Heard in the Echo Chamber - Volume II
Welcome to FITS second installment of "Heard in the Echo Chamber," a lazy Sunday afternoon wrap-up of behind-the-scenes news and notes in that crazy world we call South Carolina politics - a.k.a. the "Special Olympics" of American politics.
It doesn't happen that often in "Jokerville," but every once in awhile somebody slips up and actually admits what's REALLY going on in your General Assembly.
House Labor, Commerce and Industry Chairman Harry Cato (pictured), a key leader in the Republican majority that raised government spending by three times as much as your paycheck grew last year, was asked this weekend about his new Political Action Committee (PAC) by Dan Hoover of the Greenville News.
We at FITS have got to at least hand it to Cato for being honest:
"It's a useul tool, in terms of me being able to help my colleagues who I - almost on a daily basis - have to go to for votes," Cato told Hoover.
To read Hoover's provocative Sunday column on PACs in South Carolina in its entirety, click on the following link: http://www.greenvillenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060212/NEWS01/602120319.
FUNDING LAWSUIT COSTS ECLIPSE 2002 GOVERNOR'S RACE
What's more expensive - running for governor or figuring out how crappy South Carolina's worst-in-the-nation public schools are?
While it could be argued that the two go hand-in-hand, it turns out the answer is the latter.
According to research conducted by The State newspaper, costs in the equity funding lawsuit have eclipsed the $12 million mark - half of which is presently being picked up by us, the taxpayers.
The other half is being assumed - for now at least - by the downtown law firm Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough, but the firm hinted it might seek to recoup its share of the multi-million lawsuit from the state and then designate a "worthy cause" for the money.
Hmmm. FITS wants to know, exactly how is that different from what uber-lobbyist Dwight Drake already does at the State House?
NEW COMMERCE CZAR ALREADY "OFF THE RESERVATION?"
We hate to say it, but anytime The State newspaper fawns over a new government appointment, it's usually a bad sign. Enter the two-day love-fest shown to new Sanford Commerce Secretary Joe Taylor, former CEO of Southland Log Homes.
Well La Socialista may like the governor's choice, but we at FITS have heard that Taylor may be off the Sanford reservation already - and on one of the biggest economic development enchiladas of them all.
Specifically, the word is that Taylor opposes the kind of public-private partnerships at our state ports facilities favored by his boss - you know, those collaborative, investment-generating, job-creating ventures that would enable us to expand port capacity on the former Navy Base and down in Jasper County?
South Carolina can't afford to expand capacity with public dollars, yet refuses to enter into any agreement that effectively leverages the private capital we need. As the State Ports Authority twiddles its thumbs, within the last six months Alabama, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia have all announced gargantuan expansions with private capital. They're getting ready for the massive influx of new Asian shipping business - which by the way is a result of all the manufacturing jobs we've shipped over there the past decade, the last time our state's "business leaders" got caught napping.
PROPERTY TAX DEBATE A REAL 'DUD'
It was supposed to be the political equivalent of First Manassas, the inaugural fixing of bayonets in Importantville Mayor Bobby Harrell's populist "Rob Peter to Pay Paul" battle for election-year, pocket-shifting tax swappage.
It turned out to be about as rowdy as a Lawrence Welk episode.
The long-anticipated House floor debate (which had both Majority and Minority leaders all in a tizzy the week before) was in fact so dull that Charleston Post and Courier reporter John Frank was reduced to writing at one point about ... wait for it ... Rep. Skipper Perry's suspenders.
Oh well, at least the non-event was successful in one regard - it interrupted Ways & Means Chairman Dan Cooper's PAC fundraiser a block away at the Clubhouse Restaurant. No word yet on whether the Egg Tooth plans to reschedule the special interest shakedown session for a later date.
WHEN IS "MILLER TIME?"
Former U.S. Congressman Ken Holland is a pretty funny guy, but his witty one-liners are falling on deaf ears when it comes to George Allen for President field director - sorry, we meant Sanford for Governor campaign manager - Jason Miller.
The newest entry to a crowded field of Democrats seeking the gubernatorial nomination, Holland, a Gaffney native, joins Prosperity Medicaid Milker Dr. Oscar Lovelace, State Senator Tommy "Soul-Glo" Moore and some guy from Florence whose name people remembered a couple months ago but have apparently since forgotten.
Holland bandied a couple quips to State columnist Lee Bandy, but Miller was in no laughing mood, telling the Dean of S.C. Political Writers "there will be plenty of time for political give and take later."
Our theory is that Holland, who at 71 still plays guitar with his band "Capital Punishment," is just looking for somebody to have some fun with and running for governor seemed like a good way to make some new friends. But Miller, who has basically been regurgitating the "there will be plenty of time for politics later" line in response to anything and everything since his name started appearing in the paper a few months ago, isn't dancing.
Where is Sic Willie when we need him?
STATON FOR STATUS QUO
Speaking of our favorite bad boy, he finally submitted to FITS' front office a long-awaited, particularly scathing critique of Democrat-in-hiding Bob Staton's Superintendent of Education campaign (see post below).
Seriously, this column makes Will's State Newspaper hit on the S.C. Business Community look like a love tap.
We should point out, though, that Will was decisively outvoted by the FITS staff on the story's photo, however, having initially submitted along with his post a pic of comedian Al Franken to run with the story.
Laurie, Dianne, Deborah and I all voted for the winning Sam Tenenbaum pic, while our girls Maureen and Rebecca cast their votes for a photo of Sam's wife, Inez. Will was the lone vote for Franken.
Despite what some of you may think, FITS is a democracy after all!!!!
Until next week ... be heard.