S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Oct. 17, 2004
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/04.1017.sleaze.htm

COMMENTARY
Send the sleaze merchants a message
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

OCT. 17, 2004 -- Election Day in America should be a celebration of freedom. But because of the increasing nastiness of political campaigns, many only look forward to it so they don't have to hear and see all of the sleaze any more.

This year is no different. While many South Carolina campaigns seem to be forthright battles over issues, the exceptions stick in people's minds, turn their stomachs and fuel more apathy about the political process.

So far, the most egregious slimy example we've seen is in a heated battle in Sumter that pits incumbent Sen. Phil Leventis, a Democrat, against GOP lawyer Dickie Jones.

An oversized postcard sent by the S.C. Republican Party screams in large letters that it's a fact Leventis "does not support America's war against terrorism."

But in reality, nothing could be further than the truth, Leventis says in a statement denouncing the mailer: "Everything in the mailer is absolutely dishonest and they know it!"

Part of the GOP mailer being used against Leventis

Leventis, a retired brigadier general with the S.C. Air National Guard, flew 21 combat missions in the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq. His valor won him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

This isn't the only vile example. Others show neither Republicans nor Democrats are squeaky clean:

  • In Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell's race in Charleston, someone has mailed a nasty flyer to McConnell that shows a picture of him positioned to look at a picture of Jesus. A caption questions why McConnell doesn't "confess his sins" in issues related to the Hunley. No one, including McConnell's Democratic opponent Justin Kahn, has taken credit for the flyer and its distribution may be limited, McConnell says.

  • In a recent GOP House primary race in Lexington County, an e-mail campaign falsely claimed that candidate Nikki Haley was a Buddhist and urged voters to support incumbent Larry Koon, a Christian. Haley attends a Methodist church and a Sikh temple with her family, according to The State.
  • Religion-baiting also cropped up in neighboring Richland County when some voters received "push poll" calls that asked whether they realized Republican Ken Wingate was "born-again Christian." A push poll is a questionable political tactic in which telephone "pollsters" ask loaded questions to shape voters' opinions. Wingate, who is running for an open Senate seat against Rep. Joel Lourie, has denied any connection to push polls, The State reported. Lourie, a Democrat, is Jewish.

  • In August, thousands of South Carolinians received a voter registration mail piece from the S.C. Democratic Party that was made to look like a draft notice. The piece, which Democrats said was meant to shock people enough to encourage them to register to vote, was designed to scare voters that the draft was coming back, S.C. GOP Chair Katon Dawson said.

ALSO THIS WEEK

McLEMORE'S WORLD: Flu flasher

FEEDBACK: Brack's a hack; Brack's got it right

SCORECARD: Who's up and down

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Don't look for things to cool down in the race toward election day. But starting November 3, new campaign and ethics rules may provide incentives that curb the amount of the sleaziness.

New rules will limit political party and legislative political action committee contributions to House, Senate and municipal candidates to $5,000 per election. Parties also will face tougher disclosure requirements. The new law also seeks to curb abuses of outside efforts because any group that spends more than $500 to influence an election will have to disclose what they did.

The new law won't prohibit parties and groups from sending and funding sleazy political pieces, but they will have to disclose what they're doing. And because such pieces would count against the $5,000 total contribution limits, candidates might want the money instead of the slimy help.

Dishonest, misleading campaign tactics will never go away in the system. The best way to send a message against them is to vote against the slime merchant. Unfortunately, if both candidates are pandering with unsavory methods, about the best you can do is vote for the lesser of two evils.


RECENT COMMENTARY

McLEMORE'S WORLD
10/17: Flu flasher

The latest from cartoonist Bill McLemore:

FEEDBACK
10/11: Writer does a hatchet job on GOP

(Editor's note: We publish the following e-mail -- misspellings and all -- from someone unhappy about last week's Southern Strategy column. Two factual corrections: First: I have only offered for office once. Second: The newspapers that publish the commentary have all disclosed my past political forays. -- Andy Brack)

To the editor:

in regard to southern strategy I wondered how long you could constrain yourself by a hatchet job on the republican party-I dare you in your next article to identify Andy Brack-long time worker for Fritz Hollinhgs-unsuccessful candidate for numerous democrat elected positions -in reality a Democrat political hack-who needed a job in the private sector since being continuously reejected at the ballot box-fortunately there are plenty of left leaning newspapers around for you to survive-You are a dishonest individual when you write an article like this without giving the reader your background.If you did we both know your credibilty would be suspect

-- Bill Roe, Bluffton, S.C.

10/10: Southern Strategy 2.0 is at work

To the editor:

Congratulations, wonderful comments. Yes, those architects of Southern Strategy 2.0, have yet to recognize the worth of the above mentioned recommendations. Until they do do, SC will continue in its backslide away from the realities of the now 21st century.

-- Harriet Smartt, Isle of Palms, S.C.


LEARN MORE DAILY

The best way to get South Carolina news is to augment your morning paper and TV show with SC Clips, a daily executive news summary compiled from more than 30 state newspaper and TV sources. It's delivered every business day and is packed with news of statewide impact, politics, business and more. Subscriptions are affordable at $30 per month -- and less for business subscribers. More: SC Clips.


SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD

Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various political events from the past week:

Thumbs up

Kent Williams. Hats off to Williams in his win over Sen. Maggie Glover, D-Florence, for a Senate seat after a long and drawn-out new primary election fracas. Glover reportedly hasn't conceded.

S.C. Chamber. Congrats to the Chamber for sponsoring a study on the proposed property tax cap. Its study found the cap would increase taxes on homeowners and small businesses.

Thumbs down

Beaches. It's a real shame that SC's beaches are now in worse shape than after Hurricane Hugo, according to a widely respected oceanographer.

Retiree pensions. Unless something is done pronto, the state's 84,000 retirees stand to lose pension benefits, according to published reports.


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Notes veteran lawmaker Sen. Glenn McConnell: "Statehouse Report gives an inside practical report of weekly problems with and progress of legislation. It reviews the whole landscape."

In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get::

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Tally Sheet -- a weekly review of all of the new bills introduced in the legislature in everyday language

Scorecard -- A Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down of major political/policy events for the week.

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