failed to net a comment.

“In the bag”

But John Crangle, a lawyer and the head of state watchdog Common Cause, was eager to comment. Crangle said he doubted much of that money ever made it to South Carolina last year, as most legislative seats “are already in the bag,” either being solidly Democratic or Republican, thanks to gerrymandering.

Most likely, Crangle said, states like North Carolina, where AFP is currently leading a campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), received South Carolina’s per-capita portion.

As a result, Crangle said he expected that whatever money the Koch brothers might or might not have dropped in South Carolina went to advertising buys, which a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling makes it close to impossible to track back to its sources.

S.C. Democratic Party Executive Director Amanda Loveday agreed with Crangle, saying that if the Kochs spent big in South Carolina, it was likely in support of Mitt Romney, especially during the presidential primary.

Democrats, not immune from big money pushes at the national level from people like billionaire George Soros or Hollywood stars, aren’t known to get big out-of-state influxes of dollars in South Carolina.

Loveday said $1.8 million would have a “huge impact” on the state’s political landscape, and that political dollars go a long way in South Carolina – “much further than in states like Florida, or Virginia, or Ohio or Texas, because we are a smaller state, with smaller media markets.”

State Republican Party Chair Matt Moore said it was more likely that interested parties like the Kochs and voucher supporter Howard Rich would spend their money outside the traditional party structure to impact change, thanks to the ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission

That kind of money, though, Moore stressed, “could really move the needle in a state like South Carolina.”

Moving the needle

Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon, who oversees the state’s most influential political polling effort, said he doubted the Kochs would bother trying to influence actual races.

Huffmon said money like the Kochs’ dole out may be better spent in South Carolina on “priming” efforts – pushing hot button topics and issues to the forefront of voters’ minds via issue-based advertising campaigns.

Huffmon said such efforts, untraceable thanks to the court ruling, can also influence policy because they move issues further up on legislative agendas. And with the legislature already “in the bag,” to borrow from Crangle, Huffmon said all that remained in a state like South Carolina was to focus the point and timing of a debate.

Huffmon said outside money like the Kochs could come here in a thicker stream in the future, due to South Carolina’s “first in the South” presidential primary perch, and, in turn, could help focus issue debate on a national level downstream in a national election cycle.        

Crystal ball: The ethics reform package that Gov. Nikki Haley is touting right now would require political action committees to better identify themselves and their funding. Based in part in language included in a similar package being considered in North Carolina, the actions and spending of state chapters of national deep-pocketed organizations in South Carolina could soon become more “transparent” if Haley gets her way.

Bill Davis is editor of Statehouse Report.  He can be reached at billdavis@statehousereport.com.

Photo

Green shutters, Williamsburg County, S.C.


Former editor Linda W. Brown of Kingstree found this old building with fastened green shutters near Workman Crossroads in western Williamsburg County, S.C. Old buildings like this are plentiful across the rural South on farmland that has gone fallow and where tenant families moved on a generation or two ago.  “I’m not sure if this was an old store that had a shed added to it or exactly what its function was,” Brown said. “I think it’s a pretty cool old building, whatever its purpose was earlier in its life.” 

Legislative Agenda

Meetings set for children, Mitchell

  • Children: The Joint Committee on Children will hold a seven-hour planning retreat starting at 8 a.m. Monday. It will be held at Northshore Marina in Santee.

  • Ethics: The House Legislative Ethics Committee will meet 11 a.m. Tuesday in Blatt 110 in Columbia. On the agenda: A hearing regarding State Rep. Harold Mitchell Jr., D-Spartanburg. The meeting is to be streamed on the Web. More.
Palmetto Politics

McConnell for lieutenant governor? Governor? President?

Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) announced recently he would soon decide whether to run for his current office or go for the job as president of his alma mater, the College of Charleston.

Some of his close friends recently said that he was also considering running for governor, the thinking being that if he has to compete against Gov. Nikki Haley’s handpicked candidate, Charleston developer Pat McKinney, for his current office, then he might as well as take her on directly.

McConnell may privately be secure in his next move, but publicly he’s been waffling, causing political watchers to squirm waiting for his decision as if they were waiting for a guy named Godot. McConnell would have a tough, and probably unsuccessful, fight against Haley, whose public approval will increase as the economy continues to rebound, albeit very slowly in this state.

Additionally, there are concerns about McConnell’s age – while he may talk like he was at Gettysburg, he’s only 65 – and his health problems, which took him to an extended stay in the hospital following a tick bite. Some watchers wonder if the key to McConnell’s shot at the governor’s mansion, and not to mention state Sen. Vincent Sheheen’s (D-Camden), could be a rumored gubernatorial run of former Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer.

Bauer said today -- while prepping to run a low-level stock car race tonight, his newest passion -- that he hasn’t ruled out a return to politics.

Commentary

State needs to enforce law on political robocalls

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

NOV. 22, 2013 -- In the last two weeks of any election season, you can’t sit down for supper without some politician calling with an automated, recorded call.

“I hate them!!!” one Republican Facebook friend said. “I delete them almost instantly” from voicemail, said an equally-irritated Democratic friend, adding, “These messages aren’t the best way to convince me to get your vote.”  Yet another friend who got eight calls in one day from the same Mount Pleasant candidate recently took easy revenge -- by voting for someone else.

Yes, these “robocalls” are annoying. But did you know they are also against state law? Well, most of them are.

Unfortunately, few people complain, in part because it’s confusing and hard to figure out where to file a complaint. But even if you do complain, political consultants aren’t going to stop the practice for now because the fine is so cheap -- just $100.   “I’d just pay the fine,” one consultant remarked.

That means the state needs to start stepping up and enforcing the law. 

First, however, it might be good for voters to know where to complain. How about the state Election Commission, which runs elections? Nope. Try the state Ethics Commission, a spokesman suggested. And what did folks there say? Wrong place, too.   

Instead, complaints should go to the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs, which one senior state attorney said seemed to be “the oddest place” for illegal political calls to be reported. But in the twisted way that government sometimes works, it does make a little sense, because Consumer Affairs gets complaints about business robocalls, particularly from telemarketers selling everything from time shares and home security systems to Medicare products and lower-interest credit cards. 

Consumer Affairs Administrator Carri G. Lybarker said her agency has received only four complaints over the last decade about political robocalls.  (Count us as number five.)

“We’re not seeing any kind of influx or pattern that shows more attention needs to be given,” she said, adding that most people probably just ignore the calls. 

But that doesn’t mean the state -- or politicians -- should ignore the law. 

According to the law (16-17-446), political robocalls are illegal unless a person specifically asks to receive them (who would torture themselves with this?). Other exceptions are for calls connected with a debt, contract or existing business relationship, which wouldn’t apply. The statute calls for a civil penalty of $100 per violation, which can go up to $500 or 30 days in jail for a third or subsequent violation.

To confuse matters, however, the statute refers to another part of state law that suggests a telephone solicitor can make a call if the seller, purpose of the call and “nature of the goods and services” are promptly disclosed. That exemption might not fit for political calls, but there’s never been a request for an interpretation from the department, Lybarker said. (We’ll be sending a letter.)

And to muddy the waters even more, there’s a 2010 opinion from the S.C. Attorney General’s office that says “political telephone calls are acceptable to telephone answering machines but not to live answerers.”

Translation: political robocalls in South Carolina are illegal if you can pick up the phone and hear it. If you’re not home, telephone solicitors can leave their political trash on your voicemail.

It’s sad that these robocalls may impact elections. Just this month, a good candidate almost certainly lost a runoff election by a few dozen votes because the opponent had a prominent leader make a last-minute robocall. The call might have been enough to remind voters to support the popular leader’s endorsee, which boosted turnout just enough to hurt the good candidate.

Automated political calls to people who answer the telephone are illegal in South Carolina. Instead of passively ignoring them, state officials should start enforcing the law and issuing fines. But that also means people who are irritated need to start complaining by contacting the state Department of Consumer Affairs -- unless the legislature can clean up the law and make it clearer.

Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse ReportYou can reach Brack at: brack@statehousereport.com.

Spotlight

S.C. Policy Council

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This issue's underwriter is the South Carolina Policy Council. Since 1986, the Policy Council has brought together civic, community and business leaders from all over our state to discuss innovative policy ideas that advance the principles of limited government and free enterprise. No other think tank in South Carolina can match the Policy Council's success in assembling the top national and state experts on taxes, education, environmental policy, health care and numerous other issues. That ability to bring new ideas to the forefront, lead the policy debate and create a broad base of support for sensible reform is what makes our organization the leader in turning good ideas into good state policy.
My Turn

A new Carolina-Clemson competition: Books for kids

By Chase Mizzell, student body president, University of South Carolina, and
Kayley Seawright, student body president, Clemson University

NOV. 22, 2013 -- Next weekend’s Carolina-Clemson game comes right on the heels of Thanksgiving, and the passion of that rivalry creates a great opportunity for us to impact our state.  If you believe in the importance of child literacy, we ask you to support My First Library, a Tigers-Gamecocks competition that will provide books to some our state’s most challenged children.

We lead the student bodies at Clemson University and the University of South Carolina. We are thankful to have had great support growing up, but not everyone is so fortunate.

Early reading can dramatically change a child’s future. In fact the availability of reading material in a home is a strong predictor of academic and socioeconomic achievement. Yet, one study found that 61 percent of low-income families across the country have no children’s books within their home. The probability that a child will remain a poor reader at the end of the fourth grade if the child is a poor reader at the end of first grade is almost 90 percent.

Dr. Rose Wilder, S.C. Superintendent of the Year and leader of Clarendon School District One, says many of her children enter school never having seen a book before. Another superintendent tells the heartbreaking story of trying to engage a five-year-old student with a book. The child could not recognize words or letters when asked. The superintendent finally realized the child knew nothing about reading at all – the child was trying to read the white space on the page, not the black letters.

Now, our state’s most promising students are helping our most challenged. In the days before the Big Game – from last Monday until midnight Tuesday, November 26 -- students at the University of South Carolina and Clemson University are competing to supply books for entering 5-year-old kindergartners in our state’s poorest schools. In many cases, these books will create a child’s first library.

You can help! The “My First Library Program” is organized at USC by the Teaching Fellows and at Clemson by Kappa Kappa Gamma. All the tax-deductible donations go to South Carolina Future Minds, the non-profit that organizes private support for South Carolina public schools. Fans of the two schools can donate money by going to www.scfutureminds.org and clicking on the “My First Library” icon.

The program is a contest at two levels: student organizations compete within each university to raise the most money; and the universities themselves compete against each other. “My First Library” allows students, alumni and fans of the two schools to donate money to purchase the books and have bragging rights off the field.

The “winner” will be the school and organization that raises the most money, but the real winner will be children of South Carolina who will be given an opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed. And that’s something to be thankful for!

Mizzell and Seawright are student body presidents at USC and Clemson, respectively. To learn more about the My First Library program, visit S.C. Future Minds.

Feedback

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Scorecard

Politicians in the middle

Lower smoking rate. New data from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control shows cigarette smoking among the state’s high school students dropped from 23.7 percent to 15.4 percent from 2011 to 2013. Maybe higher sin taxes are working a little bit!

Wind turbine facility. Hats off to Clemson and the state for dedication of the world’s largest wind turbine drivetrain testing facility in North Charleston. At $100 million, let’s hope it is worth it. More.

Ports. Looks like billions of dollars in infrastructure investment -- harbor deepening, an inland port, rail, roads -- will pay off big time for state ports by 2018, says CEO Jim Newsome. More.

McConnell. On one hand, he sounds like he wants to be the College of Charleston’s new president. More. On another, he sounds like he’s running for lieutentant governor. More. Which? We should know soon.

Graham. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has had a bad month -- from challengers beating up on him to his Senate colleague, Sen. Tim Scott, this week evading questions about endorsing the fellow Republican. If he makes it out of his 2014 GOP primary -- which he should because the challengers aren’t the A (or B) team -- he’ll get re-elected. But there’s a lot of nail-biting going on these days.

Haley. The governor says she’ll name names of legislators who won’t pass ethics reform if they don’t (sounds tough), but she’s pretty mum about endorsing Graham. She did offer faint praise on a recent TV appearance. More.

Protesters. Thumbs down to protesters of national Common Core education standards to improve education. Whatdya want -- more of the same? More.
credits

Statehouse Report

Editor and Publisher: Andy Brack
Senior Editor: Bill Davis
Contributing Photographer: Michael Kaynard

Phone: 843.670.3996

© 2002 - 2018 , Statehouse Report LLC. Statehouse Report is published every Friday by Statehouse Report LLC, PO Box 22261, Charleston, SC 29413.
Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with this interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Republication is not allowed. For additional information about Statehouse Report, including information on underwriting, go to http://www.statehousereport.com/.