S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2007
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/07.1118.armor.htm

Sanford's shiny suit of armor gets a little dirty
By Andy Brack, Publisher

NOV. 18, 2007 - - After more than 10 years of sanctimony about wasteful and pork-barrel government spending, Gov. Mark Sanford's suit of armor doesn't have the same old shine these days.

Seems that the governor, a critic of a special government fund for community projects, directed some unspent money from a pet project paid for by that fund to a political group in which he's got an interest.

For Sanford, whose name became synonymous with frugality after reportedly sleeping on a futon in his congressional office in the 1990s, the rebuff by a senator from his own party must be particularly tough. For state lawmakers, targets for years of Sanford's rants and public relations stunts about spending, the political revenge must taste particularly sweet.

According to various news reports, the issue that has dulled Sanford's seemingly impenetrable armor of political charm involves the funding of a 2006 meeting of the National Governor's Association in Charleston. For that event, state taxpayers put up $150,000 from a grant fund often used for local water and sewer projects or to help communities with festivals and events. Over the last year, Sanford has been a frequent critic of the fund.

To help pay for the three-day NGA event, Sanford and his friends also raised an additional $1.2 million from private sources. When all was said and done, more than $101,000 was left over. Instead of paying back the state for its investment, as would make common sense, Sanford in August redirected the funds to Carolinians for Change, Inc., a political action committee formed by allies to promote the governor's agenda.

"Grants are supposed to benefit the taxpayer," said state Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington. "They certainly aren't supposed to benefit the entity of a personal political preference."

Knotts, a former police detective who considered running as an independent against Sanford after the veto of Lexington hospital project, uncovered the information about the grant surplus and spread it to the media.

Sanford, in an apparent attempt to spin out of the controversy, has asked that the money be redirected back to the state. But his office is still claiming that the grant money was used and spent to seed private efforts to raise money to support the NGA conference. Additionally, his office has the gall to suggest that all projects funded through the grants program should be scrutinized for proper spending.

But wait. There's more on the horizon: The government watchdog group Common Cause is asking State Attorney General Henry McMaster to investigate the whole thing. Stay tuned.

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SHIFTING TO MCMASTER, the race to succeed Sanford got an obvious push this week when McMaster proposed to end parole for state prisoners. Why? First, he said he believed it would deter crime more because criminals would serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. Second, the public would regain confidence in the criminal justice system and know that criminals were really serving sentences, not getting out on good behavior.

But Jon Ozmint, the head of the state corrections department who ran against McMaster for attorney general in 2002, said the plan wouldn't work because it would thrust more people into an already underfunded corrections system.

McMaster says a similar plan didn't cause Virginia jail populations to soar when it got rid of parole a few years ago. Ozmint disagreed.

Whichever side you fall on, you can bet your boots the no-parole plan is something else - - a political platform on which McMaster may try to use to run for governor in 2010.

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Some good and bad news:

  • Health care. South Carolinians had the highest overall health improvement in the country, according to new rankings by the United Health Foundation. The state ranks 42nd in health care, up from 48th. More: UHF.

  • Schools. South Carolina schools didn't get any better on new annual report cards. In fact, 18 school districts scored unsatisfactory, up from 11 last year. More: The State.

  • Hunger. Some 15 percent of South Carolinians struggle with hunger. The state ranks second in the nation in very low food security, according to a new US Department of Agriculture report.

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

Recent commentary

Avery Institute preserves state's African-American heritage

The Avery Institute today at the College of Charleston.

Founded in 1865, the Avery Normal Institute was the first accredited secondary school for African Americans in Charleston. Established by the New York based American Missionary Association (AMA), the school was initially named in honor of New York abolitionist Lewis Tappan. Renamed Saxton after Union General Rufus B. Saxton, an assistant commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the school was temporarily located in several buildings confiscated by the federal government. It was staffed with Northern white missionaries and members of Charleston’s antebellum free black community, such as the Cardozo brothers, Thomas and Francis. Thomas W. Cardozo (1865-1866) was the school’s first principal, Francis the second (1866-1868).

Francis Cardozo campaigned to construct a permanent building. He persuaded the AMA’s traveling secretary, E. P. Smith, to seek $10,000 from the estate of the late Reverend Charles Avery of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With additional aid from the Freedmen’s Bureau, the new school building, renamed Avery, was finished in 1868. Cardozo expanded the school’s mission beyond primary and secondary education to include teacher training. Prohibited from teaching in all but one of Charleston’s black public schools, many graduates taught in one-room school houses all over South Carolina, especially in the lowcountry. Graduates excelled as educators. Subsequent principals, such as Morrison A. Holmes, continued the school’s tradition of excellence.

Principal Benjamin Cox (1915-1936) and his wife, Jeanette Keeble Cox, revitalized Avery. Cox was the first black principal since Cardozo. In 1917 Avery became a bulwark for the establishment of the city’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Its first president was Edwin Harleston (Avery, 1900), a noted artist. Principals Frank DeCosta (Avery, 1927) and L. Howard Bennett (Avery, 1931) moved the school in a more progressive direction.


SC Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with an interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Each excerpt, which is used with permission and not for republication, is taken from The South Carolina Encyclopedia, a 1,077-page book published in 2006 with entries by almost 600 contributors and edited by noted historian Walter Edgar. We hope you enjoy this new feature.

Principal John F. Potts presided over Avery’s transition to a public school 1947. Coinciding with the US Supreme Court’s decision, Brown v. Board of Education, the county school board closed Avery in 1954, citing financial reasons. Avery students and teachers had long been active in the state’s civil rights movement and continued to be so even after the school was closed. Avery activists included Septima Clark, J. Andrew Simmons, John McCray, John H. Wrighten, Jr., Arthur J. Clement, Jr., and J. Arthur Brown.

Averyites also became leaders in preserving the lowcountry’s African American heritage. In 1978 the Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture was established to save and renovate the original Avery school building at 125 Bull Street as a repository of African American history and culture. With Lucille S. Whipper (Avery, 1944) as its first president, the organization joined the College of Charleston to found the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture. On October 6, 1990 the grand opening of the renovated building took place.

-- Entry by Edmund L. Drago, The South Carolina Encyclopedia

lighter side
Watch out for Grandma

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:



11/5: Tax cut article shows more thinking needed

To Statehouse Report:

You hit on a lot of my "tax cut" fear with your latest article. All of these tax cuts just solidify my thinking that the majority of our legislature don't want to (1) do the work involved to do a truly good job of analyzing the repercussions of tax cuts (present and future), (2) do the work involved in cutting state government by getting rid of the obsolete commissions, the redundant "duties" by several agencies, or (3) setting a budget based on conservative revenue projections......but they simply do whatever it will take to get reelected!

At a recent Government Finance Officers Conference (where state & local government finance directors, school district and higher education finance directors, etc. came to find out how to do their jobs using GAAP standards, doing more with less, and understanding the "new laws" & "new budget" demands), we heard from top federal and state government analysts who gave us their ideas on the repercussions of the tax cuts, the state budget, etc., and the LONG-TERM ups and downs in the state's revenue stream. Its a shame that our state legislatures don't pay more attention to these experts. Just one of many problems: the reserve fund is formula driven as a percentage of tax revenue received - did they reinforce the reserve fund with last years "surplus"? Oh, no, it was doled out for whatever was out there on the non-budgeted "wish list" .

Most of these politicians make their decisions based on small, yet organized, loud minority groups (shame on us - the silent middle-class majority) and also whatever they can do to get the projects to their areas of the state , rather than look at what's best for South Carolina as a whole, now and in the future.

Things to ponder:

  • Why didn't the legislature get rid of the sales tax exemptions first?
  • Why didn't they pass ONE tax reduction at a time and analyze the outcome?
  • Why would any experienced professional join a state agency and run the risk of losing their jobs when the next shortfall happens (and it will)?
  • What did the loss of dedicated experienced professionals due to budget cuts or the TERI program cost the state in accountability, in knowledge, in revenue?
  • What's the loss of our AAA credit rating costing government entities in SC?

    -- Deborah S. Nye, CGFO, Summit, SC

11/15: Diverting public funds

To Statehouse Report:

Question: What's the difference between Governor Sanford, [Speaker] Bobby Harrell, and [Sen.] Glenn McConnell?

Answer: Governor Sanford publicly opposes government financing of "non-profits" while advocating a policy of fiscal conservatism and limited government, but engages in backroom deals that divert public funds to the non-profits, for profits and charities of his friends. Glenn McConnell, on the other hand, publicly opposes government financing of "non-profits" while advocating a policy of fiscal conservatism and limited government, but engages in backroom deals that divert public funds to the non-profits, for profits and charities of his friends. And Bobby Harrell publicly espouses fiscal conservatism while engaging in backroom deals to funnel as much government money as he can to those who can most help him become Governor.

Click Sanford accused of pork barreling and Sanford under fire over grant to see the Emperor with no Clothes.

-- Dan Norfleet, Summerville, SC

Recent feedback

11/4: Property tax relief law was overkill for rich, Bob Henderson, North Charleston, SC
Brack makes scary assumptions, Michael Greer, Summerville, SC
10/30: Not removed on all grocery taxes, Bob Henderson, North Charleston, SC
10/28: More money won't help schools, David Whetsell, Lexington, SC
10/26: Venture program will have positive impact, Chad Walldorf, Mount Pleasant, SC
Leadership needed to strengthen state, Roxanne Walker, Greenville, SC
Solar power makes sense, Barbara Measter, Seabrook Island, SC
Not for tax breaks, Bob Logan, Little River, SC
State needs affordable medical help, birth control, Roxanne Walker, Greenville, SC


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To parole or to not parole
By Bill Davis, editor
Exclusive from the paid-subscriber issue of Statehouse Report

NOV. 16, 2007 -- Just what should South Carolina, and by extension, America, do with its crackheads and junkies?

That's really the question being posed by SC Attorney General Henry McMaster's renewed call this week to abolish parole for state crimes.

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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. No republication is allowed.