Sunday, April 16, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Easter Edition

"That's no ordinary rabbit," Tim the Enchanter warns a cocky King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table (left) in a classic scene from the famously funny 1975 film "Monty Python & The Holy Grail."

And indeed it wasn't an ordinary rabbit, skillfully employing its "nasty big pointy teeth" to kill several knights in front of the dreaded Cave of Caerbannog, forcing Arthur's remaining subjects to consult the Book of Armaments and use the "Holy Hand Grenade" to "blowest their enemy to tiny bits."

Okay, okay ... if you haven't seen the movie (or you don't have Windows Media Player), none of the above probably made much sense to you.

But since we needed something to tie this week's edition of the Echo Chamber to Easter, and since rabbits remind people of Easter, and since we didn't want to talk about any other kinds of rabbits that might be out there, and since Dan Cooper's one-woman fan club up in Anderson County would probably just comment anonymously on our blog for the fourth time if we made fun of her hero's Egg-tooth again ... well, you're stuck with a lot of audio clips from the Holy Grail.


Since three of South Carolina's top four major newspapers were asleep at the wheel this weekend (and the fourth only told you half the story), once again it's up to FITS to give you the inside scoop on a brewing potential scandal involving some of South Carolina's most influential politicians.

Back on February 12 of this year, powerful House LCI Chairman Harry Cato told Dan Hoover of the Greenville News that his "Carolina Commerce Fund" Leadership PAC was "a useful tool in terms of me being able to help my colleagues who I -- almost on a daily basis -- have to go to for votes."

It was a rare moment of honesty from Cato, who was almost single-handedly responsible for gutting a desperately-needed workers' compensation reform bill on the House floor this March. Boasting that he "had fifty Democrats" in the event key rate-cutting provisions (like AMA standards) were re-inserted into the bill, Cato was ultimately successful in keeping the "reform" out of the workers' comp reform bill passed by the House.

Now we learn that since its inception in October of 2005, Cato's PAC has gotten quite a bit of cash from folks with a stake in the fight ... not all of them "passive observers."

One individual who gave Cato's PAC the maximum $3,500 allowed by law is Greenville workers' compensation lawyer Kathryn Williams, a leading anti-reformer and trial lawyers' activist whom several legislators have told FITS was the behind-the-scenes ringleader of the effort to "de-reform" workers' comp reform.

"She was in the front-row of the House balcony during the (workers' comp) floor fight giving the 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down' signal on different amendments when they came up," said one legislator, who spoke with FITS on condition of anonymity.

Workers' comp lawyers like Williams don't want to see the system reformed because it would limit the exorbitant damages their clients are routinely awarded in such cases, which would inevitably limit their take-home fees.

In another interesting revelation, Cato's PAC received $1,000 from April Allen, wife of uber-lobbyist Fred Allen, and $1,500 from Hunter Allen, the lobbyist's son (his occupation is actually listed as "student" on the SEC disclosure form). Another $1,000 was received by investor Joe Taylor, who lives across the street from the Allens on Columbia's prestigious Maholo Lane.

Of course, state law strictly prohibits lobbyists from giving anything of value to state officials, candidates or political action committees. But honestly, how is a lobbyist's wife, son and across-the-street neighbor combining to fork over the $3,500 maximum not violating the spirit of the law?

"There's nothing wrong with leadership PAC's," Cato told The State newspaper Sunday. "It's just another PAC as far as I'm concerned."

Sure it is. Cato also added that the contributions "in no way influence" how he deals with legislation.

We here at FITS would advise you NOT to say that outdoors during a thunderstorm, Mr. Chairman.


Ever since the Post and Courier's John Frank published his kiss-'em-on-the-lips "Wallace Scarborough Spreads His Wings" column last month, the diminuitive, bow-tied, seer sucker-wearing Charleston representative has apparently been the butt of more than a few jokes from many of his State House colleagues.

In fact, it now appears that Scarborough has joined fellow House members like the "Mayor of Importantville" (Bobby Harrell), "Chairman Egg-Tooth" (Dan Cooper), "Old Yaller" (Harry Cato), "Chewbacca" (Murrell Smith) "Flounder" (Thad Viers), "Shrek" (Chip Limehouse) and others with his very own nickname ... Icarus.

For those not familiar with Greek Mythology, Icarus was the son of Daedalus, a master inventor and craftsman in the court of King Minos on the island of Crete. Banished for helping the hero Thesius escape Crete with King Minos' daughter, Daedalus built wings for himself and his son to escape. Unfortunately, as we all know, Icarus flew too close to the sun despite his father's warnings, and his wings melted. He fell to his death and drowned in the Icarian Sea, which bears his name to this day.

What exactly are our legislative buddies getting at here?

We're not exactly sure (how often does one really understand what legislators are talking about?), but we'll go ahead and put it on the list ... and congrats, Wallace. We think ...

Until next week ... be heard.


Anonymous SC Observer said...

I would bet money that if you look at all "big issue" fights, Senators and Reps. rec'd max donations from opposition...this is really nothing new. Sanford took more than $20,000 from the trial bar in 2002-3, but it didn't help them, did it ? It's the system at work...

10:33 AM

Blogger faithinsound said...


You make a good point, and don't get us wrong - we're all for PACs. We may even start us up our own little PAC dedicated to the Wu Tang Clan if we get bored.

What we are saying is simply this -the leadership PACs don't pass muster because they are being used by leadership to buy rank and file member votes. That's worse in our book (although not much) than your run-of-the-mill special interest power grab.

Thanks for coming on and letting us know what you think.


10:44 AM

Anonymous sc observer said...


Glad to be part of the discussion and I agree these Leadership PAC's are nothing short of a "shakedown". Cause your damned if you don't and in some cases, damned if you do.

As for Wu Tang...ever since ODB passed, it's not the same.

3:41 PM


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