Echo Chamber - A Hard Rainey's Gotta Fall
It's been awhile since we last blogged on BEA (Board of Economic Advisors) Chairman, multimillionaire philanthropist and would-be Palmetto political kingmaker John Rainey.
And that's a good thing, because when Rainey makes news, it's generally for attacking conservative ideas like tax cuts and choice in education - or for embracing liberal educrats and other big government backers who think more spending is the silver bullet for all that ails us as a state.
That's why Rainey's visceral, unprovoked attack against GOP Treasurer nominee Thomas Ravenel in this morning's Greenville News was not especially surprising.
What's a RINO s'posed to do but charge, right?
Simplistically labeled by News columnist Dan Hoover as the rantings of a "longtime Republican" and "GOP heavyweight," Rainey's latest diarrhea of the mouth, this time directed against a true Reagan Republican, proves once again that he's anything but - as if his repeated unleashing of liberal economist Bill Gillespie to attack Gov. Mark Sanford's pro-growth income tax cuts in 2004 or his adamant opposition to the governor's "Put Parents in Charge" proposal really left any doubt.
Arrogant, condescending, rude, pompous, self-aggrandizing and hopelessly moored to the failed liberal experiment that is South Carolina's big spending, high-tax, 1895 status quo, Rainey has emerged as the the Seersucker Kingfish of the left wing of the South Carolina Republican Party, a drawling, mint julip-slurping "Share the Wealth" leftist aristocrat. Truth is, Rainey has about as much business identifying himself with the Republican Party in South Carolina as lifelong Democrat Grady Patterson, or former Democrat-Socialist Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long for that matter.
But Rainey's historic anti-tax cut and anti-school choice proclivities are merely the surface threads of this intricate and evolving political melodrama.
Lurking just beneath the surface are two far more sinister, more pernicious realities that threaten an even further, faster unraveling of South Carolina's already fratricidal Republican Party.
THE LINDSEY FACTOR
As reported in this morning's Greenville News story, Rainey is a major contributor to centrist U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, whose public policy disagreements with the more conservative Ravenel have generated widespread speculation that a 2008 Senate primary race between the two candidates might be in the cards.
Ravenel has done nothing to squelch the speculation, but recent comments (including a well-publicized remark during the GOP Treasurer's primary debate) have hinted that a run for the Governor's Mansion in 2010 could be on his political radar.
Either way, Ravenel has refused to discuss his future political plans and instead stayed focused on the issues of the campaign - which revolve around Democrat Patterson's woeful management of the state's investments, his hefty contribution to the loss of our state's Triple-A credit rating, staunch opposition to a streamlined, efficient government structure and frequent votes in support of wasteful spending on the Budget and Control Board.
In fact, making an observation that would seem to undercut the political worry-mongering currently running rampant in Camp Graham, Ravenel recently told FITS that he "wouldn't be able to run for dogcatcher" unless he was effective in cleaning up the mess Patterson has made of the Treasurer's office.
Nonetheless, that hasn't stopped some Lindsey supporters - like Rainey - from trying to insert the knife into Ravenel's back.
Former Treasurer candidate and Graham backer Rick Quinn - whose father Richard Quinn is Lindsey's political strategist - certainly didn't do Ravenel any favors with his comments in Hoover's article, and Lindsey's camp - while publicly supporting Ravenel during the runoff - is widely rumored to have been privately providing his opponent Jeff Willis with information to use in negative attacks against the Lowcountry businessman.
Quinn, incidentally, was one of three candidates Ravenel soundly thrashed en route to nearly winning the GOP nomination outright on June 13 before coasting to a runoff victory with 77% of the vote just two weeks later.
Rainey's rebuke, however, is the best evidence yet of Camp Graham going hard negative.
Why else would Rainey - who has hardly uttered a peep all these years while Patterson was busy running the Treasurer's Office into the ground - all of a sudden vindictively go after a conservative candidate like Ravenel from his own party who, realistically, has no choice but to succeed in turning the office around if he expects to make any run for higher office in the future?
THE MARK FACTOR
The second troubling reality exposed by today's "Rainey reaming" is the continued inability of Governor Mark Sanford to distinguish his friends from his enemies in the political process, a curious case of naivete intermingled with what we can only describe as "political codependency."
Rainey was indeed one of the first people to encourage Sanford to run for governor in 2002, but honestly hasn't come up with a single good idea since, and has opposed practically all of the good ideas Sanford has come up with. Yet amazingly, the governor has kept him on board in this critical policy position despite the fact that Rainey's economic philosophy runs completely counter to his own.
This same dynamic is visible on the State Ports Authority (SPA) Board, where Sanford has allowed appointees Bill Stern, Tumpy Campbell and Harry Butler to openly flaunt their opposition to his stated preference for free market port expansion. Stern, Campbell and Butler - like Rainey - are all powerful political players, but they're not doing the job, and had they been removed from their SPA board positions a year ago it's likely we'd actually be building new port facilities in Charleston and Jasper County right now instead of watching as our neighboring states steal more and more of the growing Asian shipping business out from under our noses.
In the big picture view, Rainey's contribution to the defeat of income tax relief two years ago is just as crippling a blow to our state's economy as the SPA's decades-old inability to expand South Carolina's port capacity - yet in both cases Sanford refused to clean house and appoint true business-minded conservatives to these key posts.
But this time his hand may be forced - at least as far as Rainey is concerned.
Ravenel has been a vocal supporter of the governor's positions on tax cuts, spending limitations and government restructuring, continuing to publicly support Sanford even after the governor endorsed one of his opponents, Greg Ryberg, in the Republican primary.
Plus, Sanford desperately needs Ravenel on the Budget and Control Board. His vote could be critical in reversing dozens of 3-2 decisions that have gone against Sanford and his fellow fiscal conservative, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, over the years.
In short, keeping Rainey at his current post could end up costing the governor a lot more politically than jettisoning him.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ...
What a perfectly sublime weekend it was in the Lowcountry as our historic port city of Charleston played host to the National Governor's Association's annual meeting.
Sic Willie and the FITS' gals had a blast, crashing all the hippest parties, dining at all the swankiest restaurants, lounging at all the choicest digs and - of course - thoroughly ticking off all the right people.
We got to hear from a number of prospective 2008 Presidential prospects, too, including New York Gov. George Pataki and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, which was a real treat.
In fact, we'd love to elaborate further on our many political impressions from the weekend, but the vast majority of our visit to the Holy City was "off the record," as Sic Willie made a Friday night deal with the devil (who wore a stunning white strapless dress, by the way) forcing him to keep his poison pen in its pocket for the duration of our stay.
But no worries, there'll be plenty of time for poison pens in Presidential politics before it's all said and done.
For now, let's just say that the City of Charleston and the NGA host committee deserve a lot of credit for pulling off an amazing event - particularly given that they had less than half as much time to prepare for the NGA as previous host cities.
Every out-of-towner we talked to was completely enthralled by our state's coastal jewel, and local businesses no doubt made out like bandits, which is great news for our state's tourism economy.
Until next week ... be heard.