Category Archives: South Carolina

Touring USC’s new Darla Moore School of Business

Peggy Binette of the USC media office threw a poor blogger a bone and invited me on the official media tour yesterday of the fancy new ultra-modern, artsy, green, hyper-energy-efficient Darla Moore School of Business.

I’d have posted about it Wednesday, but was tied up the rest of the day.

The tour was like old home week. I ran into, let’s see… six people I used to work with at The State, two of whom actually still work there. So it was nice to catch up with them.

The building was really nice, too, although it will look better when the trees and plants come in, and they get some artwork up on the walls. I’m assured the architects have a plan for decorating the oceans of beige, but they’re not putting anything up until all construction is finished.

And it mostly is, or so it seemed. The building is fully in use, with students coming and going and faculty moved in to offices, but it will probably be awhile before it feels lived in.

In the video above, you hear Dean Peter Brews speak, with his South African accent, about the reaction of students to the new facility. He said they were saying it is “sick… which I gather is a positive thing.” For my part, I didn’t know the kids were still saying that.

For the basics, here’s The State‘s story from the tour. The messages for the day were:

  • This is a banner day for the Moore School, putting business education at USC in an enviable position in terms of facilities and capabilities.
  • The beauty, functionality and energy-efficiency of the building.
  • Collaboration. Over and over, we heard how faculty and students from different disciplines who never saw each other in the old, vertical building are already interacting to an unprecedented extent, which is expected to lead to all sorts of good things.

And, yes, the fact that the building is where it is to act as “a gateway for the University of South Carolina leading into the Innovista district.” Beyond that, I’ll let pictures tell the story…

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.

STILL no victims of Department of Revenue breach

When an alert reader brought this to my attention, I thought that maybe I’d been wrong about no one yet being harmed by the huge SC Department of Revenue security breach. In other words, maybe Vincent Sheheen was in “luck,” in that there was a rich vein of wronged taxpayers out there ready to channel resentment at Nikki Haley:

Calls pour in to ID theft unit

South Carolina’s tax agency hacked in October 2013

By Tim Smith

Staff writer tcsmith@greenvillenews.com 

COLUMBIA — The incidents are an all too familiar and scary part of modern life: a monthly statement shows someone has been fraudulently using your credit card; a store where you’ve never shopped sends you a notice demanding repayment of charges you’ve never made; a laptop be­longing to a government agency with your personal data has been stolen.

Two years after a hacker broke into South Carolina’s tax agency and took data belonging to 3.6 million taxpayers, the in­cidence and threats of identity theft are so pervasive that a four-person state unit reg­ularly handles calls about the subject.

In fact, since October 2013, when the identity theft unit for the state Depart­ment of Consumer Affairs began operat­ing, more than 3,300 people have called to talk about identity theft or some type of scam, some of which are attempts at iden­tity theft, said Juliana Harris, a spokes­woman for the agency. “I definitely know that calls are up,”she said….

But then, I got to this line, way, way down in the story (the 27th graf; not many news stories these days even have 27 paragraphs):

After the Department of Revenue breach, she said she stayed on the phone constantly all day, with every one of her lines lit up. She said she might have talked to 100 people per day following the revenue department hacking.

No one has come forward since the breach saying it has caused their identity to be stolen, she said. 

So. We have yet to see our first victim of the huge hack at DoR. I mean, we’re pretty much all of us “victims” in that our data were stolen. But who has been harmed by that yet?

By the way, you might want to read Cindi Scoppe’s column today on how Sheheen is emphasizing the wrong things in his criticisms of the incumbent — but also how he has little choice, since the right things are so hard to explain…

One thing education does not need is political parties

I’m hoping this quote from Bruce Smith’s story about the state education superintendent candidate debate in Myrtle Beach Sunday was just out of context:

“Party matters” in public education said Democrat Tom Thompson, a former dean of graduate studies at South Carolina State University who bested three other Democrats in the primary.

“You can have the state superintendent of education say one thing but the party behind that person has to be consistent with what the state superintendent says,” he added, in a comment directed at Republicans, some of whom favor taxpayer vouchers for private school students….

The problem, you see, is not having officials who are Republicans. The problem is having officials who want to take money from public schools and pay them to parents for withdrawing their kids from public schools. Doesn’t matter to me whether the people wanting to do that Republicans, Democrats (and sometimes they are) or Zoroastrians. The idea is the problem, not the letter after the name.

The problem with Mick Zais isn’t that he’s a Republican. He could have been a Republican and been just fine. The problem is that he so firmly embraces bumper-sticker ideology. Which frankly was a shock to me. I expect retired military officers to be above that nonsense. I expect them to be pragmatists. So Zais was a surprise to me.

And I liked what Molly Spearman said right after that in the story:

Spearman, meanwhile, said the way to improve education is for people to work together.

“The job and our efforts are too important for us to squabble and not get along,” she said. “I have worked hard over my career never to burn bridges.”…

And adhering closely to a party line, to the exclusion of other ideas, is one sure way to burn bridges. In fact, that’s sort of what it’s for.

There was one thing in that party from which I can draw some comfort: The first candidate quoted was American Party candidate Ed Murray. Not that I can support the American Party, either, but I applaud the fact that Jim Rex and Oscar Lovelace are at least trying to promote a Third Way in South Carolina. And the attempt is drawing some positive attention, it seems…

Little-noticed fact: Sheheen has had a stellar legislative year

I don’t disagree with any of the “experts” who say Nikki Haley is the favorite to win the gubernatorial election this year.

But I do take exception to this observation:

The panelists stopped short of criticizing Sheheen, whom Winthrop University political science professor Scott Huffmon called “a great candidate” because he came so close to knocking off Haley last time. But when asked by Bierbauer what Sheheen has done in the past four years to strengthen himself as a candidate, they mostly kept silent….

That silence suggests something that we frequently hear here, particularly from Doug: That Sheheen hasn’t been a leader in his job as state senator.

Sheheen has done little to  tout his successes as a lawmaker.

Sheheen has done little to tout his successes as a lawmaker.

Actually, in terms of being a guy who gets things done in the Legislature, Sheheen has done quite a lot.

In the past year, significant progress was made on two things that Sheheen has been pushing vocally and visibly: The elimination of the Budget and Control Board and 4k expansion.

Argue how much of that was Sheheen if you’d like. For instance, his opponent had identified herself strongly with the restructuring initiative. But the fact is that Sheheen was pushing this bill, and working on his colleagues to promote it, since well before Nikki Haley ever decided to run for governor. (Which is kind of how long it takes for a good idea to seep into the heads of a majority of lawmakers.)

Those aren’t his only accomplishments. He was a significant player in the ban on texting-while-driving. The first two are much more impressive to me, however, as reflecting the kinds of strategic, fundamental changes that we need for South Carolina to progress.

What puzzles me is that we don’t see Sheheen touting these successes as a reason to vote for him. Instead, we see money and effort wasted on repeated attempts to get folks angry at the incumbent about the Department of Revenue hacking.

I don’t know why…

A chance to volunteer for new party, if you’re so inclined

Just got this release from Sue Rex on behalf of the news SC American Party:

To:  All interested individuals in the American Party of SC from Sue Rex

 

So much continues to develop with the American Party every day!  Jim and Oscar continue to work hard informing the public about the Party and about the four outstanding candidates who will be on the ballot in November:

 

 

Jill Bossi is running for US Senate against incumbent (appointed)  Tim Scott and Joyce Dickerson                                                                                               bossi4senate.com

 

Ed Murray is running for State Superintendent of Schools against Molly Spearman and Tom Thompson        

edmurrayforeducation.com

 

Emile DeFelice is running for Commissioner of Agriculture against incumbent Hugh Weathers 

emile defelice for sc commissioner of agriculture 2014                                                                                                                               

Donna McGreevy  is running for House Seat 74 against incumbent Todd Rutherford                                                                                                 donnamcgreevy.com

 

 Some of us will be working the tailgate venues with candidates before the USC  home games and we will have a booth again at the SC State Fair October 8th-19th.  Since the election is November 4th, it is important to be as visible as possible during September and October.                                                                                                                             

The policy at the Fair is that all booths must have someone present at all times.  We could REALLY use your help!!  Please consider being with us for one or more shifts.   This year I have divided each day into three shifts. ( 10:00 AM-2:00PM;  2:00-6:00 PM;  or 6:00-10:00 PM)   If you could look at your calendar and give me the dates and times that work best for you, it will be greatly appreciated!!    rexjs@truvista.net    or call me at 803-417-3736

 

I have American Party t-shirts to wear at the Fair, or you can wear a white shirt and you can put one of our stickers on.  I will try hard to have someone meet you at the entrance with a free pass.  Also, we will continue to try and share the limited parking passes that are provided to each booth.

 

These last two months before the election are critically important for the Party and its candidates.  This historic opportunity to provide our fellow citizens with a new way forward in American politics is dependent on both effort and resources.  Any dollars that can be given or collected for the Party and its candidates will likely make the critical difference in the November election. Signs, literature, radio and tv time are all essential for our candidates.   Please consider helping assure that their efforts will be rewarded on November 4th!!

 

American Party address is: 

 PO Box 156 

Great Falls, SC   29055

 

American Party checks should be made out to American Party SC or go to our website (americanpartysc.com) and give on-line.

 

Each candidate’s website (see above) gives information regarding donations.

Thank you so much for your support !  

 

Hope to see you at the South Carolina State Fair.

As you know, the new party falls far short of what I want as an alternative to the Big Two, but maybe some of y’all — particularly those of you enamored of term limits — would care to take part.

Would SOMEBODY please tell us what’s going on with Harrell?

The Bobby Harrell investigation — or whatever it is, or was — continues to be as weird as ever.

Over the weekend, the speaker triumphantly announced that the grand jury investigation of him is over, and his nemesis, Attorney General Alan Wilson, is off the case.

Then, John Monk (who, as you’ll recall, first reported that Harrell was trying secretly to get Wilson kicked off the case) got “sources familiar with the matter” to confirm that the investigation is continuing, now being overseen by 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe rather than Wilson.

Pascoe isn’t commenting. Neither is Wilson.

So. We don’t really know what is going on. But I agree with the conclusion of an editorial in The State today that said at some point, somebody needs to tell us, the people, what’s going on:

But here’s what we do know: Now that the Grand Jury no longer is empaneled, it cannot be argued that there is a legal prohibition on releasing the SLED report. And if Mr. Harrell’s victory dance has any basis — if in fact whatever remains of the criminal investigation is merely pro forma — then there is no reason that Mr. Wilson or Mr. Pascoe or whoever has possession of the report should not release it. Immediately.

For that matter, we don’t understand what legal basis there could be for Mr. Wilson refusing to comment on the status of the case. But then, there has been a lot about this case whose legal basis we have not understood.

It’s understandable that Mr. Wilson wouldn’t want to speak in detail and that the report would remain hidden from the public if the criminal investigation is indeed continuing. But even that must end at some point.

Whenever it ends, and however it ends, the attorney general must give an accounting for the way he has handled the case, and the SLED report must be released to the public. Not just because the subject of the probe has been so adamant in demanding its release, but because the voters need to know who has been doing his job and who has been abusing his office: our attorney general, or the speaker of the House.

New Sheheen ad: Another attempt to get us stirred up about hacking scandal

Above is the latest Sheheen TV ad.

Here’s a release that elaborates upon it, contrasting the promptness with which credit card companies tell us when there’s been a breach, versus the two weeks it took Gov. Haley to let anyone know about the huge Department of Revenue breach.

The Sheheen campaign keeps plugging away at this, But I doubt it will catch fire with the public until someone, somewhere has actually been harmed by the hacking, and we hear about it…

See how Conservation Voters scored SC lawmakers

header_scorecard_03

This came in this afternoon from Rebecca Haynes with the Conservation Voters of South Carolina:

Conservation Voters,

Do you know who is voting for or against protecting the natural resources that drive South Carolina’s economy? You do now. Check out our interactive 2013-2014 Legislative Scorecard. Based on the Conservation Common Agenda’s legislative priorities for 2013-2014, we score how House and Senate members vote on bills important to the conservation community.

Before the 2013 – 2014 legislative session, CVSC convened conservation groups across the state to agree upon collective priorities for the state legislature over the next two years. Our Conservation Common Agenda included fully funding the Conservation Bank, protecting wetlands and the coastal shoreline, upholding environmental regulations, opposing out-of-state waste and removing barriers to solar energy as the top “to-dos” at the State House.

We organized meetings with elected leaders and constituents and visited editorial boards prior to session. We were at the Capitol from January to June educating legislators across party lines about our priorities and calling upon South Carolinians to communicate support of or opposition to priority bills as they moved through the legislature.

Check out which bills were scored and how your legislator faired on the “Conservation Counts Scorecard” website at www.cvsc.org/scorecard.

Our conservation community is already hard at work on issues that failed to move forward such as surface water withdrawals, ethics and transportation spending reforms.

Here’s the page where you can look up each individual lawmaker’s score, and here’s a graphic about the State House overall.

One of the MANY problems with political parties

Got this email today from the SC Democratic Party:

Brad-

We’ve got just three more hours until our 5 pm deadline, and we still need your help to hit our goal.

Hitting this goal will bring us one step closer to defeating Nikki Haley and Lindsey Graham this fall!

Are you ready to help? Chip in now!

If you’ve saved your payment information with ActBlue Express, your donation will go through immediately:

Donate $7 instantly >>>

Donate $35 instantly >>>

Donate $50 instantly >>>

Or donate another amount now >>>

Onward to victory!

Thanks,
South Carolina Dems

And my mind zeroes right in on this part: “… one step closer to defeating Nikki Haley and Lindsey Graham this fall.”

It doesn’t occur to them that there just might be people — quite a lot of people, actually — who would be right there with them on the “defeating Nikki Haley” part, but would stop short at the “and Lindsey Graham” part, and would therefore decide they don’t want any part of any of this.

It doesn’t occur to them because they are a political party, and they have a candidate running for Graham’s seat. And if you are a political party, then you have to buy in completely to the notion that all of your candidates are better than all of their candidates. The whole our and their thing is core to your being.

Which is not the way you think, if you are someone who thinks, and have not surrendered that faculty to a group.

This is the problem with parties. Well, one of the many problems with parties…

The missing word in Cindi Scoppe’s column today

I refer you to the ending of Cindi Scoppe’s column today, which explains that while we do need to spend more to upgrade our roads, their condition is not the greatest contributor to traffic fatalities in our state. She lists some of the other factors:

… The biggest problem: The Legislature refuses to treat drunk driving the way it treats other highway safety laws and the way all the other states treat it. Rather than making it illegal per se to drive with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent, it practically begs jurors to conclude that a driver with a BAC of 0.08 percent, or higher, didn’t really look that drunk.

To understand how absurd our law is, imagine being clocked at 90 mph in a 55 zone but being found not guilty because you convinced a jury that you were in complete control of the vehicle the entire time. Our laws don’t even give you a chance to try that sort of defense — unless you’re charged with drunk driving.

Of course, drunk driving isn’t our only problem.

Distracted driving is a huge problem, but we don’t restrict cell-phone use — even among drivers who are so inexperienced that we don’t let them drive at night or with friends in the car.

Our death rates are high for motorcyclists, but we don’t require adults to wear helmets.

Elderly drivers are more dangerous than all but the youngest drivers, but we don’t require road tests or more frequent license renewals for older drivers. (We do require a vision test every five years, rather than the normal 10 years, but the 10-year standard is just asking for trouble for everyone.)

We prohibit the use of traffic and red-light cameras.

We don’t have particularly tough penalties for speeding in work zones.

And the list goes on.

It’s all an outgrowth of our resistance to anyone telling us what to do. And it all contributes, a lot more than the condition of our roads, to our deadly highways.

She left a word out of that penultimate sentence. She should have said, “It’s all an outgrowth of our childish resistance to anyone telling us what to do.”

Maybe she thought it would be redundant. Or maybe she didn’t want to unfairly malign children by using that modifier to explain the hard-headed, self-destructive, don’t-care-what-harm-I-do-to-others attitude that infects our politics, and keeps us from having sane, sensible laws that would help us be healthier, wealthier and wiser.

Why do I say “childish?” Because of my extensive experience with 2-year-olds, and then later with teenagers, whose insistence upon doing what they want to do, and doing it their way, without adult interference, is such a danger to them and others.

My grandson is 2, and up until know he has been a compliant child, receptive to adults’ caring influence. Now, he’s a sweet as ever, but his favorite word is “Me!” As in, he wants to fasten the straps on his car seat himself, which is worrisome. Fortunately, it hasn’t yet occurred to him to go without such a restraint — which makes him more mature than the sort of adult voter who keeps us from having reasonable laws in South Carolina.

Has ANYONE been harmed yet by the SC DoR hacking?

I’ve asked that before, and I am prompted to ask it again after seeing this release from the Sheheen campaign:

Two Years After First Hacking Breach, Sheheen to Haley: “You Broke the People’s Trust”
Sheheen demands honesty & accountability in letter to Governor Haley, calls for answers following continued reports of South Carolinians’ information being in jeopardy
Camden, SC — Today Sen. Vincent Sheheen sent a letter to Governor Haley, exactly two years after a malicious email opened a hole in the Department of Revenue that allowed 3.4 million people’s Social Security Numbers to be stolen.
The text of Sen. Sheheen’s letter is below.
August 13, 2014
Dear Governor Haley,
I write today to demand honesty and accountability for the people of South Carolina.
Two years ago, weak cybersecurity measures at the Department of Revenue allowed a malicious email to open a hole for a hacker to steal our citizen’s most private financial information. The people of our state demanded answers, and received no response,  just a secret report. Less than one year ago, I wrote to you on the October anniversary about the safety and security of the people’s information to ask for answers regarding ongoing activities by Experian, and received no response.
Now, reports of an alarming nature have made headlines recently detailing an additional hacking at the credit-monitoring agency you handpicked to provide services to the people of South Carolina. CNN and TV stations here in South Carolina reported that not only was Experian hacked, but they also have been selling personal information of their members to third parties. So it’s time to demand answers once again.
After the Department of Revenue was hacked under your watch, the people of South Carolina were essentially forced to sign up for credit monitoring with Experian, the company which received a no-bid contract from you to handle credit monitoring. Now they are seemingly at risk once again because they trusted that the government had done its due diligence in securing the contract and negotiating the terms.
Leadership is about honesty and trust. When your Department of Revenue was hacked and you covered it up for 16 days, you broke the people’s trust. When you pushed through a no-bid contract with Experian, with no conditions to safeguard the people’s most personal information further, you broke the people’s trust. Every day you refuse to make public the secret report on what happened rather than being open with your constituents – you break the people’s trust. And as our citizens’ information is at risk yet from another breach, we have to read about it in the news once again before the people of South Carolina hear it from you.
South Carolinians deserve to know whether the contract you negotiated allows Experian to sell their personal information to third parties. They deserve to know if they are at further risk from the subsequent hacking of the company. Most importantly: the people deserve to hear about these events straight from their Governor and they deserve real answers instead of having to rely on passing reports in the news.
Because honest leadership is also about accountability– about putting our people first, and always being on their side. At every step in this hacking crisis, from the initial delay in informing the people to still refusing to release the final report on what happened, your administration has chosen to operate in secret and you have failed the most basic test of leadership. That is unacceptable. The people of South Carolina deserve much better.
This latest development in the Department of a Revenue hacking scandal is just the latest example in the long pattern of secrecy in your administration and it is beyond disappointing. The people of South Carolina deserve a governor they can trust.
I have written to the CEO of Experian asking for a full accounting of who in South Carolina is at risk due to the additional hacking. I have also requested clarification on the terms under which they are allowed to sell our people’s most personal information to share with the public so they are fully aware of where things stand.
I hope that you will not stand in the way of transparency and honesty any further as we continue to restore the broken trust and damage of the Department of Revenue hacking scandal.
Sincerely,
Vincent Sheheen
###

I’m pretty sure that in these two years, I haven’t seen a single report of anyone who has been harmed by the hacking. Which is weird.

Until I do, or rather, until all of us do, Vincent is unlikely to get much traction with voters on this in Anno Domini 2014. I think there was a good bit of general harrumphing when we first learned about it, but time passed, and we heard no horror stories. And, to my knowledge, none of us personally experienced any harm, or even serious inconvenience, as a result of the breach.

So as an issue at this time, it seems rather a dud.

I’m not saying it’s good that we were hacked, and I’m certainly not saying that those in charge did all that they could to prevent it. Obviously, they did not.

But the other shoe never dropped. Or rather, hasn’t yet.

 

Catching up with Chris Verenes, now a bank CEO

Chris Verenes at lunch today.

Chris Verenes at lunch today.

Some of you — the ones involved in state politics or media at the time — may remember Chris Verenes, the young executive director of the SC Democratic Party back in the late 80s.

I had sort of lost touch with Chris after those days, when I was governmental affairs editor at The State. I knew he had gone to work for Westinghouse at Savannah River, which sort of placed him in that area, but I was totally surprised to run into him at an event several months ago, when Midlands Fatherhood Coalition introduced itself to community leaders in Aiken. (The Coalition would formally open its Aiken office in July.)

Chris was his same genial, unassuming self. I had been feeling bad because I hadn’t worn a tie to the event — the ad game has had that casualizing effect on me, so that I don’t wear one most days now — and most men at the event were better-dressed than I.

Chris made me feel better because he was in a golf shirt, giving the impression that he’s doing something really laid-back these days.

But it turns out he’s a bank president – even though he neither dresses nor acts like Milburn Drysdale. He’s president and CEO of Security Federal Bank. His golf shirt had the bank logo on it. That’s the way executives dress every day at Security Federal, a community institution that started in Aiken back in the 1920s, but has grown and expanded into Richland and Lexington counties over the past decade.

In fact, he had to write a memo to himself to wear a coat and tie today, since I had invited him to lunch at the Capital City Club. As you see in the photo above, he remembered.

I enjoyed hearing from him about Security Federal, which he said differentiates itself by offering very customer-oriented services, from late hours and being open on weekends to offering financial advice that’s more about maximizing financial advantage to the customer than to the bank. The bank also has several employees devoted entirely to providing individualized coaching in financial literacy — a service he made a point of offering to the Dads who are helped by Midlands Fatherhood at the grand opening.

That kind of human-scale, community-oriented approach seems to fit Chris Verenes to a T, and I can see how he has thrived in that environment. As he tells it, he found a great bunch of people to work with.

But what I want to share with y’all is this: As we were heading to our cars in the garage after lunch, Chris was remembering his days in politics, and he shared this: He has been blessed by working with some superlative people in leadership positions at Security Federal, people he admires for their intellect, their community spirit and their selflessness.

But, he remembers, he also got to work with people like that in SC politics. He felt privileged to get to know people like John Spratt and Butler Derrick. And he noted that while, for multiple reasons, he found himself supporting Nick Theodore in his successful bid for the 1994 Democratic nomination for governor, he has the greatest respect for Joe Riley, who just barely lost the runoff to Theodore that year (which to me, is one of the saddest election results in my time covering SC politics, a huge missed opportunity for our state).

Y’all will recall that I tried making that point — that politics features a lot of really admirable people, and that most pols, even the more ordinary ones, are people who sincerely want to do good, according to their notions of “good” — on the radio recently. Only to draw heavy scoffing from Will Folks.

Of course, that’s a point I’ve tried to make fairly regularly, in one way or another, here on this blog, only to hearing multilateral scoffing from our more cynical friends.

But there are, and have always been, a lot of good people in politics. People like Chris Verenes, to name one — a guy many of you may not be familiar with, but who was involved in politics for the right reasons, trying to make a positive difference. And still strives to do the same today.

Can Tom Ervin spend his way to viability?

Tom Ervin Releases First Campaign Ad as Candidate for Governor from The Post and Courier on Vimeo.

First, I’ve got to learn that his name is “Ervin,” not “Erwin.” I keep confusing him with Joe, the former state Democratic Party chair (and there hasn’t been one as good since).

Maybe his new media blitz can help me with that. (Although I’m dependent on press releases or news coverage of the ads to call them to my attention, since I seldom see these things on the boob tube. All that money spent to place them on broadcast outlets is lost on me. Fortunately for me, it’s impossible to stick them into old episodes of “The West Wing” on Netflix.)

Now I’ll get to the substance, and the question of the day: Will Mr. Ervin’s (just typed “Erwin” again, but caught myself) expenditure of $2 million on three TV ads through Labor Day make him a contender?

Or will it just make him more likely to pull votes from Nikki Haley, thereby putting Vincent Sheheen within reach of a win?

The later seems more credible to me, and it’s apparently what is causing the Sheheen campaign to be very careful not to do anything that might mess with this developing dynamic.

That’s his first ad above, the point of which is to say that Tom is a really nice guy. And also a guy who can afford to do something like this, which has got to be nice.

Here, by the way, is Ervin’s second ad, and his third one. He seems to be pretty good at sounding folksy. It’s a gift for a Southern pol to be able to sound genuine when saying “bidness”…

Richard Nixon, impersonated in all his awkwardness

Hard to believe that Friday marked the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation speech.

I was already working at my first newspaper job at the time. I was a copy clerk at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. I spent a good part of that evening running back and forth between the newsroom and the composing room (on the next floor), as the managing editor sent me up to have various headlines blown up to full page-width, and I brought full-sized proof of those heds back down for him to peruse.

That was how you did an eye-popping, historic headline in those days. Now, you’d just try various heds on your screen, and see immediately how they’d look on the page. Then, with the news pages still done on hot type (loud, clanking linotype machines, cutting-edge technology in the late 19th century), we had to get the hed set in the desired font by a compositor, have a high-resolution proof of it made, and have a camera shoot it at the right distance and magnification to blow it up on the page camera — a process even more tedious than that employed by David Hemmings in Antonioni’s “Blow-Up.” Then, a proof was made of that.

At least, I think that’s how we did it. It’s been so long.

I saved at least one of those proofs I brought down to the M.E. Don’t know what I did with it.

Anyway, to celebrate the milestone, I share the above weird little video with Harry Shearer playing Nixon. Here’s a description of the video:

In a new video just posted online, Harry Shearer inhabits Richard Nixon in a verbatim comedic re-creation of Nixon’s poignant last 6 minutes before he resigned the Presidency, forty years ago today.

This excerpt, from Shearer‘s TV series “Nixon’s The One,” includes Nixon’s previously little known – and surprising – words to the CBS camera crew, which Shearer uncovered using advanced audio restoration techniques.

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rD46pHpRVzo

For the rest of “Nixon’s The One,” Shearer and his co-writer Nixon historian Stanley Kutler combed through thousands of hours of the legendary Nixon audio tapes, and re-enacted word for word the best moments as if filmed by a hidden camera.

“Nixon was one of the great comic characters of the 20th century,” Shearersays. “When I first began listening to his secret tapes, the revelation to me was the crazy conversations that went on in this place on the public dime. Stanley and I aimed to be as accurate as humanly possible in the way these lines are spoken, in the intonations, in the pauses, in the way people interact. Our job was to be faithful transmitters of this incredible record of craziness.”

Stay tuned for more news on the US launch of the series in fall 2014, which aired earlier this year on Sky Arts in the UK.

No comment from Sheheen on refugee children

File photo.

File photo.

On Saturday, July 26, while on vacation, I posted “The pettiest thing I’ve ever heard Nikki Haley say,” which referred specifically to this comment about the refugee children from Central America being billeted in South Carolina:

“You want me to educate them, right? And you want me to pay their health care, right? It does cost us something”…

We had a moderately lively discussion of the matter here on the blog, and it got more buzz on social media than weekend items usually get.

Anyway, as I was writing that, I put in a phone call to the Sheheen campaign, seeking his thoughts on the matter.

I tried Phil Bailey, who works for Senate Dems and can usually put me in touch. He suggested I call Kristin Sosanie, the state party spokeswoman, who has been working closely with the campaign. I tried to call her a couple of times. Then I moved on…

I only went to that much trouble, on a Saturday on vacation, because I thought it was really worth knowing whether he took a different position from the governor’s, and no one in the MSM seemed to be asking him about it. But I figured two or three attempted calls from the coffee shop of a Barnes & Noble was above and beyond. I went on to write another, unrelated post and went back to my family and my vacation.

But after being reminded of it late last week, I reached out again to Kristin, reminding her of my previous call. She responded, “Yes, sorry we were on the road that day and I dropped the ball. Will talk to him and let you know, thanks!”

I bugged her about it again this morning, and received this response:

We don’t have any comment for you in this, sorry!

Which is disappointing.

When I mentioned last week my initial unsuccessful attempt to get a response on the subject, Doug Ross — ever the cynic — responded:

It’s another issue he has to avoid (like gay marriage) to try and hang onto Republican votes. If he says anything, it will be through a mouthpiece and be sufficiently obtuse as to not be clear what he thinks.

He’s trying to win an election, not be open and honest. I can picture the campaign meetings where consultants tell him what he can and cannot say in order to appease crossover Republicans.

I responded that I would hate to think that’s why I didn’t hear back, but the possibility did occur to me.

Anyway, I told y’all I would try again to get a response, and so I’m sharing what I got back. I told Kristin I was sorry to hear that they weren’t going to respond. And I am.

‘A close race?’ Now, that’s what I call optimism…

This came in a few minutes ago from the Hutto campaign:

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Sen. Brad Hutto

Brad-

Brad Hutto is fighting hard in a close race to replace Senator Lindsey Graham, and there is some good news out of Brad’s campaign that we didn’t want you to miss.

A poll of Graham’s approval shows that more South Carolinians disapprove of how he is doing his job than approve. What’s more, Lindsey Graham never polls above 50% – this is a huge opening for Brad!

What Brad needs more than anything is our support in this race. Will you sign now to join the SCDP in telling Brad that you are behind him 100%?

It’s been a long time since South Carolina sent a Democrat to the Senate, but because of the strong campaign that Brad Hutto is running and the abysmal job that Lindsey Graham is doing, we’ve got a chance.

But it won’t happen without you! Sign now and let Brad know that you are ready to help the SCDP send him to replace Lindsey Graham this fall.

Thank you,

Kaye Koonce
1st Vice Chair, SCDP

“A close race?” Really?

Are you talking about this poll? Yeah, it has Graham under 50 percent — 49 percent, to be slightly more precise — but it has Hutto at 30 percent.

Other matchups show Graham at a minimum of 12 percentage points ahead. (The headline on that link is “Sitting S.C. senators looking solid, poll finds.”)

So how is that “close”?

Anton Gunn announces, with fanfare, his return to SC

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Ran across this on Facebook today:

Long before anyone ever thought I would end up in Washington, DC working for The President of the United States, or helping to lead the implementation of healthcare reform, I was that big guy from South Carolina. South Carolina is where I decided to go to college in 1991. It’s where I played football. It’s where I met my wife. It’s where I became a man. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. Even though, I was born and raised in Virginia, I actually feel like I’m a native son of South Carolina. I have done community work and professional work in nearly every single county of South Carolina. I have built great relationships with people all over the state. Their love, commitment and passion about the goodness and potential of the state can be overwhelming. I share this overwhelming love, commitment and passion for South Carolina. It also it drives me. I have spent nearly two decades focused on doing my part to make South Carolina better. I have worked on health care issues, early childhood education, predatory lending, tax policy, small business issues, economic development and social service issues. I have done this as a community organizer, policy advocate, trainer, non-profit executive and small business owner. I also served in the South Carolina Legislature and did my best to be a positive force for change in the state.

Four years ago this week, I was asked to leave South Carolina to serve our country by working at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, I took this obligation seriously. I come from a long legacy of family members who were drafted or signed up to serve our country in some way. So I took this obligation seriously and I wanted to do my part (from a national position) to help South Carolina. I am proud of my time in federal service because I believe that I was able to have an impact in South Carolina. I got the chance to work with lots of great people while in the regional office in Atlanta and when I worked in Washington, DC. It felt good to be of help to South Carolina but I really missed working IN South Carolina.

Now, four years after I moved away, I am excited to announce that I will be coming back to South Carolina after I complete my Resident Fellowship at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. I will come back to South Carolina and do what I am most passionate about…health care. Specifically, I will continue doing my part to improve health outcomes for all people in the state. I firmly believe that good health and good healthcare are essential to being successful in life. If you are not healthy in your mind, body or your spirit how is it possible to achieve your God given potential in life? I truly don’t believe you can. I am sure you have seen how a deprived and unhealthy state of existence can impede the success of a person, organization or community. However, if we understand, engage and master our health and healthcare system, we can unleash the unconquerable power of the human spirit in all of us and impact our state. We become a stronger community when we all are healthier. We become a better community when we embrace diversity as a strength and use it make our futures brighter, together. It is with good health and good diversity that we can achieve all of our goals and dreams in South Carolina.

Those that know me should know that I have a sense of humor and a love for sports. I thought it would be pretty funny to use a morphed photo of my favorite basketball player’s (sarcasm) way of announcing that he was going back to his home state, as an image for my reasons of returning to South Carolina. So if you don’t like my LeBron James morph, please just take it for face value, a joke. But in all seriousness, LeBron’s reasons for going back to Cleveland are very similar to my reasons for coming back to South Carolina. I love the state. I love the people. I want to raise my daughter there and I want to use all of my skills, experiences and will power to add value to South Carolina. I think South Carolina is stronger when we get everyone who lives outside of South Carolina, but are from South Carolina or have a passion for South Carolina to move back and help make the state better for all of ours future.

So I am coming home and I am so excited to be coming back. See you all in January 2015.

P.S. I am moving to Charleston, SC…news story to follow shortly!

Far as I’m concerned, SC should be grateful to get him back. He was a very positive force in the House during his brief stint there, and I was sorry to see him go.

By the way, not being a sports guy, I didn’t get the LeBron James reference. Apparently, he was referring to the image below…

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Nikki Haley’s progression from backbench bomb-thrower to Establishment figure

Kristin Sosanie over at the state Democratic Party resurrects this from the archives today:

Well, this could be awkward. Today Nikki Haley is holding campaign events with the SC Chamber of Commerce, but take a look at how she slammed them less than four years ago:

‘The state Chamber is a big fan of bailouts and corporate welfare, so it’s no surprise that they would prefer a liberal like Vincent Sheheen over a conservative like Nikki Haley,’ Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said earlier this week, according to the AP.”

Question of the day: Do Nikki Haley and her staff still think the state Chamber is “a big fan of bailouts and corporate welfare.”?

Well, we know that she doesn’t. Or at least, wouldn’t say so now. And that has implications that extend far beyond her relationship with business leadership, and point to why the incumbent is a more formidable opponent for Vincent Sheheen than when she barely squeaked by him four years ago.

That petulant statement from Rob Godfrey was standard operating procedure for the Haley team back then. She was all about being the darling of the Tea Party, the Southern answer to Sarah Palin, “going rogue” by slapping at the Establishment as much as at perceived “liberals.”

She’s learned better since then. The successes of Bobby Hitt’s Commerce Department (for which she can legitimately claim credit, since she chose Bobby) has more than persuaded her that embracing the economic development community is her best path to continued electoral success.

Along with that shift from the fringes to the establishment has come a significant shift in communication style.

I touched on this in a post a couple of days ago, one which y’all seem to have utterly ignored (whine, mutter, moan). That mature, professional, focused op-ed piece was a real departure from the style of the Nikki Haley who threw red meat to the Tea Partiers. It stands 180 degrees from that Godfrey quote four years ago, which accurately reflected the attitudes of the Haley camp at the time.

I urge you to go look at it again. Yes, I know I’m reading a lot into style and tone, but that’s what I do. And I’m telling you, this new mode of expression reflects a strategic shift for Nikki Haley. And this is significant…

Know your Democratic nominees…

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I enjoyed getting the above graphic as part of a release from the state Democratic Party today. I’ve never laid eyes on some of these people, so it’s good to have their mugs in a handy guide.

Also, I can now refer back to this post whenever I’m trying to remember whom the Democrats have nominated for what. (Mental note: Search on “handy guide.”)

Of course, this being South Carolina, and these being statewide candidates, this might be the last you see of some of these folks, so look your fill.

I wish the Republicans would send out something like this, just so I could have it to refer to.

Gitcher programs right here! Ya can’t tell a RINO from a Tea Bagger widout a program!…