S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Jan. 28, 2007
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/07.0128.spending.htm


Playing politics with $1.8 million
By Andy Brack, Publisher

JAN. 28, 2007 -- Let's say you are a statewide officeholder who can't run for re-election but has $1.8 million in the bank of unused campaign donations.

State law is pretty clear and open on what you are allowed to do. You can give it to a tax-exempt charity, the state's general fund, a political party or committee or return it to donors on a pro-rata basis. You can even keep it and use it to run again for the same office or put it in a fund to run for another office, if you have written permission from donors to do that. Finally, you can do a combination of any of the above.

Armed with this information, what would you do with a $1.8 million stash?

Several people around the Statehouse say they would give it away to charity. (A cynic might say that's a choice that makes them look good in a column like this because they really won't have to make such a decision.)

Assistant House Minority Leader Vida Miller, D-Georgetown: "If I were fortunate enough to be in that position, I would set up a scholarship or foundation for deserving students in Georgetown and Charleston counties."

Rep. Wallace Scarborough, R-Charleston, "I think the first thing I ought to do is return it to the people who gave it. If they turned around and said keep it and do what you wanted to, I think I would give it away to charity."

Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Beaufort: "I think I'd give it to charity….It does more good as an aggregate than giving it back. People give you money for you to do good. Maybe that's the culmination of you doing something in office."

Rep. Kenneth Hodges, D-Colleton: "I would give it to a non-profit. I think that would be a fair way to deal with the contributions. Most of your contributors do support non-profits as well and they probably feel good about that."

Not everyone, however, says giving it away would be the best use of the money. A well-placed lobbyist immediately saw the political implications of such a fund: "I'd use it to further my agenda. I would concentrate on those issues, take it to the public and use advertising, newspaper articles and things to encourage folks to boost grassroots efforts to get something done."

Similarly, state Sen. Jim Ritchie said, "I would use it to advance the principles I believe in order to effect meaningful change."

And the guy who actually has the $1.8 million in leftover campaign funds to make this choice?

Maverick Gov. Mark Sanford, never one for the conventional, will use the money for more politics, according to January press reports:

"Governor Sanford will use these funds to promote the legislative agenda he campaigned on, particularly restructuring, limiting spending and lowering taxes, and to assist those in the legislative process who support that vision." The quote was from Jason Miller, the fellow who coordinated Sanford's November win and who now serves as the governor's highly-paid deputy chief of staff.

When asked this week for more detail, Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said, "We don't have anything to add right now outside of what's already been said."

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What's got several lawmakers worried about this campaign surplus isn't that the governor might run TV ads on issues. What they're worried about is the part of the quote that says "and assist those in the legislative process who support that vision." In other words, they're worried they might face political retribution in November 2008 if Sanford works against them by funding political opponents.

In the 2006 elections, Sanford backed several candidates, some of whom beat incumbents and some of whom lost. It's left a lingering bad taste in the mouths of the targeted Republicans and Democrats, as well as a fear that he might do it again.

While the governor probably won't listen, he'd be well-advised to use the money for positive, not ideological political, purposes. If he really wants to get his way in the General Assembly, removing the possibility of political retribution will go a long way more than funding other mavericks to be as ineffective as Sanford has been over the last four years.

Andy Brack, publisher of S.C. Statehouse Report, can be reached at brack@statehousereport.com.

Recent commentary


WELCOME. Three-year-old Avery Brack gazes at her newborn sister, Ellen Hampton Brack, daughter of Courtenay and Andy Brack, publisher of Statehouse Report. We know this has nothing to do with politics, but thought readers would enjoy. Young Ellie was born 6:57 a.m. Thursday in Charleston. Mother and daughter are doing well.

lighter side
A "State of" you probably don't want to hear

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:

feedback
1/23: Healing can't begin until forgiveness is found

To the editor:

We've been here a year now; love the state, the people and the food. I just don't see how the flag issue is going to heal. [Commentary, 1/21]

Call me ignorant. I'm white, middle-aged [and] from Detroit, the most segregated city in America. When the families started moving from the city to the suburbs to escape the violence and crime, for the first time I was really proud to be an American. To see the kids walking together playing together and eating dinner at each others homes gave me hope for this country.

"To see folks who work, play and live together but don't have supper together to me is just plain weird."

Then I moved here. The kids sit at opposite end of the class, opposite ends of the lunchroom. If you have friends of a different color. You're blackballed forever, never to be admitted back in with your peers. To see folks who work, play and live together but don't have supper together to me is just plain weird.

Where do young children learn to hate people of another color? I believe it comes from the parents. The racism we've encountered is really shocking. And the response we receive is welcome to the south. Wow, like that's how it is. I was brought up if you don't like it, change it. Don't give me some lame garbage about that's how it is. I see nothing at the schools promoting any healing, nothing at the churches promoting healing. You are still dealing with some serious issues and maybe starting with the flag will help, but it seems most of you are so used to the memories of the past, and until forgiveness is found, healing cannot begin.

-- Thomas Dearing, Turbeville, S.C.

1/23: Enjoyed flag article

To the editor:

I have not seen you in a while, but I always read your articles. The flag article was a great article.

-- Odessa S. Sirman, Hampton, S.C.

1/22: Some hope on lowering flag

To the editor

I agree with you that the flag needs to come down and South Carolina needs to stop fighting the Civil War and get about a more progressive agenda. I have had my doubts about how amenable most of those in the General Assembly are to doing that, even in the face of reasonable and well-founded requests to do so for important segments of the state they are ordinarily wont to listen to—especially the business community and the state’s religious leaders.

However, news reports last week that the NCAA may impose sanctions against states such as S.C. that display the Confederate flag so prominently, give me some hope. If such sanctions come about, and if, as a result, they impact negatively on the sports programs at S.C.’s institutions of higher learning, I believe the General Assembly will act with dispatch to bring down the flag. I believe only sports fans and athletic officials (who probably will not take a public stand, but might work behind the scene) can trump the mesmerizing power of the Confederate flag on S.C.’s politicians.

-- Chip Brown, Conway, S.C.

1/22: Simple flag solution

To the editor:

In my mind, a simple solution would be to fly the first national Confederate flag. Georgia did this in their state flag and it seemed to make the issue go away.

-- Julian G. Frasier III, Sumter, S.C.

1/21: Do something constructive

To the editor:

The state has dealt with the flag. Do something constructive, get out and witness the waste of resources and personnel of SCDOT.

-- Bill Singletary, Timmonsville, S.C.

Recent feedback

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Just a quick note to let you know how you missed out this week. If you were a subscriber to the paid edition of Statehouse Report, you would have received the information below on Friday AND you would have gotten other special features:

  • NUMBER OF THE WEEK: $41 million
  • NEWS: Senate, House divided on major issues
  • LEGISLATIVE AGENDA: DOT moves to the top
  • RADAR SCREEN: Budget debate schedule set
  • PALMETTO POLITICS: Carol wants Joe's spot, more
  • TALLY SHEET: Wide array of bills introduced
  • BLOGROLL: Quotes from all over
  • SCORECARD: Ups and downs over the past week
  • MEGAPHONE: There's a lawyer joke in here

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Restructure this
From the paid-subscriber issue of Statehouse Report

JAN. 26, 2007 -- With the Senate taking a near-lethal swipe this week at the bulk of state restructuring efforts, the entire legislature will now turn its collective eye to the last major remaining item on Gov. Mark Sanford's legislative wish list: placing the head of the state's Department of Transportation in his cabinet.

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