Dawson, Sanford and the GOP's Fortune Cookie Intrigue
“Your principles mean more to you than any money or success.”
-Fortune Cookie Proverb
Miyo’s restaurant in downtown Columbia is the “It” spot for political power lunches ... and telling fortune cookies.
A half-block from the State House on South Main Street, Miyo's is where all the Jokerville insiders go to “see and be seen” between gavels, and on most legislative days you could literally call a quorum of both the House and Senate there.
Not coincidentally, a parade of short-skirted lobbyists, ambitious government staffers and quote-hungry reporters dot the restaurant’s lunch-scape, cozying up to the various powerbrokers for a favor when they're not whispering secrets about them behind their backs.
Ironically, on our last visit to Miyo's we got the fortune cookie proverb quoted above – a little crackle of honesty in an establishment that could probably cook its food in the dining area given all the hot air emanating from its regular patrons.
Sadly, far from meaning “more than any money or success,” principles are anathema to the vast majority of individuals constituting the Columbia establishment. They are akin to faded images from an old family photo album, scarcely-recognizable relics of a past that was sacrificed long ago on the altars of power, greed and convenience.
Take SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson, for example.
Just this morning, Dawson, performed another “see no evil” jig of Swiss Diplomacy in the ongoing spat between GOP Treasurer nominee Thomas Ravenel and liberal philanthropist John Rainey.
Once again, the man most responsible for electing Republicans to statewide office in 2006 allowed a left-leaning, anti-tax cut, attention-seeking blowhard to blister his party’s nominee for one of the most critical elected offices in the state – and get away with it scot-free.
Like most things in politics, it all boils down to the twin corrosives of personal power and the almighty dollar.
Katon Dawson desperately wants to become an ambassador, to trade in the pedestrian desk at his West Columbia auto parts store for the aristocratic trappings of a faraway embassy.
But to curry favor, he must continue appeasing “Bush Gods” like Karl Rove and David Wilkins, which is why doing his duty to the state party and defending Ravenel against John Rainey just won’t do.
Rainey, after all, has raised significant sums of money for the Bushies, and was recently rewarded for his efforts with a Presidential appointment to the Board of Visitors at West Point. Rainey is also the governor’s Board of Economic Advisor’s Chairman, another bought-and-paid-for honorarium he has parlayed into solidifying his GOP “untouchable” status.
Is that status deserved? We'll let you decide.
In three-plus years at the helm of the BEA, Rainey hasn’t even come close to accurately predicting South Carolina’s incoming revenues. In fact, he’s missed the mark by $800 million.
Rainey defends himself by citing the gross overstatements of revenue that were epidemic during the Hodges administration, but there’s clearly an ulterior method to his misinformed madness.
Had Rainey’s revenue estimates been on the mark, Gov. Mark Sanford would have had a slam dunk case for the job-creating income tax cuts that he pushed so aggressively during the first two years of his administration.
Instead, the Rainey-led BEA low-balled the numbers, and unleashed supposedly neutral State Economist Bill Gillespie to wage nonstop warfare against the governor’s proposed tax cuts.
Gillespie’s weapon of choice? The class warfare argument so frequently employed by the liberal establishment any time conservative Republicans seek to stimulate the economy by cutting taxes. Lapped up eagerly by The State newspaper’s Jennifer Talhelm, every utterance from Gillespie merited another front page story attacking the governor’s wisdom in reducing what is effectively the highest income tax rate in the Southeast.
With the media marching in goose step with Rainey’s BEA, Democrats and anti-Sanford Republicans in the General Assembly, the governor’s tax cuts never had a chance.
One would think that the governor – who desperately needs Ravenel’s vote on the State Budget and Control Board (not to mention another pro-growth Republican in statewide elected office), would have long ago figured out “Who’s Zooming Who?” in this insider intrigue.
Inexplicably, he hasn’t.
In fact, the deafening silence coming from the governor’s office throughout the Rainey-Ravenel exchange is even more disheartening than Chairman Dawson’s tepid support.
Does the governor want to continue going it alone, ramming his head against the institutional wall in Columbia with nothing to show for it? Or could it be that the prospect of another strong fiscal conservative with a statewide bully pulpit somehow threatens the “Maverick Monopoly” he’s carved out for himself?
Despite a double-digit lead in the polls and a nonexistent Democratic challenger, Sanford continues to cite the November election as the root of his lethargy, promising to make things right once his second term has been secured.
Dawson has no such crutch to lean on.
November 7 will soon have come and gone, but no matter what the outcome, Dawson and Sanford have proven that when the rubber hit the road, money and success appear to have meant more to them than their principles.
As a result, we continue to have a government that spends too much, gives back too little and encourages a cycle of dependency that keeps our state at the bottom of the national barrel.