Category Archives: Republicans

DGA tries linking Haley to Perry on ethics front

Artwork from a fundraising appeal timed with this release...

Artwork from a fundraising appeal timed with this release…

This seems like a bit of a stretch — Nikki Haley has a history of ethical challenges, but no indictments — but I guess this is what parties do:

MEMORANDUM

To: Interested Parties

From: DNC and DGA Communications
Date: August 27, 2014
Re: Haley, Perry & the Ethically-Challenged Governors of 2014

Rick Perry and Nikki Haley have a lot in common – they’re both GOP governors from the South whose administrations have been plagued by ethics scandals. And they both eye higher office while struggling to execute their current jobs.

But while they campaign across the Palmetto State, they won’t be able to dodge questions about their ethical lapses.

Sure, Perry was recently indicted by a grand jury on two felony counts of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official but Haley has had enough scandals during her first term to make even the most ethically-challenged Republican Governor blush.

Haley has time and again put politics ahead of being Governor.

Her administration has been rocked by a scandal at the Department of Social Services that allowed children to suffer in in unsafe and even deadly situations. Rather than take decisive action to address her administration’s inexcusable failures, Haley and her administration appear to be more focused on obstructing the investigation and covering up their failures.

And of course, that wasn’t the first time the Haley administration has tried to cover up her incompetence – millions of South Carolinians had their personal financial information hacked and children have been put at risk from a tuberculosis outbreak in public schools.

Haley has also misused taxpayer-funded resources for political and campaign travel.

As Haley and Perry campaign around the state, Governor Perry’s indictment, serves as a reminder to voters of Haley’s scandals, coverups and incompetence.  Governors Perry and Haley are just two of the many Republican Governors who find themselves under investigation or otherwise mired in scandal.

Below please find a rundown of the other GOP Governors scandals that have surfaced this cycle:

Branstad, Terry (Iowa): The Branstad administration is under investigation about whether administration officials were fired for political purposes.

Brownback, Sam (Kansas): The FBI is currently investigating potentially illegal lobbying of the Brownback Administration by former members of his inner circle.

Christie, Chris (New Jersey): Christie and his Administration are currently being investigated by no less than four separate local, state and federal agencies: the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation’s inquiry into Bridgegate and surrounding events.

Corbett, Tom (Pennsylvania): Gov. Corbett continues to receive serious scrutiny for taking thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts from corporations, lobbyists and other special interests who have received big state benefits, and a political action committee set up to help Corbett win re-election received a donation of nearly a million dollars that potentially violated state law.

Deal, Nathan (Georgia): The state of Georgia was forced to pay nearly $3 million to settle lawsuits with whistleblowers at the state ethics commission who were allegedly fired for investigating Deal’s 2010 campaign. It has now come to light that the state’s ethics commissioner director claims she was threatened and pressured by the Deal administration in the summer of 2012.

LePage, Paul (Maine):  According to reports, Governor LePage met with individuals affiliated with an organization categorized by the FBI as a domestic terrorist movement, and in those meetings, it appears LePage joked with the group about “hanging” Democratic legislators. This extreme, dangerous rhetoric has no place in politics.

Snyder, Rick (Michigan): The Snyder administration allegedly favored corporate benefactors and his family over Michigan citizens by not only shielding a state contract that benefited his cousin from budget cuts but even doubling it to $41 million.

After Rick Snyder’s administration eliminated a criminal background check program for home care workers, the state hired nearly 3,800 individuals with criminal histories to take care of disabled adults on Medicaid, including over 500 violent felons and 285 convicted of sex crimes.

Walker, Scott (Wisconsin): Walker has been engulfed in not one, but two massive investigations:

  • The first John Doe investigation resulted in six of Walker’s associates have been convicted of wrongdoing, four of whom have been sentenced to prison ranging from felony theft from charities intended to benefit wounded veterans and the families of fallen soldiers, to misconduct in public office, to doing official campaign work on county time.
  • The second John Doe investigation is ongoing and is currently on appeal. In this case, prosecutors allege that Walker himself was at the center of a nationwide “criminal scheme” to illegally coordinate with outside conservative groups. Documents released last week show Walker personally solicited millions of dollarsfor a group that supported him during his recall election.

BONUS Massachusetts Republican Gubernatorial candidate – Baker, Charlie: Baker has been at the center of controversy over whether he violated federal and state pay-to-play laws when a venture capital firm where he is a partner received a multi-million dollar New Jersey pension contract only months after Baker contributed to Chris Christie’s party committee.

DOUBLE BONUS Former Virginia Governor – McDonnell, Bob: Sure, he’s a former governor now, but he was in the same class of governors hailed as reformers. He is now on trial over accusations that he accepted over $170,000 in gifts and loans from a donor in exchange for using his office to promote the donor’s business. McDonnell and his wife have been indicted on 14 counts of corruption, obstructing an investigation and accepting bribes.

Among the apparent GOP hopefuls is, um, Rick Perry. Oops!

I got a release about this Rick Perry ad, a release that also told that:

Governor Rick Perry finished a four-day swing through more than a dozen Iowa cities where he campaigned and helped build support for Republican candidates and county GOP parties…

I can’t believe it. He’s out there running. I really thought we weren’t going to hear much more from him after the “oops” campaign…

The ad was released by RickPAC.

Today’s best political news: Alexander wins handily

la-speaking-photogallery

Alexander welcomes U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to Tennessee earlier this year for the unveiling of construction plans for the Joint Curatorial Collections Facility to be built in Townsend, Tenn. Imagine that — allowing himself to be photographed with a Democrat, with the Tea Party breathing down his neck. (from campaign website)

I was very glad to see this news out of Tennessee:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) easily won his primary on Thursday, defeating a conservative challenger and effectively ending the tea party’s hopes of unseating a Republican senator for the third straight election cycle.

Alexander beat state Rep. Joe Carr, a conservative insurgent who ran hard to his right on immigration. Five other candidates also fell short.

It seems that after seeing some longtime colleagues get picked off in two consecutive elections, Republican senators may have finally found the formula to keep primary competitors from defeating them: Take tea party upstarts seriously. And take them on early…

Alexander beat Carr 50 percent to 41 percent, with five other challengers splitting the other 9 percent. That’s not as good as the 56 percent Lindsey Graham received against his six challengers, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve.

Alexander’s win is particularly meaningful to me, and not only because he looms large in my memories of the first statewide election I ever covered (as you know, since I have so often bored you with the stories). Alexander is a direct connection to a better generation of political leadership in Washington, the days of Howard Baker and Sam Nunn and Scoop Jackson. And for that matter, Dick Lugar, who lost to a Tea Party challenger in the last election.

This time around, not one incumbent Republican senator fell in a primary to such a challenge from the extreme fringe of his party. Most of us should be able to celebrate that.

George W. Bush and the Trivago Guy: Separated at birth?

trivago guy

Can’t you see it? It’s right there — the patented “W” smirk…

Troy Patterson says it well in Slate:

Trivago, the Düsseldorf-based travel search engine, has a most peculiar on-air pitchman—a sallow avatar of middle-aged masculinity, a found object and a cult item, an accidental enigma.

Just look at this guy. The voice is deep with command, round with Shatnerian ham gravity, rich with a Peter Graves graininess. The eyes are beseeching but confidently steady. The clothes have been woken up in. The man is seedily creased, grayly stubbled, distractingly beltless. He may be looking for a hotel after coming home at 3 a.m. to find that his wife changed the locks. These unusual ads have been attracting baffled notice for a while, but now is the season for big travel-industry ad buys, and the Trivago pitchman is, unlike the blades of his rotary shaver, in heavy rotation.

Some viewers find his ubiquity annoying, while others fail to succumb to annoyance because they are entranced by his skeevy vibe. Who is he? Why should I trust his judgment? What is his profession? Record producer? Is his travel-planning wisdom born of bitter experience? Has he got any drugs? How did this oddity come to pass?…

Shatner, yes. Peter Graves, maybe — although neither of them ever displayed this level of seediness. He looks like a bank executive who’s been on a three-day bender.

What were the ad wizards at Trivago thinking when they picked this guy to be their official face?

But there was something that Troy Patterson didn’t pick up on, something that nagged at me through most of this ad. I sensed a presence, once I had not felt since…

Aha! Right at the end, I saw it. This guy stole that smirky half-smile from George W. Bush. This actor could not have tested well among Democrats, whose teeth are always set on edge by that smile…

Remembering Lamar Alexander’s walk across Tennessee

Lamar Hand Shaking_Display

I got this email yesterday…

Hi Brad,

I am a staff writer for Governing Magazine and came across your blog while doing some Googling about Lamar Alexander’s walk across Tennessee. (Governing covers state and local governments across the country and our audience is largely elected officials/public employees.) I’m working on a fun piece for one of our upcoming issues about the political stunt of walking and was wondering if you were available this week to chat about the topic as you covered Alexander’s campaign in ‘78. The piece will take an overall look at some of the more famous “walks” by pols – from Missouri’s Walkin’ Joe Teasdale to Illinois’ (aptly named) Dan Walker, the public stroll has been a popular political tool. More recently, Adam O’Neal, mayor of the small town of Belhaven, N.C., took a 273-mile trek to Washington, D.C. to protest the closing of his local hospital. President Obama this spring took an impromptu stroll to the Dept. of the Interior for a meeting.

I’d love to hear your take on the effectiveness of Alexander’s 1,000-mile walk and how it resonated with people. And I’m also curious about your broader thoughts on the gimmick as a whole. How effective has this type of stunt been? Who’s done it right and are there pitfalls?

Are you available Wednesday or Thursday for a phone call? Or you can always reach me directly at the number below.

Thanks,

Liz

# # # # # # # # # # # # #

Liz Farmer | Staff Writer
Governing Magazine

… and I talked with Liz for about 20 minutes this morning.

I didn’t have anything really profound to say. Here are some of the points I hit on:

  • First, I wasn’t on the actual, full walk across Tennessee (which, if you follow I-40, is about 450 miles). I was covering him during the last weeks of the general election campaign, and he had completed the walk (if I remember correctly) well before the primary. His walk was a campaign trope in the past tense: “On my walk across the state, I found yadda-yadda…” BUT I got the general flavor of it, because everywhere he went, he’d get out and walk a mile or so along the side of the road in his trademark red-and-black checked flannel shirt, khakis and hiking boots, waving at the cars. I got some photos of him doing that along a busy thoroughfare in Nashville. The brand was working for him, so he kept it going through to the end.
  • Lamar was trying to set himself apart at a time when politicians-as-usual had a particularly seedy reputation. The state had endured four years of astoundingly bold corruption under Democrat Ray Blanton. And Lamar himself had worked in the Nixon White House, a fact that might have figured in his failure to get elected four years earlier. Nixon was the master of limited access and staged availabilities, since he was so socially awkward. This walk was the opposite, and allowed him to project as an outdoorsy, clean-cut kind of guy — he looked and sounded like Pat Boone (Boone did some PSAs that were airing on the radio at about that time, and whenever he came on, I thought it was Alexander).
  • Since she was looking for examples of politicians talking long walks for political purposes, I urged her to look into Joe Riley’s march from Charleston to Columbia in 2000 to demand that the Confederate flag come off the dome. That had an impact at the time — and was mentioned recently in a nationally syndicated column, so it should be easy to look up.
  • Even though we’re far more cynical and suspicious these days, I think Tennesseans who remember Alexander’s walk still have positive connotations connected to it, largely because he wasn’t a disappointment to them. He was open and aboveboard in his dealings as governor. He worked VERY well across the aisle, persuading Speaker Ned Ray McWherter and the other Democratic leaders to go for the kinds of education reform that were usually anathema to Dems. He harks back to a better time, when Republicans like him and his mentor Howard Baker disagreed with Democrats, but didn’t see them as the enemy, but as people to work with for the betterment of the state and country.
  • That, of course, is why Alexander has Tea-Party opposition in this Thursday’s primary (Tennessee has primaries at a much more rational and voter-friendly time than we do; our June primaries mean there’s plenty of time for mischief in the Legislature after filing deadlines). Here’s hoping his opponent does no better than his counterpart in Kansas, the president’s distant cousin. Lamar Alexander is exactly the kind of senator this country needs in Washington, and there too few like him left. (See “In Tennessee, consensus politics makes a last stand” by Dan Balz in the WashPost.)

I wished I could have put my hands on one story I wrote, right after Alexander won the 1978 election, which ran on the front page of The Jackson Sun. It was an exclusive, and one of the best stories I wrote during my brief time as a reporter. It was Alexander’s own account of how he had come back after defeat four years earlier. A week or two before Election Day, at the end of a long day of campaigning, Alexander and a reporter from the Tennessean were relaxing over a drink on the campaign plane on the way back from an event at one of the far ends of the state. (We had access to candidates in those days that reporters only dream of now, and our papers thought nothing about paying a pro-rata share of the plane rides.) Alexander just started talking about how he come to that point, and the Tennessean guy just listened and enjoyed his drink, and I took notes like mad. Even John Parish, the gruff dean of Tennessee political writers, praised the piece I got from that eavesdropping.

That probably would have provided Liz with some insights, but this was years before electronic archiving. That clip is probably moldering in a box in my attic somewhere…

Will Ravenel’s bids for attention get more desperate?

This came in this morning from Thomas Ravenel:

THOMAS RAVENEL CHALLENGES JOHN McCAIN TO DEBATE

EDISTO, S.C. – Lowcountry businessman and independent U.S. Senate candidate Thomas Ravenel today challenged U.S. Sen. John McCain to “step up to the plate” and debate him so that South Carolina voters can hear the views of his longtime liberal understudy, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham – who is refusing to participate in a series of citizen-driven debates.

“The puppet is too afraid to debate me so I might as well start challenging his puppet masters – beginning with John McCain,” Ravenel said.  “The people of South Carolina deserve a series of real debates in which their concerns are heard and their questions are asked and answered by the candidates.  If Lindsey Graham is too afraid to defend his views in such a forum – then I’m going to start challenging the powerful interests that are pulling his strings in Washington D.C.”

Last month Ravenel issued a debate challenge to Graham, Democratic nominee Brad Hutto and Libertarian candidate Victor Kocher.  He proposed a series of at least eleven debates in different parts of the state in which citizens would conduct the questioning of the candidates.

Graham is the only candidate who hasn’t responded.

“Lindsey Graham has time to meet with Barack Obama nineteen times, to appear on all the Sunday morning talk shows and to fearmonger through the media – but apparently he doesn’t have the time to hear the concerns and face the criticisms of hard-working South Carolinians,” Ravenel said.  “That’s his prerogative, but by refusing to participate in these debates Lindsey Graham is telling South Carolinians that they aren’t worth his time.   He’s also telling them what many of them already know – that his abysmal record of wasting our tax dollars, attacking our liberties and unnecessarily harming our friends and loved ones in the military is indefensible.“

“If he won’t defend that record, maybe John McCain will,” Ravenel added.

Ravenel said that he would be issuing a series of debate challenges to Graham’s “puppet masters” over the coming weeks.

“The longer he refuses to participate in a series of public debates driven by South Carolinians like you the more I will expose him as being beholden to Washington’s special interests,” Ravenel said. “If Lindsey Graham thinks he can run out the clock on this election, he’s got another thing coming. I’m not just going to shame him, I’m going to shame the interests subsidizing his ongoing betrayal of our state and its people.”

###

Is this what he does when he’s ignored? Will his bids for attention get more desperate as time passes and the members of his former party continue to ignore him?

Obamacare ruling: WOW, talk about a lack of perspective!

There’s some big news out of a federal appeals court in D.C., and I am just stunned by the lack of perspective in the way The Washington Post is reporting it:

federal appeals court panel in the District struck down a major part of the 2010 health-care law Tuesday, ruling that the tax subsidies that are central to the program may not be provided in at least half of the states.

The ruling, if upheld, could potentially be more damaging to the law than last month’s Supreme Court decision on contraceptives. [emphasis mine]

The three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with plaintiffs who argued that the language of the law barred the government from giving subsidies to people in states that chose not to set up their own insurance marketplaces. Twenty-seven states, most with Republican leaders who oppose the law, decided against setting up marketplaces, and another nine states partially opted out…..

Wow. Do ya think?

This ruling, “if upheld,” would mean Obamacare would cease to exist for those of us in South Carolina and in 26 other states. There would be nothing left of it. We don’t have the Medicaid expansion, and we don’t have a state exchange, so this would be it — no one — South Carolina would be getting health insurance through the ACA.

Which, of course, is precisely what Nikki Haley and all those other SC Republicans who hate Barack Obama and all he stands for far, FAR more than they care about the people of SC want. Their dream, our nightmare, would be achieved — South Carolina would have “opted out” of health care reform.

Compare that to a ruling that closely-held corporations with religious objections would not have to cover some contraceptives — while covering EVERYTHING ELSE that a person would go to a doctor for.

So, uh, yeah, it could “potentially” (that hedge word is just the cherry on top of this monument to lack of perspective) be more damaging to the law.

Wow. Wow…

I’ll get mad at Nikki Haley and her fellow ideologues who put South Carolina in a position to be denied any benefit (any benefit at all, people, not just your preferred contraceptives, or your favorite antihistamines, or your chosen brand of bandages) from the ACA later. Right now, my mind is too boggled by that observation from the WashPost

I don’t know anything about this Sandhya Somashekhar person who wrote the piece, but does she not have an editor?!?!?

SC GOP leaders back reauthorization of Ex-Im Bank

South Carolina’s top Republicans are all signing on for reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, breaking with the “conservative” wing of their party in the U.S. House:

Governor Haley, Senators Graham and Scott Support Ex-Im Bank Reauthorization

WASHINGTON – South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott have written to congressional leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate expressing support for the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

“As elected officials from a state where thousands of hardworking families benefit from exports, we urge you to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) before its charter expires this year,” wrote Haley, Graham and Scott.  “As the official export credit agency of the United States, Ex-Im is a vital export finance tool to the businesses in our state – at no cost to American taxpayers.

“Ex-Im allows South Carolina businesses to compete globally on a level playing field.  Without Ex-Im our local businesses would be forced into a global market with foreign competitors that receive extensive support from their own export credit programs.  Allowing Ex-Im to expire will deliberately disadvantage American businesses and lead to increased unemployment.”

#####

This shouldn’t be surprising, for two reasons:

  1. The Ex-Im Bank is hugely important to Boeing, which is in turn hugely important to SC politicos.
  2. The GOP sentiment for shutting it down seems pretty much confined to the extreme wing in the House, and outside advocacy groups. Senate Republicans are broadly supporting reauthorization.

ICYMI: The Thomas Ravenel announcement

FILE PHOTO: Ravenel during 2006 interview.

FILE PHOTO: Ravenel during 2006 interview.

Still catching up on stuff I saw over the long weekend, and was too lazy to comment on then.

Did you take note of Thomas Ravenel’s formal announcement of his independent candidacy for U.S. Senate? Here it is:

THOMAS RAVENEL ANNOUNCES U.S. SENATE CANDIDACY

“Southern Charm” Star To Challenge Two-Party Status Quo in South Carolina

Businessman, reality television star and former South Carolina State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel will run as an independent for the United States Senate seat currently held by liberal “Republican” Lindsey Graham.  Ravenel made his Senate candidacy official prior to attending a Fourth of July rally in Greenville, S.C.

“It’s time for voters across our state and this country to declare their independence from a failed two-party system – one that no longer represents their interests or the interests of Americans to come,” the star of Bravo’s ‘Southern Charm’ said.  “Election after election of choosing the lesser of two evils has our economy and our freedoms on a downward slide – but there’s still time to change the road we’re on.  To do that, though, we need a real debate and a real choice – candidates who are offering real ideas to turn things around.”

Ravenel, 51, said his campaign would offer specific policies aimed at redefining the relationship between citizens and their government – something neither major party is willing or able to do.

“Government doesn’t belong in your boardroom, your bedroom or your email inbox,” he said.  “But its presence in every aspect of our lives continues to grow.  Democrats keep dictating choices in our marketplaces and Republicans keep telling us who we can and cannot love.  And both parties want to keep spending like there’s notomorrow while they spy on us to make sure we don’t step out of line.  All of this leads to less prosperity and liberty – and more dependency and fear.”

In declaring his candidacy, Ravenel spoke frankly about his past – including the ten months he spent in a federal prison following a 2007 drug arrest.  He said he expected to be attacked over the issue – and was ready to defend himself.

“I’m an imperfect messenger, I know that – but somebody’s got to stand up for the message,” Ravenel said.   “Also, the last time I checked there are plenty of ‘perfect’ messengers out there who are bankrupting our Treasury, destroying our economy, and sending our sons and daughters off to die and be disfigured in places we have no business fighting.”

Ravenel said crafting a new foreign policy would be a centerpiece of his campaign.

“Ill-conceived interventions and this constant flip-flopping of allegiances between terrorist organizations does not make us safer – it only makes another attack on our homeland more likely,” Ravenel said.  “We absolutely must have the world’s strongest military to protect our borders and secure our national interests – but our national defense is weakened by politically motivated pork projects, failed attempts at nation-building and picking up the tab for wealthy countries that won’t defend themselves.”

Ravenel will submit his signatures to appear on the November 2014 ballot to the S.C. Election Commission (SCEC) next week.

-###-

Several observations…

  • He certainly isn’t shying away from his negatives. In fact, in at least one instance he’s embracing them. Note that the release identifies him as a “reality television star,” both in the subhed and in the lede, before mentioning that he was state treasurer — and then reiterates it in the next graf. In fact, it emphasizes this to such an extent that I wondered whether the TV production company is somehow involved in this campaign, perhaps even helping with drafting releases. Bravo is certainly promoting the idea of his candidacy.
  • This probably won’t mean much to anyone who doesn’t write for a living, but the release is slightly unusual in that it is written as a mock news story, even making observations about the manner of his announcement, as though it were written by a neutral third party: “In declaring his candidacy, Ravenel spoke frankly about his past…” That’s a slightly odd voice. It’s not unique; I’ve seen the device used before. But it struck me.
  • If one were inclined to take this candidacy seriously, that would be undermined by this, in the first graf: “liberal ‘Republican’ Lindsey Graham.” One thing Lindsey Graham most certainly is not is a liberal. And it takes the kind of gall that few besides Thomas Ravenel can muster to refer to the actual nominee of the Republican Party — a distinction that Ravenel did not seek — as a “Republican,” in quotes.
  • He calls himself “an imperfect messenger,” but he may be the perfect messenger for the message he bears. He may be the most Randian figure in South Carolina. He is self-admiring (watch this video to get a sense of the Ravenel ego, or this one), self-centered, self-indulgent, and presents it all boldly as a philosophy instead of as evidence of a flawed character. Mark Sanford has always been about Mark Sanford, but even he would not dare to flaunt his egomania the way Thomas Ravenel does.
  • Speaking as the founder of the UnParty, why is it that any time someone does run as an independent in South Carolina, it’s someone who’s too extreme, too ideological, for the UnParty? OK, so maybe Tom Ervin is a bit of a centrist (too soon to tell). But the rest of the time, independents seem to be people who are, to use one of my favorite early-19th-century expressions, not quite the thing.
  • Finally, whom is Ravenel helping, and whom is he hurting by running? I was chatting with a former Graham staffer recently who thought Ravenel would take votes from Brad Hutto, who can ill afford to lose them. I’ve assumed the opposite from the first rumors of this ego trip. Ravenel is likely to appeal to the less discriminating Paulistas, and other elements from the libertarian segments of the Republican coalition, ranging from the elitist Club for Growth/Wall Street Journal crowd to the far more populist Tea Party (although more from the former than from the latter). He doesn’t fit perfectly with any of those groups, but he overlaps enough with them to pull some of the folks who voted for Graham’s opponents in the primary.

Anyway, those were my first thoughts. What were yours?

Tom Ervin won’t say how HE’D pay for roads, either

Well, we know that Nikki Haley wants to fix SC roads, but doesn’t want to say how she’d pay for it — at least, not until after the election.

Vincent Sheheen at least says he’d issue bonds for pay for part of our infrastructure needs. Beyond that, he’s vague. From his website:

South Carolina is too dependent on the “gas tax” and needs to diversify how it pays for roads and bridges. In addition to the $1 billion Vincent helped secure for road reconstruction in 2013, he believes we should continue using South Carolina’s bonding authority to make long-term infrastructure investments, dedicate more General Fund revenue from surpluses to roads, and look at new revenue sources to help make our roads safe again. All options must be on the table for discussion.

What I’d like to see from Sheheen an elaboration on what he means when he says SC is “too dependent on the ‘gas tax’,” and therefore must go on some grail-like quest for mysterious “new revenue sources.” I suspect what he means is that SC is simply unwilling, politically, to raise our extremely low gas tax. He certainly can’t mean that he thinks it’s too high.

Meanwhile, independent candidate Tom Ervin takes the governor to task for not saying how she’d pay for roads, and then declines to say how he would do it:

Greenville: Independent Republican candidate Tom Ervin issued the following statement:

Governor Haley’s “secret plan” to fund improvements for our roads and bridges is nothing more than a “secret tax increase” and another blatant example of her lack of transparency and accountability.20140525_0138-300x300

Call Governor Haley now at (803) 734-2100 and demand that she disclose the details of her secret funding plan.  When Nikki Haley hides the ball on funding, that’s her political speak for taxpayer’s having to foot the bill.  Haley’s secret plan shouldn’t surprise anyone.  It’s Haley’s lack of leadership that has forced a county-by-county sales tax increase to make up for her failed leadership.  This has resulted in a back door sales tax increase on top of her “secret plan” to raise taxes next year.

And I’m shocked about Governor Haley’s stated approach.  We are a legislative state.  For Haley to say she will “show the General Assembly how to do it” confirms just how irresponsible Haley’s approach is to our serious infrastructure needs.

If South Carolinians want to maintain or roads and bridges and invest in our infrastructure, it’s going to require a change in leadership.  When I am governor, I will work with our elected representatives to build a consensus for long term funding for our crumbling roads and bridges. And I’ll be honest with you up front that all suggested solutions are on the table for debate.  The legislative process is a deliberative process.  We already have a dictator in Washington, D.C.  We don’t need another one in Columbia.

Tell, me — in what way is the governor’s promise to come out with something after the election different, practically speaking, from “When I am governor, I will work with our elected representatives to build a consensus for long term funding?” Yeah, I get that he’s saying he’d respect lawmakers more than the incumbent does. But beyond that, he’s doing the same thing she is — declining to say what he would propose until after the election.

Are we supposed to read “And I’ll be honest with you up front that all suggested solutions are on the table for debate” as some sort of code that the one responsible plan, raising the gas tax, will be part of his plan? Maybe. But why not come out and say it? It’s not like he’d be endangering his chance of getting elected, because that chance does not exist. (When one is tilting at windmills, why not go for broke and propose the right thing, rather than being cagey?)

So, having surveyed the field, one thing I must say in Todd Rutherford’s behalf is that at least he’s proposing something, even though it’s a really bad idea.

The passing of Howard Baker

baker

This came in a little while ago from The Washington Post:

Former senator Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee, who framed the central question of the Watergate scandal when he asked “what did the president know and when did he know it?” and framed portraits of history with his ever-present camera while Senate majority leader and White House chief of staff, died June 26 at his home in Huntsville, Tenn. He was 88.

The cause was complications from a stroke, said longtime aide Tom Griscom….

That’s me with Baker in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1980. I had just arrived to cover him as he campaigned for the presidential nomination. It’s a shame that he didn’t do better than he did.

And it’s a greater shame that there are so few pragmatic centrists like Baker left — a fair-minded conservative who did not hesitate to grill the Nixon administration to discover the truth.

We still have Lamar Alexander, who comes out of that same commonsense Tennessee Republican tradition — people who gained high office before the Reagan revolution, and before the hardening of ideological positions on both ends of the spectrum. Our own Lindsey Graham is made from a similar mold — although, being of a later generation, he is more marked by the partisan wars than Baker ever was.

But the Howard Bakers, the Sam Nunns, the Scoop Jacksons… they’re all gone. And we’re worse off for it…

Campbell releases ad on eve of runoff

Seeing this ad today reminds me of I neglected to mention last week, what with getting knocked on the head and all.

I ran into Mike Campbell at the State House the day of all the excitement over McGill becoming Senate president pro tem, McConnell resigning, McGill becoming lieutenant governor, Massey giving his “coup d’état” speech, and Leatherman becoming president pro tem — whew, I have to take a breath after saying all that.

I asked him how he thought he was doing, and he said the same thing that campaign manager Hogan “Chuckles” Gidley said in that story in The State over the weekend — that “the scoreboard has been reset” for his lieutenant governor runoff against Henry McMaster, that even though McMaster did a lot better in the original vote, it’s all about who turns out for the runoff (which is tomorrow, in case you’ve forgotten), and you never know what will happen.

After all, as he reminds me, he got the most votes in the initial vote for this same office in 2006, only to have Andre Bauer — who was everywhere, campaigning tirelessly and visibly in his cast after his plane crash — come from behind and beat him. It was a bit of a stunner, widely attributed to Bauer’s pluck and indefatigability.

Some other random thoughts on this lieutenant governor runoff:

  • It’s interesting to me to see Hogan managing the Campbell campaign, while Rick Santorum — whose 2012 campaign Hogan helped run — is endorsing McMaster. Meanwhile, Campbell has the backing of Mike Huckabee. Another interesting thing about this (to me, anyway), is that Campbell (through his late father) and McMaster are both guys I identify with the GOP’s mainstream, while both Santorum and Huckabee reflect different flavors (Santorum Catholic, Huckabee evangelical) of the religious conservative wing. Not sure what all that means; I just found it interesting to draw the connections in my head.
  • Campbell is focusing more than McMaster on the Office of Aging part of the job, for what that’s worth. But he makes sure you know he’s for limited government, too.
  • The State is still using that picture I shot for my blog in 2006 for its go-to mug shot of Campbell. So I’m still contributing to the paper, in an oh-so-subtle way. I told you these would be random thoughts…
  • If you ask me to pick a winner, I say it will be McMaster. But Campbell’s right, it’s about the turnout, which will be miniscule. So which of these guys has the best ground game, identifying supporters and gigging them to go vote tomorrow? I don’t know…

Unusual split between McCain, Graham on Iran, Iraq

This WashPost headline (“Wait, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are at odds? Yes — on Iran and Iraq“) grabbed my attention this morning:

Pick your favorite foreign policy debate and odds are hawkish Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) will be on the same side. Not so when it comes to the escalating situation in Iraq.

McCain on Monday warned sharply against the idea of collaborating with Iran to help the Iraqi government push back against radical Islamist fighters…

“It would be the height of folly to believe that the Iranian regime can be our partner in managing the deteriorating security situation in Iraq,” said McCain in a statement….

Appearing on the Sunday news shows, Graham cautiously endorsed the idea, provided certain conditions are met.

“Well, we’re going to probably need their help to hold Baghdad,” he said on CBS News’s “Face The Nation.”

On the same program, Graham said, “We need to all make sure Baghdad doesn’t fall

It’s not really a huge split, except that McCain’s language (“height of folly”)  is so emphatic. But worth making note.

Frankly, I’m intrigued by the implications of working with Iran for other issues. No, I don’t expect us to become big buddies and see them immediately drop their nuclear program for their new pals, but crises breed opportunity, and there could be one here — aside from the immediate tactical situation, which sees Iran in a better position to act than the U.S.

It’s going to be tough to work with the mullahs while simultaneously pressing Maliki to be less of a Shi’ite chauvinist (thereby making his regime one more worth saving), but it’s worth exploring.

So I think Graham’s being the more pragmatic and flexible here…

Editor’s note: The above video clip — one of my most popular ever — is NOT from this week. It’s from May 15, 2007.

Tea Party seeming more and more an actual, separate party

Some time ago — and it’s frustrating me that I can’t put my hands on it at the moment — Brad Hutto gave a speech somewhere in the Upstate in which he announced that Democrats were in the driver’s seat in the SC Senate.

That startled some who heard it, but there’s a certain truth to it, if you consider how divided the Republican caucus is. There are only 18 Democrats in a body of 46, but it’s not unusual for the Republicans to split between, say, 16 regular Country Club, Chamber of Commerce Republicans, and the rest voting solidly Tea Party. (The numbers break differently, according to the issue.) That gives Democrats a solid plurality, when they stick together. (Which they don’t always do; you might even see Gerald Malloy teaming with a Tea Partier to hold up something other Democrats want.)

Democratic muscle can exert itself in some seemingly surprising ways — such as when John Courson became president pro tem based on Democratic support.

Anyway, we keep seeing signs that increasingly, Tea Partiers wear their “R” designation lightly, placing greater emphasis on their snake-flag loyalties.

A small example of that was in this release today from Lee Bright, in the wake of his getting crushed by Lindsey Graham:

Bright Campaign Falls Short – But Accomplished Much


Lee Bright and five other challengers could not hold well-funded Lindsey Graham under the needed 50 per cent threshold in South Carolina’s Republican Senate PrimaryTuesday night – but the insurgent campaign of the Upstate Senator did defy gravity – and Bright was the dominant challenger from wire to wire. While all the financial figures are not in yet, Bright for Senate will clearly have the best vote to dollars spent ratio.
 
Bright ended up with 15.4% of the vote, almost double his nearest competitor – Richard Cash.  He held Graham well under 50% in Spartanburg and Greenville Counties, and doubled up Nancy Mace in Charleston County.
 
“Our team and our volunteers worked extremely hard, and even though we fell short, we have a lot to be proud of,” said Bright, who added, “With Eric Cantor’s defeat in Virginia, some good things happened for the country on Tuesday, even if not in our race. We’re going to continue to fight for what we believe, and we understand that the fight for liberty never ends.”
 
Bright added that he was “humbled by the work of our volunteers – from making phone calls to making signs – these people kept me going. I am proud to have been in this fight with them.” Bright also said that he hopes “Lindsey Graham’s recent aversion to ObamaCare will continue, now that the Primary is over. We’re going to hold him to that.”

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See that? “With Eric Cantor’s defeat in Virginia, some good things happened for the country on Tuesday…”

It’s not at all surprising that he’d say that, but sometimes it’s instructive to stop and think, “He’s celebrating the defeat of his own (supposed) party’s majority leader.” And realize that Tea Party Republicans are getting less Republican each day…

What’s ironic is that Republicans who sympathize with the Tea Party are sometimes the first to call real, traditional Republicans “RINOs.” When of course, it’s the other way around.

SC Republican voters on Tuesday showed that they’ve picked up on that, in their utter rejection of Lindsey Graham’s challengers…

The most significant, positive thing you can do as a voter today is make sure Lindsey Graham wins outright

A still from a campaign video.

A still from a campaign video.

Where I live, I normally take a Republican primary ballot, because that’s the only way I get any choices, especially on local races.

But four years ago, I broke with that pattern because of one race: I wanted to vote for Vincent Sheheen. I was so disappointed by the whole Republican field for governor (even Henry McMaster, whom I had expected to like for the job, but hated the campaign he ran), and I wanted to have the positive experience of voting for somebody for governor, rather than trying to pick the least of evils on the GOP side. I did this even though it meant I was disenfranchised, unable to state a choice as a voter in several races in which the GOP primary was the election (and again, it is SO wrong that a voter has to make a choice like that — we should get a say on everyone who represents us).

Today, I went back to the GOP, so I didn’t have that problem. But still, as in 2010, my mind was on one race and one race only. Even if there had been compelling contests on the Democratic side that I wanted to weigh in on (there weren’t), I would have taken a GOP ballot simply to vote for Lindsey Graham. On this day, that was the best and highest use of my right and responsibility as a voter.

Totally apart from the fact that he deserves re-election and is a far better candidate than his challengers, the contest for his seat has much broader implications for our state.

The worst thing that can happen to South Carolina in today’s primaries would be for Graham to lose, and the second worst would be for him to get into a runoff.

If he loses (and a runoff makes it more likely that he might actually lose, if all the Graham haters unite behind one candidate), don’t ever expect to see a South Carolina Republican take a political risk in order to do the right thing for a long, long time. He would be the cautionary example of what happens if you think for yourself and stick your neck out.

Conversely, if he wins decisively today, it affirms the kind of thoughtful, principled representation of which we all know he, unlike his opponents, is capable.

The crowd of people running against him all smell blood in the water. Some are just dangerous extremists (Lee Bright) and others are opportunists willing to benefit from his vulnerability — and willing to cater to that same extremism in order to conquer. That must not be rewarded.

All sensible, moderate South Carolinians, regardless of party, should be asking for a GOP primary ballot today, and voting for Graham. And yet I know so many will find excuses not to.

One of my best friends, who for several years constituted the “liberal” wing of The State‘s editorial board (as he would tell you, though, more of a New Republic liberal than a Mother Jones liberal), wrote for a lot of Democrats and independents yesterday when he said:

“If those things happen, don’t EVER expect to see a South Carolina Republican take a political risk in order to do the right thing for a long, LONG time.”

When was the last time that actually happened? Has Lindsey Graham done anything in public during his current term that I actually am thankful for? I’d like to be wrong about this, but I can’t think of one thing in the last six years that I actually approve of. Anything?

It only took me a moment to come up with three good answers to that question:

1. He was the only Republican from SC to vote to reopen the government last fall — even as he was bracing himself for the current onslaught from the right.

2. Voting to confirm Kagan.

3. Voting to confirm Sotomayor.

The list of things that please me would be longer, but I was looking at it from Mike’s perspective. (The second and third points are particularly important, because they illustrate Graham living up to the principle he so often states — that elections have consequences, and unless a president’s nominees are simply unqualified, they should be confirmed. This is an incredibly important principle to the healthy functioning of our system of republican government, and all too rare today — it’s something that the ideologues of the left and right can’t even wrap their heads around. It’s the kind of thing that separates a statesman from a hack.)

It is SO easy for moderates (and the very few liberals in SC) to be turned off by Graham’s recent emphasis on messages that appeal to the hard right — opposition to Obamacare, going on and on about Benghazi, etc.

And of course, some of our friends — Bud and Doug come to mind — find that two-faced and deceptive. They’re wrong. And moderates (or liberals) who see only the things they don’t like, forgetting the things that they do like, are wrong as well.

There is absolutely nothing wrong, or deceptive, or duplicitous about stressing positions that you honestly hold that appeal to people who might vote for your opponents. An honest politician has not only a right, but an obligation to let voters who might be heavily critical of him know that he actually agrees with them on issues that are important to them. Graham has been a vocal opponent of Obamacare from the start; he and John McCain have been the main critics of the administration on Benghazi. And he is, just as he claims, a social conservative.

And moderates and those few liberals who may be turned off by this kind of campaign need to stop and think — this is the only way a guy like Lindsey Graham gets re-elected in this state. Your alternative is not Elizabeth Warren (God help us), or whoever you like out there. Your alternative is Lee Bright, or someone who in office would act like Lee Bright.

The kind of courage and thoughtfulness and sense of responsibility that Graham exhibits, at great political risk, on issues such as judicial confirmation, foreign aid, fiscal issues, immigration and energy are rare qualities. And no one else running for this office exhibits them.

For someone as high-profile as Graham to be brought low by the extreme Lilliputians of the Tea Party would be a tragedy for South Carolina, because nothing could be more guaranteed to make sure we don’t see his kind of courage in the future.

We can’t afford to lose this one guy who puts his country before party doctrine. We can’t afford to lose Lindsey Graham.

Another still from the same campaign video.

Another still from the same campaign video.

Tom Ervin says he’ll be on November ballot

Tom Ervin, the third-wheel candidate for governor, had a presser this morning over at the state election commission. I did not make it, but this apparently is what he said:

Ervin Campaign Assures Spot on November Ballot 
Tom Ervin, the Independent Republican candidate for Governor, assured himself a spot on the November general election ballot when he and his campaign submitted 20,137 petition signatures of registered voters today to the South Carolina State Election Commission.unnamed
The legal requirement of 10,000 valid signatures was easily swamped by Ervin, reporting signatures from every county in South Carolina.
“Today we are simply grateful that by the hard work of so many, we have given voice to the thousands of South Carolinians who say enough is enough, it is time to put South Carolina first,” Ervin, of Greenville, said in a press conference outside the State Election Commission in Columbia.
Ervin promised a series of education, economic and political reforms to shake up the race for governor.
“We intend to shape this campaign — and to win it — by offering a different vision for our great state,” Ervin said. “We must improve our education system — from Pre-K through college — so that we are competitive for the jobs of the future and that all of our citizens — all of our citizens — have access to the same quality education.
“We must have a bold economic plan — one that includes all South Carolinians, not just those lucky few who receive support from crony capitalism practiced here in Columbia. And we must restore trust in the state government by our citizens.
“For too long, Columbia has been controlled by professional politicians and their patron lobbyists, looking after one another, surviving — no thriving — after yet another embarrassing scandal. The self serving and political back scratching will come to an end when I am governor.”
Ervin will deliver a series of major policy speeches in the coming days, outlining in detail his three major areas of reform.

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Now what in the world this means for November, I have no idea. Can he be a factor in the election? Can he actually pull enough GOP votes to put Vincent Sheheen within striking distance (something he’s not likely to achieve on his own the way things are going)? Or, conversely, will he split the anti-Haley vote with Sheheen, thereby giving the incumbent a bigger margin of victory than she could have achieved on her own.

If so, then this is significant. Otherwise, not.

Make no mistake, independents (and Democrats, of COURSE): Lee Bright does NOT want you to vote for him

Not that you would likely make that mistake, but just as a reminder, I pass on his release from this morning:

Establishment Republican Trying to Seduce Obama Voters

On the eve of Lindsey Graham having to face his top challenger, Lee Bright, at the polls, Team Graham is running a quiet campaign to woo Democrats. Publicly, Graham’s Campaign is saturating South Carolina TV stations touting his supposed “conservative credentials” – yet he is simultaneously using web ads and social media to target Democrats and to remind them they can vote for him in the Republican Primary.

“Well, he’s the liberals’ favorite Republican in Washington, so he is simply following form by trying to sneak past 50 per cent with some Democrat voters,” said Bright, who added, “This is really so predictable. In fact, we predicted it. This is the guy who voted for ObamaCare before he voted against it, and who is very close to John Kerry. He’s obviously reaching out to his true base.”

Edmund Wright, Bright’s Communications Director, said, “This is quintessential political cross dressing. It’s quite a little paradox too, targeting Democrats with web ads while using his lobbying money to spread the fabricated rumor that he’s a conservative on television.”

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And did you like the oh-so-subtle cross-dressing reference? That Lee Bright, he’s such a smoothie…

Pope running for governor — in 2018. Thanks for the heads-up there, Tommy

His eyes are focused on the future -- the far, far future...

His eyes are focused on the future — the far, far future…

The campaigns just keep getting started earlier and earlier. But I think this is a first for me:

— Republican state Rep. Tommy Pope said Tuesday he plans to run for governor in 2018, calling the job an opportunity to advocate for statewide needs such as improving roads and bridges.

The 51-year-old York representative and former prosecutor said he made the decision after praying about it with his wife, adding that a formal announcement is likely two years away.

State leaders “need to focus on something larger than ourselves. The governor’s office gives the opportunity to lead in that direction on issues that are important to everybody, like state infrastructure,” he said. “We need to come up with a way to fund it, and we need to come up with a means of fairly distributing it.”

Pope’s comments come five months before voters decide who will be governor for the next four years. He is running for a third term in the House in November….

I really don’t remember when I’ve heard a prospective candidate state his intentions so definitely before the election before the one he intends to run in. It may not be the first time it’s happened, it’s just a first in my memory.

I mean, the guy just lapped the electoral cycle.

That said, I like that he’s talking about leading on infrastructure. Although I’m a little disappointed when he says, further down in the story, that “he stopped short of advocating for a gas tax increase statewide.”

If you’re getting such a long running start like this, it seems it would be because you were bursting to share some great new idea that no one else has had the brains and/or guts to put forth. Perhaps he’ll get back to us when he has one. No rush; there’s plenty of time…

The ads with Lindsey Graham’s little sister

I’ve always known that after their parents died when they were both still young, Lindsey Graham took over raising his younger sister.

For John McCain, it’s the story about his time at the Hanoi Hilton. For Graham, the personal anecdote that illuminates character to the candidate’s advantage is the one about him taking care of his sister at an age when most of us shouldered no responsibilities.

I’ve never heard the story told by the sister herself. So these ads are still something of a revelation.

The one above is the 60-second version. I actually think maybe the 30-second one is more effective.

And here’s a link to a radio ad that complements the TV spots.

You may say it has little to do with being senator, but I’d sure rather see these than more ads about how much the candidate hates Obamacare. That gets old.

Does it matter that Harrell’s PAC contributed to ethics panel members? Uh, yeah, I think so…

While I believe Kenny Bingham is saying what he truly believes when he says he would not be swayed by past contributions from a PAC associated with Speaker Bobby Harrell, I’m gonna have to come down on the side of those who would say that this means the House Ethics Committee should in no way be passing judgment on their boss:

The five Republican members of the 10-member House Ethics Committee — which House Speaker Bobby Harrell wants to decide allegations against him — have received some $13,000 in campaign contributions from a political action committee associated with the Charleston Republican.

Those committee members, who have received contributions from the Palmetto Leadership Council PAC, include Ethics Committee chairman Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington. In 2008, 2010 and 2012, Bingham received $1,000 contributions each election cycle from the Palmetto Leadership Council….

Actually… I would question the impartiality of the panel even if no one on it had received a dime from the PAC. But the money raises sufficient additional questions that the House ethics cops should leap to recuse themselves and let other competent authorities deal with this matter. Such as, you know, the attorney general

Oh, and on a related matter…

It looks like whoever did the coding on John Monk’s story had a bit of a Freudian slip. The story appears on the website under “Crime” instead of under “SC Politics.” Very interesting…

crime