... IRREVERENCE, INSTITUTIONALIZED ...

Friday, April 28, 2006

Here to Stay

Kudos to Charleston Post and Courier reporter/columnist John Frank for the bang-up job he did in this morning's paper on the Morton Brilliant-Wikipedia scandal first reported on this side of the Savannah River by one of our very own roving Stilettos.

In case you missed it, Morton Brilliant, spokesman for former S.C. Governor Jim Hodges, was fired from the top slot of a Georgia gubernatorial campaign this week after posting negative information about an opposing candidate on Wikipedia's free, online encyclopedia. In addition to his terminable offense, Brilliant was also busted posting disparaging commentary about current S.C. Governor Mark Sanford.

Frank -- who probably owed all of us a good story after sucking at the status quo teet in a recent article on 501 (c) 4's -- proved again with this morning's content why he is one of the region's best political writers, taking a seemingly convoluted, insider story and making it everyday relevant and tantalizingly foreboding.

The bottom line of Frank's story? Blogs and other web-based forms of political communication are here to stay, and what happens on their pages is real news with real consequences.

Wise politicians are already taking note of electronic media's rise, and Brilliant scandal's is only the latest evidence of why they should be.

IN OTHER NEWS

It turns out the SCGOP was a little upset with FITS yesterday for bursting their bubble on the big 2007 Presidential Primary debate scheduled for next May in Columbia.

SCGOP Executive Director Scott Malyerck himself apparently got all bent out of shape, calling out at least two individuals he felt were responsible for "leaking" the news to FITS.

Well Scott, you were wrong on both counts, but we'll mail you and Tweedle Dum (J.W. Ragley) some chill pills just in case. Maybe Sic Willie can even send you the number for that anger management class he just finished!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

SCGOP to Announce Presidential Primary Debate

It's actually on to 2008, not 1968, but we thought the retro fighting elephant (pictured left) was too cool not to post ...

And here's why it's an appropriate image for today ...

According to sources close to the South Carolina Republican Party, State Chairman Katon Dawson will announce next week that a 2008 GOP Presidential Debate has been scheduled for May 2007 right here in Columbia, S.C., ground zero for the nation's "First-in-the-South" Presidential Primary.

Sources tell FITS the debate will be held at the new Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in the city's historic downtown Vista District and will be televised nationally.

South Carolina is no stranger to brutal Presidential primary debates, having hosted perhaps the nation's nastiest ever back in February of 2000. Then, former Texas Governor and eventual nominee George W. Bush squared off against Arizona Senator John McCain in a heated back-and-forth that focused almost exclusively on negative attacks being launched by both campaigns. While the two candidates have to some extent moved on, the wounds from that contentious primary have yet to fully heal in South Carolina political circles.

McCain will probably be back for the May 2007 debate in Columbia, where he is likely to be joined by Virginia Sen. George Allen, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, New York Gov. George Pataki, Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, among others.

Allen and Romney have been tripping over themselves in recent South Carolina visits attempting to appeal to the party's social conservative base, while Pataki, a fiscal conservative who just yesterday was praised in a press release from Gov. Mark Sanford's office, is said to be very close to establishing a Palmetto presence.

Count on FITS to keep you in the loop on the very latest 2008 Presidential Primary developments ...

Harrell Hypocrisy Part II - School Choice Shutdown

Yesterday, the State House of Representatives was poised to cast a long-awaited vote on the newly-modified Put Parents in Charge bill, known as the "South Carolina Educational Opportunity Scholarship Act."

Providing public, private, charter and parochial school choice to the most at-risk, low-income, underperforming areas of our state, the Opportunity Scholarship Act is a compromise from last year's sweeping PPIC proposal, which the House tabled after then-Speaker David Wilkins muffed (perhaps intentionally) calling on Rep. Tracy Edge to offer the amendment that would have assured the bill's passage.

This year's version, which was shot down in subcommittee last week based on "instructions from on high," according to one Representative, had as many as sixty "Yea" votes ready to roll - more than enough for it to pass the House based on the number of representatives present and prepared to vote yesterday.

Unfortunately, what could have been a monumental victory for the 130,000 South Carolina schoolkids who are currently forced to attend failing or below average public schools, instead turned into yet another carefully-orchestrated school choice shutdown by the Mayor of Importantville himself, House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

Harrell, whose daughter happens to attend the most expensive private school in Charleston, promptly gaveled the House out-of-session when it was clear the bill was in a position to pass.

His reason?

Well, in addition to keeping South Carolina schoolkids (other than his own, anyway) trapped in failing schools for yet another year, Harrell didn't want to miss a fundraiser for liberal, big-spending, anti-choice Republican Bill Cotty, by far and away the biggest RINO in the House of Representatives.

Instead of allowing House members to vote on a bill that would have lifted thousands of South Carolina's neediest kids out of the dead-end, hopeless despair that is our state's public school system, Harrell instead decided to help raise money for a guy who wants to keep them exactly where they are, trapped.

Well congratulations, Mr. Speaker. You've got a new nickname today.

For your tireless efforts to keep hundreds of thousands of kids from getting a quality education, we at FITS hereby dub you the "Superintendent of Stupid."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Brilliant!

In the immortal words of Eddie Murphy, let's all give a hearty "Hey, hey Mor-tay!" to a prominent SC political alum making news outside our borders.

FITS would like to welcome back to the spotlight one of our favorite people, Morton Brilliant, ex-spokesman to our own Gov. Jim Hodges as well as former lead lip to Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire.

Currently serving as campaign manager to Georgia gubernatorial candidate (and Sec. of State) Cathy Cox, it seems our friend Morty has gotten into some hot water over content changes made to the Wikipedia page of Cox's Democratic primary opponent, Georgia Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor.

According to Taylor's campaign, Brilliant has been e-fingered as the guilty party behind changes to the Taylor page that, among other things, revealed the Lieutenant Governor's son had been involved in an alcohol-related car accident that resulted in a fatality.

Why is this news for South Carolina? Well, according to the Taylor camp, it turns out Brilliant has also been busy posting negative Wikipedia entries about our own Gov. Mark Sanford.

Several months ago, FITS was contacted by a reporter regarding Sanford's less-than-flattering Wikipedia description and asked essentially, "What gives?"

Looks like now we know ...

UPDATE: According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cox herself has just addressed the charges against Brilliant, stating that she instructed her staffers not to mention the incident involving Taylor's son and vowing to get to the bottom of the situation.

New Sanford Legislative Strategy: Give 'Em The Boot

He's tried piglets, a horse-and-buggy, bank vault visits and more charts and graphs than a stadium full of accounting professors, but Gov. Mark Sanford has had little success in slowing government growth in South Carolina or getting any of his big ticket items through a hostile General Assembly.

Finding himself in the odd, unenviable position of having to sell traditional Reagan Republican values like "tax cuts," "competition," "less government" and "efficiency" to a so-called Republican Legislature, FITS has learned that Sanford is now abandoning his trademark political gimmicks and resorting to more desperate measures.

"We're going to give them the boot," Sanford told FITS during an exclusive phone interview.

"A-Ha!" exclaimed House Ways & Means Chairman Dan "Egg-tooth" Cooper. "I've been telling you people all along he was going to run against the General Assembly. See! See! Nanny-nanny-boo-boo. Pocket full of poo-poo."

Cooper's satisfaction was short-lived, however (as was the spastic white boy dance that accompanied it), when informed by Ways & Means staff that the governor was not referring to any campaign-related activities, but was instead dispatching State Troopers armed with parking ticket "boots" to each and every legislative vehicle in the state.

"If you've got legislator tags, you're getting a boot attached to your vehicle," said Lt. Col. Harry Stubblefield of the S.C. Highway Patrol. "And if you happen to be our Lt. Governor, you're getting four of them."

"I should have thought of this idea three years ago," Sanford said. "Just think of all we could have gotten accomplished."

Not surprisingly, the governor's proposal was poorly received by State Sen. John Land and other legislators, who criticized Sanford for failing to work with the General Assembly.

"This governor has failed in every sense of the word to establish a meaningful relationship with --- Oh my God, check out that black polka dot dress on Sara Hopper! Mmm-mmm goodness gracious. Has she been out in the sun? Damn. Look at that tan! Excuse me. Sara! Sara! I need to speak with you a moment please, dear," Land, um, said.

Sen. Brad Hutto, whose Georgetown-inspired "HOYAS" license plate temporarily escaped the Highway Patrol's dragnet, was unable to comment about the governor's new plan.

"Seriously, I can't get over how hot Sara Hopper looks today," Hutto said. "I mean, damn. Sorry, did somebody ask me a question?"

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Classy

Rather than substantively defend the whiny, wasteful and wrong-headed status quo that keeps South Carolina last in the nation in SAT scores and graduation rates, it would appear supporters of Democrat-in-hiding Bob "Status Quo" Staton have a different notion of elevating the public discourse:

Blacking out teeth and drawing Hitler moustaches on real Republican Karen Floyd's 4X8 signs.

Just take a look at this Floyd sign (above) in downtown Columbia, as observed this morning around 11:00 a.m. at the corner of Blossom and Huger Streets.

Of course, knocking down or defacing signs is nothing new to some of the short-bus political goons backing Status Quo Staton's campaign. They practically made a living running over Mark Sanford signs with pick-up trucks back in 2002.

And there's the difference ...

Some people see the sign or banner of a political opponent on the side of the road and immediately experience fear - which manifests itself in acts of destruction and defacement like the one highlighted here. There's a word for these types of folks in society: "losers."

Others see the sign of an opponent and experience an adrenaline surge of a different kind, the desire to outwork, out-heart and out-think their opponent on the battlefield of ideas.

Those are the people who win races ...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Closing in on the "Geniouses"

FITS' crack investigative staff (left) is close to exposing the identities of those responsible for the website Palmetto Voice, which last week attempted to blackmail former House Majority Leader and State Treasurer candidate Rick Quinn.

More importantly, FITS is also on the verge of proving that the April 16 blackmail threat (which was removed from the website the day after it was posted) was based on deliberately falsified information, or information that the blog's authors knew to be untrue.

Stay tuned to FITS for more on this developing story and its potential legal ramifications for Palmetto Voice's authors as well as the rest of the SC blogosphere ...

Incidentally, one of Palmetto Voice's contributors posted what they thought was an anonymous comment on the FITS' Warren Tompkins story over the weekend, rhetorically asking our own Will Folks the following doozy:

"If you're such a media genious (sic) why couldn't you bury that story of you beating your ex?"

As it turns out, the misspelling of the word genius (PV apparently spells it "genious") is the same exact misspelling featured on PV's latest post.

Way to go, geniouses.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Harrell Hypocrisy

The world according to House Speaker Bobby Harrell is governed by a handful of intractable, immutable and incontrovertible laws of nature.

First, he's right and you're wrong. Second, taxpayer dollars were "sent to be spent." Third, budget numbers were made to be manipulated. Fourth, consistency is a matter of when it's convenient to be consistent. And fifth, power is something to be brutally exerted, callously flaunted and ruthlessly expanded at all times and at all costs, whether what you're doing is in the best interests of the state or not.

If "right you are as you think you are" is the code of the modern-day cultural relativists, then Bobby Harrell is the South Carolina political standard-bearer they never knew they had - a smug, smirking poster boy for dozens of similarly truth-evading, ethically-impaired, power-rabid legislators intent on leapfrogging one another up the topmast as opposed to patching the holes below deck on our sinking ship of state.

Flanked by a dozen or so like-minded, principle-challenged blowhards - all fellow Republicans-In-Name-Only (RINO's) - "Captain" Harrell took to the State House steps last week to support his status quo, big government first mates George Bailey, Richard Chalk, Ken Clark, Alan Clemmons, Bill Cotty, Ralph Davenport, Tom Dantzler, Becky Martin, Skipper Perry, Gene Pinson, Adam Taylor, Bill Whitmire and others, and to bemoan the evil influence of corrupting "out-of-state" money in House Republican Primary races.

Specifically, Harrell was attacking two groups - South Carolinians for Responsible Government and the South Carolina Club for Growth - both conservative organizations with sizable in-state membership rolls that are actively lobbying for changes Harrell and his recalcitrant RINO caucus oppose.

Harrell, who just a few weeks ago aggressively defended his right and the right of his colleauges to operate special interest-fed Leadership Political Action Committees (i.e. legislative shakedown machines that essentially buy other Representatives' support on key votes), has apparently found religion when it comes to 501 (c) 4 non-profit advocacy groups.

"These groups come prepared with misleading names, and they want you to think they represent South Carolina's values," Harrell said of SCRG and SC Club for Growth.

Wait a minute, Mr. Speaker, you forgot names like "Palmetto Leadership Council" (Harrell's PAC), "Carolina Commerce Fund" (House LCI Chairman Harry Cato's PAC) or "SC Leadership PAC" (House Ways & Means Chairman Dan Cooper's PAC), didn't you?

No, he didn't.

You see, if your special interest contribution is flowing into Bobby Harrell's pocket so he can funnel it to Representatives intent on maintaining the status quo, then it's "good special interest cash."

If it's going somewhere else, for instance to groups backing candidates that might truly "represent South Carolina's values" and fight for limited government, better educated students and job-creating tax relief, then it's "bad special interest cash."

According to the Speaker's logic, "good special interest cash" would be the $3,500 Harrell's own PAC got from the billboard industry - part of that group's larger effort to ram a blatantly unfair, anti-home rule compensation law down the throats of our state's already over-regulated municipalities, or the $3,500 Harry Cato's PAC got from South Carolina's leading anti-workers' comp reform advocate just a few months prior to the LCI Chairman gutting workers' comp reform and leaving its entrails on his committee room floor.

"Bad special interest cash," apparently, is any contribution that might help elect someone who disagrees with Bobby Harrell's vision of populist tax swaps, ever-expanding government and zero choices for kids trapped in the worst public school system in America.

In attacking groups like SCRG, Harrell neglected to mention that he joined Gov. Mark Sanford and about a dozen other representatives on a school choice trip to Milwaukee in December 2004. That trip was paid for by one of SCRG's chief supporters, the LEAD Foundation.

Harrell may also have forgotten a promise he made to one of the governor's senior advisors on that very trip related to the since-modified Put Parents in Charge bill.

"I'll get it (the original PPIC bill) to the floor of the House as-is," Harrell told the Sanford administration official. "After that, you're on your own."

Of course, we all know now that Harrell didn't even come close to getting PPIC to the floor of the House "as-is." What made it out of his Ways & Means committee was a two-district "pilot program," placed conveniently under the auspices of the virulently anti-choice State Department of Education. Basically, after promising the governor the equivalent of Niagra Falls on the school choice issue, Harrell delivered little more than a leaking faucet.

At last week's press conference, Harrell boasted of the "solid conservative values" of the House members standing behind him, calling them "good Republicans."

Well guess what, Mr. Mayor, they're not Republicans. And they certainly don't have a clue about conservative values, solid or otherwise.

But here's the fun part: You get to spend your "good special interest cash" attempting to justify the re-election of your own, personal Pork Mafia while groups like SCRG and Club for Growth get to spend their "bad special interest cash" exposing your RINO Caucus for what it really is, a bunch of tax-and-spend liberals who have demonstrated proficiency at doing one thing and one thing only - standing in the doorway of change.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Impending Fall of J. Warren Tompkins

He was the Godfather.

The Kingmaker.

One of the key behind-the-scenes architects of a South Carolina Republican revival that churned into power a decade ago with ruthless proficiency and a holier-than-thou swagger you had to be here to behold.

From then on, if you wanted to be governor or hold statewide office in South Carolina, you called Warren Tompkins. And if you wanted to be President, well, that meant winning South Carolina, which also meant calling Warren Tompkins.

Yet today, the one-time Palmetto powerbroker-in-chief looks over a changing political landscape yielding increasingly diminished returns for those would-be officeholders who seek out his services.

While still undeniably potent, the aura of invincibility that has surrounded Tompkins for the better part of three decades is slowly beginning to melt.

A convergence of social, institutional and political trends - each of them as irreversible as the conditions that precipitated the Tompkins' ascendancy - is gradually encroaching on the turf that this powerful operator has all but owned since the early 1980's. And although his influence will certainly continue to be felt on statewide elections and Presidential primaries in South Carolina for years to come, the days of political campaigns employing the "Warren Treatment" as a prelude to imminent victory are gone.

Among other factors, the conservative legacy of Tompkins' former boss - the late Gov. Carroll A. Campbell, Jr. - has been splintered into a thousand pieces, a rift cemented by Campbell's support of Gov. Mark Sanford four years ago against Tompkins' hand-picked candidate, then-Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler. Frustrated by Peeler's clumsy attacks against the fiscally-conservative, libertarian-leaning Sanford, Campbell's endorsement of the governor during the 2002 runoff played a major role in propelling him to a 60-40 thrashing of Peeler, the establishment choice for governor of Tompkins, social conservatives and the state Republican party.

As he was in 2002, Tompkins is back on the wrong side of the Campbell legacy again in 2006, supporting big-spending, status quo candidates like Bob Staton, Bill Cotty and Adam Taylor, three liberal Republicans who are about as close to Campbell's conservative roots as former Democratic governors Dick Riley and Jim Hodges. None of them have ever met a spending increase they didn't like, and all are violently opposed to long-overdue, market-based reforms to our state's last-in-the-nation public school system.

Tompkins' firm is also handling the State Treasurer's campaign of Sen. Greg Ryberg, a political chameleon who does everything he can publicly to ingratiate himself with the popular governor, but who many say routinely undercuts Sanford behind closed doors. For example, when Ryberg's primary opponent, former House Majority Leader Rick Quinn, began making inroads with Clemson University supporters (among Sanford's most influential budget antagonists), Ryberg was quick to attempt a suppression effort, making it known that he was "not beholden to the governor on Clemson vetoes," according to one Tiger-backer.

But beyond running state and local races for tax-and-spend Republicans, Tompkins' biggest problem is the accelerating freefall of perhaps the biggest tax-and-spend Republican of them all, President George W. Bush. Long touted as Tompkins' signature client, Bush's mid-30% approval ratings and declining Palmetto State support is eroding the same base the consultant has relied upon to carry mediocre campaigns (like Jim DeMint's successful-in-spite-of-itself 2004 Senate run) to victory. Simply put, the weaker Bush gets in South Carolina, the less clout Tompkins enjoys.

Bush's nadir also comes against a shifting demographic backdrop that spells even more long-term trouble for Tompkins. The religious right, Tompkins' go-to "shock troops" in 2000, are nowhere near as pervasive in GOP politics as they were six years ago, due in large part to new out-of-state arrivals here in South Carolina and recent economic downturns that focused voters' attention increasingly on a candidate's economic - not religious - credentials. The Christian Coalition as a political force in South Carolina is a shadow of its former influence, and a new breed of "pocketbook Republicans" (many of them social moderates from other regions of the country) is emerging as the dominant wing of the party's base.

Additionally, with a fifth of the electorate fast-forwarding through political ads on TiVo and a growing nucleus of younger voters embracing the blog phenomenon and other online innovations, it remains to be seen whether Tompkins' and his youthful army of subordinates can adapt to groundswell shifts in political mass messaging methodologies. So far, the answer is "no," as Tompkins' wanna-bes like Terry Sullivan, Jason Pulaski and Wesley Donahue have proven incapable of generating anything beyond poorly-written cookie cutter negativity aimed at the mid-level fears of a shrinking percentage of Republican voters.

Perhaps the "most unkindest cut of all" for Tompkins, however, is that he is now actively courting (and to some extent being courted) by Arizona Sen. John McCain, the man he brought down in 2000's bloodletting while working for the Bushies. And while McCain's perceived frontrunner status is largely a product of high name ID as opposed to concrete voter preference at this early stage of the 2008 campaign, the fact that Tompkins is meaningfully engaging his army's archenemy in any way, shape or form is the surest sign of all that the vaunted strategist is on a downward sloping path.

At the end of the day, a pill that bitter is unlikely to be swallowed unless no other recourse is available.

Despite all of this, Tompkins is by no means finished. Along with Richard Quinn and Rod Shealy, he is still firmly entrenched in the state's upper echelon of political consultants, where he is likely to stay for as long as he is still active in South Carolina politics. After all, a man who was on the payroll of anti-video poker crusader David Beasley and the video poker lobby ... at the same time (which Tompkins was during the late 1990's), is obviously pretty good at hedging his political calculations. His lobbying firm still has its fingers in innumerable government pies and his political consulting firm still boasts the state's largest client roster.

But with the top of the mountain having long ago been reached and a horde of pernicious, new impending realities poised to assail his former unassailability, there is literally nowhere for Tompkins to go from here but down.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Takin' the Day Off ...

Over the past few months, we've come to recognize that one of the best blogs going here in the Palmetto State is Free Carolina.

Sure, we've had some fun at the Captain and Pirate's expense in the past (just as they've had some fun with the Stiletto Mafia) but when you get right down to it the hands swabbing the deck over at the H.M.S. Liberatis are nothing if not "on message."

Our blog brothers reminded us of that just yesterday, urging all of us inside the bubble to take a day for ourselves as South Carolina blogbrinksmanship reached Cuban Missile-esque proportions.

It's easy enough for anybody to get all bent out of shape over stuff that gets said here in the blogosphere (see Queen Laurin's minion "friend" rising up on Sunny Phillips over at the Crunchy GOP), but every once in awhile we should stop, take personal inventory and when we are wrong ... promptly down the nearest Budweiser.

Accompanied by the newest member of the FITS news team (shown above), we did just that yesterday, momentarily leaving the tired fractuous chlamydia (tfc) of the SC blogosphere behind to savor more inviting climes ... and serendipitous suds.

A little road trip amongst girlfriends (and thirsty rodents) is always fun, and sixty-seven and sunny sure beats eighty-seven and sunny ... if you know what we mean.

We'll be rockin' the suburbs again to(day)morrow, but thanks to Captain and the Pirate for recommending the quick jaunt out of dodge ...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

2008 Watch - Frist, Others Getting Grounded in SC

FITS has learned that Senate Majority Leader and likely 2008 Presidential candidate Bill Frist (right) has tapped former RNC Communications Director Jim Dyke to help run his campaign in South Carolina.

Dyke, who recently located his practice in Charleston, is said to be actively recruiting communications professionals and ground gamers to help build the Tennessee Senator's network in South Carolina.

Frist, who was praised in yesterday's "Fix" for his Dean-esque use of the web to build support for his candidacy, could certainly use the help in South Carolina - a state where no one has emerged (yet) to challenge the presumed dominance of Arizona Senator John McCain.

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Virginia Senator George Allen and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee have been the most visible of the 2008 aspirants in our state thusfar, particularly Romney and Allen. Both have practically qualified for their state butchers' licenses given the prodigious amount of right-wing red meat they've heaped on the social conservative altar.

Romney and Allen already have operatives on the ground in South Carolina (the latter running his network under the guise of Sanford for Governor campaign director Jason Miller), and rumor has it Huckabee is actively courting ground-gamers as well.

Standing stage right is New York Governor George Pataki, a fiscal conservative who's fighting a budget battle in his home state very similar to the one Gov. Mark Sanford is confronted with here. Pataki, who dispatched a team of top aides to South Carolina last month, could be close to making his Palmetto presence felt.

Count on FITS to keep you in the loop as new campaign additions, deletions and amendments are made ...

Monday, April 17, 2006

"Palmetto Voice" Blog Blackmailing Quinn Campaign

FITS EDITORS' UPDATE - SOMETIME THIS MORNING PRIOR TO 11:25 A.M., THE PALMETTO VOICE POST THAT IS THE SUBJECT OF THIS ARTICLE WAS REMOVED FROM THAT BLOG ... DEVELOPING

Call it the Easter Day Blackmail.

For perhaps the first time in the history of the SC blogosphere, a political website is publicly blackmailing a statewide candidate.

The website doing the blackmailing is Palmetto Voice. The candidate being blackmailed is former House Majority Leader Rick Quinn, who is currently running for State Treasurer in a heated, four-way Republican primary.

In an article posted late yesterday evening, Palmetto Voice publicly threatens to leak a negative news story about Quinn to members of the South Carolina media unless certain of its demands are met.

Here, in its unedited entirety, is Palmetto Voice's "Easter Day Blackmail" post with the original web hyperlinks inserted by its unknown author(s):

PALMETTO VOICE
Tick-Tock for the Quinn Camp…
April 16th, 2006 Category: Uncategorized

See “Sic-loser Willie” for details.

Inside baseball for now…(We are lookin’ at Quinn, Sr. to stop paying that guy and get off the uber-nazi payroll…otherwise it’s showtime)

In the words of our great President, “BRING IT” (add on: We dare you!)

On background: PV is just about fed-up with the bull that permeates the blogoshpehere, and we have made all the connections we need to end it. The exposure depends on any emails we receive from the players involved (which we expect to receive and will keep confidential). Otherwise, we will offer all political journalists eyewitness accounts, on the record, of what those involved don’t want mentioned.

Ball is in your court, you know who you are…

-###-

Apparently, Palmetto Voice reiterated its threat in a comment posted to FITS just a few hours prior to the "Easter Day Blackmail." Here, again in its unedited entirety is that communication:

"Palmetto Voice said... Thanks for the head nod, anon. We wonder what Mr. Folks would do if we offered up his boss/friend to the front pages, ie. Rick Quinn fight, unless he shut his one-sided trap. Would he close his fat mouth to save his friend from some eyewitness reports? Just something we are toying with... Stay tuned."

-###-

Ironically, the story Palmetto Voice is threatening to leak is old blog news. It's the same Rick Quinn-Dan Tripp supposed-to-have-happened bar fight that everybody and their brother has already looked at and passed on, despite Palmetto Voice's multiple attempts to get it picked up. This time its author(s) may get their wish, although its not likely to be in the way they originally intended.

Whoever Palmetto Voice is, we're betting some legal documents are not far away from hitting their mailbox.

A quick domain name registration check by FITS reveals that no individual contact name, phone number or physical address is currently available for Palmetto Voice, the organization which purchased the website on March 31, 2006. Also, according to the Secretary of State's website, Palmetto Voice has not been duly registered as an organization in the state of South Carolina. Palmetto Voice also provided two different Post Office Addresses during its registration process. Its contact e-mail address is listed as palmettovoice@gmail.com.

Needless to say, this is going to be a huge political bombshell - particularly if it turns out the author of Palmetto Voice is affiliated with one of the other political campaigns in the Treasurer's race.

Count on FITS to bring you all the latest news in this emerging blogosphere scandal ...

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.

LEADERSHIP PAC'S - FOLLOW THE MONEY

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.

ICARUS

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.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sic Willie Busted Parking in Handicapped Spot

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer isn't the only bad boy making news with his vehicular misadventures these days ...

It turns out one of FITS founding members and regular contributors, our favorite bad boy Sic Willie, also seems to think he's above the law when it comes to flaunting his ride.

According to multiple sources and photographic evidence obtained exclusively by FITS, our favorite bad boy pulled an E.W. Cromartie early Saturday morning when he illegally parked his phat Pimpfiniti Q45 in a handicapped space on Park Street.

The above photo, taken by FITS staffer Becca D. at 1:18 a.m. on Saturday morning, clearly shows Sic Willie's black 1997 Q45 (complete with "Sportsmen for Sanford" sticker) parked directly in front of a handicapped sign outside at the corner of Park and Gervais streets. Late Friday afternoon, the State Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed to FITS that the license plate on the car in fact belongs to Sic Willie.

Making matters worse, a closer inspection of the vehicle revealed that sic Willie had placed a red and white "Clergy" card (similar to the one used by Chevy Chase in the movie Fletch) on his dashboard in an effort to fool authorities into thinking he was a minister using the parking spot for official church business.

We trust Mayor Bob and the appropriate authorities will fine Sic Willie the full $200 for this flagrant (and now indisputably documented) violation of the law.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Slick-tastic

Sure, Sic Willie (left) is a part-time contributor to this blog. Everybody's gotta know that by now, right?

In fact, as one senior Sanford administration official recently noted, the ship signifying Sic Willie's involvement with FaithintheSound has not only sailed, "it's half way around the world by now."

Why is it, though, that almost every subject we write on (whether Will Folks penned the article or not) ends up spawning a veritable Niagra Falls of Sic Willie-related comments or penis envy blogs written by Gervais S. Bridges?

Seriously, we write about the Lieutenant Governor's concerns on international trade agreements and end up with the "Will Folks Enquirer" page on our hands.

In the next few weeks, FITS will be leaving our fine digs here at Blogger and opening up our own little corner of the world wide web. It'll be like a lot like CNN, FOX News or the Wyethwire ... except on crack rock.

And no matter how trendy and charming our new digs are shaping up to be, anybody and everybody with a functioning keyboard will continue to be able to vent your spleen (anonymously or otherwise) on Sic Willie or any other subjects that happen to be on your mind ...

... just know that when commenting on this or any blog, our little Will is a lot like "Mikey" from those '70's cereal commercials. When you write about him, "He likes it."

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lite Gov Gets Serious?

We here at FITS honestly couldn't make up a press release as ridiculous as the one we think just came out of Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer's office ... and believe us, we've tried.

Our eminently mature (or is that Eminem-ently mature) second-ranking state official (above, demonstrating said maturity), may have urged the United States government today to "focus on issues that matter" in a curious press release related to the Doha Round of WTO trade negotiations.

Yes, you read that last sentence right, or at least we think you did ... reporters and other politicos across South Carolina are still scratching their heads in bewilderment this afternoon, wondering if Andre's office is really attempting to weigh in substantively on U.S. trade policy, or if someone is just having a little fun at the Lite Gov's expense.

Whatever the case, it's a sad day for South Carolina when so many people are forced to wonder whether or not our state's second-ranking official is capable of putting out a press release demonstrating anything remotely resembling gravitas, irrespective of its newsworthiness or relevance to his positon.

But anyway, after getting busted doing 101 in a 70 mph zone, using a fake police "call-sign" to get out of a ticket, lying to reporters about the incident, trying to blame his lead foot on Gov. Mark Sanford (for not giving him a $65,000 chauffer/babysitter), returning a Constable's certificate he hadn't even earned in a pitiful attempt to show he's not "above the law," having to clean the bikini-clad coeds off of his MySpace account and walking 12 miles to file his campaign papers ... here is (we think) the latest press release from the Lieutenant Governor's office (and be sure to picture him waxing on about the difference between free and fair trade from behind the wheel of his go-kart):

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mike Easterday
April 12, 2006
(803) 734-2080

New Study Raises Questions About Doha Round of Trade Negotiations - South Carolina Lt. Governor Urges U.S. Government to Focus on Issues That Matter

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) - Agricultural exports are essential to South Carolina’s farmers, and Lt. Governor Andre Bauer has consistently advocated free but fair trade. As a strong supporter of these principles, Lt. Governor Bauer urges the consideration of a recent paper written by Peter Morici, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Maryland--College Park.

The study, “The DOHA ROUND: No Help for America’s Trade Deficit?” concludes that, while a successful conclusion of the negotiations will provide modest benefits to American farmers, the Round is not addressing the practices, such as China’s manipulation of its currency, that are primarily responsible for the massive U.S. trade deficit, which reached $724 billion in 2005.

“This study raises very interesting questions and concerns,” said the Lt. Governor. “For example, the United States must still address some large issues with the WTO which may lead to greater exports of American and South Carolina-grown agricultural products."

Prof. Morici’s study explains that the negotiations are not addressing the most important barriers to U.S. exports, including China’s manipulation of its currency. The Lt. Governor also stated, “While I support the efforts of the current administration, the United States must continue to demand not only free trade but also fair trade. Until then, families in South Carolina and across the country will continue to bear the burden of our crushing trade deficit.”

###

Hmmm. A little dry. Perhaps this addition would have helped:

"Vrrrrooooom. Vrrrrroooooooom. Fair trade or bust, slowpoke!" concluded the Lt. Governor Bauer.

And They're Off! On TV, That Is

FITS has learned that Republican State Senator Greg Ryberg (pictured at left, striking a deliberative pose) has become the first 2006 candidate for statewide office to begin running television advertisements in South Carolina ... well, unless of course you count all those "Office on Aging" public service announcements from our Lite Gov, Speedy Gonzales Bauer.

Call us crazy, but who'd have thought two years ago that the first salvo in the election year television bombardment we're about to experience would be launched by a candidate for State Treasurer?

Anyway, as it turns out the debut video from "Big Head Greg and the Monsters" hit the airwaves on WIS-TV 10 (and presumably many, many other stations across the state) early this morning, and is an anti-gambling, tax cutting, family values message mix.

Hmmm.

It's very interesting that Ryberg - who just plopped $2 million of his own money into his Treasurer's campaign war chest (the largest candidate-to-campaign donation in state history) - would go anywhere near the subject of gambling. It's an issue on which he's incredibly vulnerable given his previous ties to video poker and the lottery in South Carolina and in Georgia.

Oh well, this should make for good theatre - in more ways than one.

First, it'll be fun to watch fellow candidate for Treasurer Jeff Willis publicly call Ryberg out on his hypocrisy, and then it'll be even more fun to watch Ryberg's wife Betty (who's also in his new ad) to physically accost Willis like she did at last weekend's State Republican Convention.

Enjoy the fireworks, people (and get your TiVo remote ready). The 2006 ad wars have begun.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Dropout Nation? SC Would Kill for 30% Dropout Rate

FITS is still smarting just a bit after receiving a mild "smack back" yesterday by none other than the Queen of the S.C. Blogosphere herself, Laurin P. Manning.

Turns out Laurin is a big fan of one Molly M. Spearman, a former Inez Tenenbaum Deputy Superintendent, current Bob Staton campaign contributor and one of the leading opponents of school choice from her lofty perch atop the S.C. Association of School Administrators (SCASA).

Now there's nothing at all wrong with Miss Manning standing up and defending her role model. Truth be told, we couldn't agree with her more. Molly is indeed an incredibly smart, successful woman and a great role model for countless young women looking to get into politics.

All we wanted to point out was that Mr. Staton - who took cash from a pretty wide swath of status quo, anti-choice educrats - also took cash from Ms. Spearman, and then let you decide for yourself what that means for a candidate who brands himself as a "Republican."

And what's wrong with that? Also, nothing.

Mr. Staton and Ms. Spearman have every right to be passionate about defending a system that traps 100,000-plus South Carolina kids in failing or below average schools every year, just as actual Republicans like Superintendent candidate Karen Floyd and Gov. Mark Sanford have every right to be passionate about forcing changes to that failed status quo.

That's probably why every one of them either was, is or wants to be in a position to do something on the issue.

But moving past all the political clatter, let's not forget the real stakes for South Carolina, which were capably reinforced on the cover of this week's TIME Magazine (above).

As it so often turns out, what the rest of the country sees as a national crisis (a 30% dropout rate), we here in South Carolina could only hope for as a vast improvement on the status quo.

That's because a 30% dropout rate would mean roughly 1 out of every 3 school kids (instead of 1 out of every 2) wasn't graduating, which - as sad as that is - would be progress for little ole last-in-the-nation South Carolina.

Of course, our state is used to celebrating mediocrity, as when Ms. Spearman and others at the Department of Education joked about having to "peel themselves off the ceiling" when South Carolina briefly jumped from 50th to 49th one year in SAT scores (only to reclaim the cellar ranking the very next year, which it has held ever since).

See, what Ms. Spearman and others in the rabid anti-school choice movement will never tell you is that Sanford, Floyd and others committed to expanding school choice in South Carolina are actually trying to help our public schools, not "subsidize K-12 private, religious or home schools with public funds," as Ms. Spearman's SCASA website insists.

Why else would Sanford have increased K-12 funding in every Executive Budget since he's been elected, proposed across-the-board teacher pay raises as well as additional merit-based pay raises, tried to streamline our state's disjointed funding mechanism so that more money actually got to the classroom or championed a new government program (yes, liberals, you read that correctly) when the 14-school, 250-student "Jobs for South Carolina Graduates" pilot program was launched through our State Department of Commerce?

Now, does that really sound like an enemy of public education to you?

But to hear Ms. Spearman and other status-quo backers tell it, your governor, Ms. Floyd and anybody who even dares to 'think' the words "voucher" or "tax credit" positively hate public education and want to destroy it, this despite the fact that vouchers and tax credits have improved academic performance and lowered dropout rates at public schools in every market in which they've been implemented.

So yes, Laurin. Molly Spearman is a remarkable woman and a great role model.

She's just dead wrong on this issue.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Greenville News Reporter Gets "Quote of the Week"

Greenville News reporter Dan Hoover gets the "Quote of the Week" award for dropping this juicy little double entendre into his statewide campaign finance story this morning:

"Three months ago, Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer was late in filing his campaign finance report, but he speeded things up for this election year's first quarter, beating his primary opponents in filing Monday."

Andre, Andre, Andre ...

You truly are the gift that keeps on giving.

By the way, does your campaign fundraiser need a $65,000-a-year chauffer, too?

A New Era of Openness

"Sunlight is the ultimate disinfectant in the political process."

-S.C. Governor Mark Sanford

He's said it at least a million times, probably because it bears repeating. He's also been the biggest force for change in a state that ranked 50th in the nation in "political sunlight" prior to his election three years ago.

Since then, Gov. Mark Sanford has signed a landmark campaign finance reform bill into law (a bill that was vetoed by his predecessor, incidentally) and pushed a reluctant - at times recalcitrant - State Ethics Commission into taking the first baby steps toward online disclosure.

Yesterday, bloggers, mainstream reporters and thousands of concerned citizens across our state once again reaped the benefits of our Governor's ceaseless vigilance on this key issue, taking full advantage of his fundamental insistence that every South Carolinian be able to know who's trying to influence their votes.

But while everybody and their brother in the blogosphere (including us) continues enjoying this gorgeous, sunny Springtime in South Carolina politics, FITS wanted to stop for a second and thank a key behind-the-scenes player, a true sister in the struggle.

Her name is Marisa Crawford, Sanford's new Communications Director and former Director of Cabinet Affairs. It was Crawford, at Sanford's urging, who undertook the monumental effort of bringing our hapless Ethics Commission out of the dark ages and into the light of her boss's new web-based vision. Along the way, she and the governor not only succeeded in getting the first stage of online disclosure (for statewide candidates) up and running, they also found a way to save every penny of the $318,000 the General Assembly reluctantly allocated for its implementation.

That, friends, is what government is supposed to be all about - doing the right thing and protecting the taxpayers of this state while you're doing it.

Ms. Crawford doesn't seek out the limelight (heck, she practically runs from it), and she'll probably never get an award for her amazing work on this issue, but we all owe her and the governor a huge debt of gratitude today.

Hopefully, the next step in this process will be getting our friendly legislative morons - you know, those folks more concerned with spending your money than saving it - to offer their filings online, too.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Former Tenenbaum Deputy Donatin' to Staton

FITS has learned that so-called "Republican" candidate for State Superintendent of Education Bob Staton received a campaign contribution this quarter from one Molly M. Spearman, a former Deputy Superintendent under outgoing Democratic State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum (right).

Spearman, who currently heads up the liberal S.C. Association of School Administrators, is also a former state legislator from Saluda County.

Among "Republican" Staton's other contributers are Carl B. Epps III, who argued the now infamous equity funding lawsuit for the plaintiff school districts last year, and Dan Campbell, CEO of Chernoff-Newman, the liberal ad agency behind the ongoing "Beware the Wolf" campaign against school choice in South Carolina.

And let's not forget Greenville's Craig Stine, a Staton contributor affiliated with ultra-liberal political advocacy group MoveOn.org.

Count on FITS to bring you more on "Status Quo" Staton's filing, along with other campaign related news as the candidates for statewide office here in South Carolina put their financial cards on the table.

Go Go Oklahoma!

Why do they look so happy out in Oklahoma?

Well, unlike the morons running government in our beloved, yet tragically ass-backward state of South Carolina, Oklahomans are lucky enough to have a legislature that's figured out the following three fundamental economic truths:

1) Tax cuts spur economic growth
2) Economic growth spurs jobs & higher income levels
3) Jobs & higher income levels spur revenue growth

Oh yeah, and then the cycle repeats itself. It's a little thing called supply-side economics, and the last time FITS checked Republicans are supposed to believe in it.

Of course, the GOP is quickly losing its monopoly on that front.

According to this morning's Wall Street Journal, the Oklahoma General Assembly is armed with $600 million in new revenue this year - a comparable figure to the $700-900 million in new revenue our General Assembly is playing with. But that's precisely where the similarites between our two historically non-advanced, low-income states end.

See, out in the Sooner State there's a vastly different budget battle going on, one that's night and day from the liberal spendfest currently unfolding here in Importantville, S.C.

Rather than stampeding to spend every last nickel the taxpayers have sent them, Oklahoma's House and Senate are actually battling over something else - the novel idea of how much money to give back to the people who earned it in the first place.

First came the Republican-controlled Oklahoma House, which offered up an income tax cut that would lower the state's top marginal rate from 6.25% to 5.85%. Obviously that's great news, but how would the state's Democratic-controlled Senate (sound familiar?) respond to the idea?

Well, it probably won't surprise you to hear that the Democrats in the Senate didn't agree. But what will surprise you is the uncharacteristic way in which they chose to express that disagreement.

To the bewilderment of many local political observers, the Oklahoma Senate (did we mention it's controlled by Democrats) offered a budget that would actually cut the state income tax rate even further - from 6.25% to 4.9%.

Huh?

On the flip side of this bipartisan effort to stimulate Oklahoma's economy and create new jobs is Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat pushing for a Dan Cooper-esque 18.4% spending increase.

Now FITS is just wondering here, but is there any way we can negotiate a multi-player trade between our two states? You know, we'll give you our status quo, tax-and-spend Republican Legislature, you can send us your bipartisan tax cutters. Heck, we'll even throw in state economist Bill Gillespie if you want him, too. Kind of a "player to be named later" type thing.

According to the most recent statistics available, Oklahoma ranks 40th in the nation in income levels. South Carolina ranks 42nd.

Guess what, kids. You might want to check those stats in another year or two after Oklahoma passes its tax cut and South Carolina, predictably, grows its already wasteful and inefficient government by double-digit percentages (... again).

Go, go Oklahoma! And once again, shame on South Carolina.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Volume X

Ronald Reagan he's not, but Virginia Senator George Allen might as well have ridden all "Dutch-style" into the GOP State Convention in Columbia this Saturday based on his reception.

The leading 2008 GOP Presidential prospect among the still-potent "Anybody But McCain" crowd, Allen (pictured left, all Dutch-style) wasn't so much imitating Reagan yesterday as he was your friendly neighbor butcher, serving up slab after slab of social conservative red meat to the far-right activist wing of the South Carolina Republican Party. As it turns out the natives were quite hungry indeed ...

Perhaps sensing momentum in light of Massachusetts governor (and fellow fire-and-brimstoner) Mitt Romney's well-publicized pitch for universal health care last week, Allen railed on the usual suspects - immigrants, bureaucrats and terrorists.

To the shock of no one, it turns out Republicans in South Carolina don't like ... you guessed it, immigrants, bureaucrats or terrorists. (Well, Republican legislators are OK with bureaucrats) ...

Senator Allen's speech was a stark contrast to remarks made just 24 hours earlier by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who struck a much more fiscally conservative tone in his address. Reminding convention-goers that hurricane-ravaged Mississippi, like South Carolina, is also experiencing double-digit revenue growth, Barbour proceeded to subtly contrast his state's modest spending increases with the pork orgy currently taking place in Columbia.

Not surprisingly, it was a message Gov. Mark Sanford made sure wasn't lost on the assembled delegates.

CULT OF SANFORD-ALITY

Speaking of Sanford, the governor was the subject of a Clinton-esque spin video unveiled at the weekend convention by SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson - ostensibly to the governor's great surprise.

A fairly lengthy series of picturesque, family-themed images set to triumphal, West Wing-style music, the film - much like the governor himself - was very well-received by the audience, although several veteran Sanford-ites were less than thrilled with the governor's speech.

Focusing more on the "I'm tight with Lindsey Graham" theme than his bread-and-butter message of economic competitiveness and fiscal conservatism, Sanford's speech still went over a heckuva lot better than Dr. Oscar Lovelace's remarks, which managed only a smattering of polite applause.

Note to Dr. Lovelace: The South Carolina Democratic Convention won't be held until May.

BAUER UPDATE

Charleston Post and Courier wunderkid John Frank is reporting that Lt. Governor Andre Bauer's recent speeding mishaps have already cost him dearly with South Carolina voters.

According to Frank's weekly "Capital Notebook" column, Bauer's favorable rating is down to a paltry 21%, with his negatives more than doubling to 41%. Worse still for Bauer, Lite Gov Candidate Mike Campbell is enjoying a 38% to 19% lead in their head-to-head primary matchup - adding a healthy 15% cushion to what was only a 4%, inside-the-margins lead two weeks ago.

Even the most ardent Andre opponents admitted shock at the numbers.

"We figured he'd just shot himself in the foot," one Campbell supporter told FITS. "We had no idea he'd gone and completely blown his brains out."

RACIAL PROBLEM FOR SCGOP?

While perhaps not as immediately grabbing as the Bauer poll revelation, Greenville News columnist Dan Hoover nonetheless dropped a bombshell of his own this weekend on the Palmetto political landscape, a story that could have far-reaching negative repercussions for the SCGOP in its occasional efforts at wooing minorities.

According to Hoover's Sunday column, Rep. Gloria Arias Haskins was not invited to present the party's annual Terry Haskins Award, which is named after her late husband, because of her ethnicity.

Rep. Haskins, who hails from South America, has presented the award in each of the previous four years.

Never one to hold her tongue, Haskins told Hoover she wasn't invited to present the award "because there's an immigration debate and I'm a face of Hispanics in the Republican Party."

SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson then compounded the problem by using the "I didn't see her" defense, precisely the kind of response that will warm minorities' hearts.

With the predominantly Republican Upstate home to one of the fastest-growing Hispanic populations anywhere in South Carolina, it's difficult to overstate the problems the SCGOP just created for itself in its own backyard.

We'd start brushing up on your Spanglish, Mr. Chairman.

PLAINS OF THE SERENGETI?

Typically elephants and rubber chickens are the animals du jour at Republican functions like this weekend's state convention.

Not this year.

First, we had Commissioner of Agriculture candidate William Bell showing up on horseback. Then came the real treat, an unidentified indivudal who showed up in a Rhino suit to hand out anti-Bob Staton literature.

RINO - which stands for "Republican in Name Only" - is a label that has dogged Staton since he first announced his campaign for State Superintendent of Education earlier this year.

Sadly, one RINO was quite insufficient to accomodate this gathering. Given the State Republican Party's tragic ineptitude when it comes to electing true fiscal conservatives to the state legislature, a herd of 100 probably wouldn't have done the trick.

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN

It was a tough week for our colleauges over at the LaurinLine, and no, we're not talking about USC's increasingly worthless law degree.

Apparently, a Russian-based "Trojan Horse" virus infiltrated Queen Laurin's inner sanctum last week, blocking her website and attempting to spread itself to anyone who tried accessing its pages.

Fortunately for the Queen - and for we her loyal blogospheric subjects - Laurin & Co. succeeded in putting the smack down on the nefarious intruder. The Stiletto Mafia immediately celebrated with a four-part a cappella rendition of the LaurinLine national anthem.

"Oh LaurinLine, our home and native land. Oh LaurinLine ... "

S---, wait a minute, that's Canada. This immigration debate has FITS all kinds of confused.

Anyway, until next week ... be heard. Oh, and don't go "Betty Ryberg" (see below) on anybody, either.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Family Values?

In a Terry Sullivan-esque flipout, FITS has learned that candidate for State Treasurer Greg Ryberg and his wife, Betty Ryberg, stone cold "lost it" earlier today at the State Republican Convention.

The family values-preaching couple (shown left, demonstrating those family values), were evidently quite upset following some remarks made by Easley's Jeff Willis, another candidate for Treasurer. At the conclusion of Willis' remarks, both Rybergs reportedly demonstrated their heated displeasure in no uncertain terms.

Witnesses say it all started shortly after Willis followed former House Majority Leader Rick Quinn, former U.S. Senate candidate Thomas Ravenel and Ryberg himself on the podium during the "candidate speeches" segment of the convention program. During his speech, Willis criticized Ryberg's record-setting $2 million donation to his own campaign, saying he didn't think candidates should so overtly attempt to "buy an office" because it would end up making the voters cynical. He went on to say that if he had two million dollars, he would start a foundation to build houses for homeless veterans.

Willis then proceeded to enlist the support of convention-goers in this new effort.

Evidently unsupportive of the Willis plan, however, was Mrs. Ryberg, whom several witnesses say grabbed the candidate by the arm and refused to surrender her iron grip on him until she had given him a stern piece of her mind.

At one point in her tirade, Mrs. Ryberg is reported to have told Willis that what he was doing "played right into Rick Quinn's hands."

Meanwhile, across the room, a beet red Senator Ryberg was frantically waving his hands in the air, attempting to get the attention of his campaign manager, Terry Sullivan.

It's no secret that both Rybergs are aggressive people, often angrily so. It's also no secret they've both got a little bit of a problem with "potty mouth."

But physically grabbing another candidate? In a public setting like the State Convention? Isn't that a little over the top?

Fortunately for Willis, he did not attempt to physically maneuver around Mrs. Ryberg at any point during the episode, nor did he do anything to attempt loosening her grip on his arm.

As we all know in South Carolina politics, that's when people start conveniently losing their balance and mysteriously flying toward the nearest piece of furniture.

Friday, April 07, 2006

SC House Takes a Week Off? Priceless ...

In a rare bit of good news for the taxpayers, the South Carolina House of Pork ... we mean Representatives ... is taking next week off.

Every year, members of the House get a week off for Spring Break prior to Easter, and while they still receive their legislative salaries during this time period, members do forego thier mileage per diem and reimbursements.

According to most estimates, that saves taxpayers about $40,000 ... although the actual cost savings associated with these RINO tax-and-spenders being someplace where they can't spend your tax dollars probably number in the hundreds of millions.

Seriously folks, does this sound like a killer Mastercard ad in the making or what?

We here at FITS think it would go a little something like this ...

(Cue announcer voice)

"Forgoing Rep. Bill Herbkersman's weekly mileage reimbursement from Bluffton to Columbia? $142.18.

Forgoing Rep. Michael Thompson's weekly Maxim Magazine purchase at Capital Newsstand? $6.95.

Forgoing any emergency hair gel expenditures incurred by Rep. Gary Simrill? $24.71.

Not having to pay for a week's worth of Dewar's White Label Scotch for Rep. Annette Young? Priceless."

Enjoy your week of Zen, South Carolina income earners. They'll be back April 18.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ryberg Pumps $2 Million into Campaign ... for Treasurer?

We're not kidding ... his head really is that big. Just look at the signs plastered everywhere alongside South Carolina's roadways.

We're also not kidding when we tell you that State Sen. Greg Ryberg (right, all over your screen) of Aiken has just pumped $2 million of his own money into the South Carolina Treasurer's race according to documents filed with the State Ethics Commission.

$2 million? For a Treasurer's race?

And we could just be getting warmed up.

With fellow multi-millionare Thomas Ravenel also in the race, don't be surprised if we witness a "I'll see your two million and raise you two million" situation developing here.

Seriously, guys, this is the Treasurer's race - not the governor's race. And you're supposed to run for the office, not buy it.

Oddly enough, the real winners in this brewing spendfest (other than the high-priced numbskulls getting paid exorbitant retainers by the Ryberg and Ravenel campaigns) could end up being incumbent Treasurer Grady Patterson and former House Majority Leader Rick Quinn, provided they are able to stoke and then capitalize on voter disgust at these ludicrous sums of money being thrown at a downballot Constitutional office.

Whatever happens, count on FITS to keep you up to speed on all the latest developments in this unprecedented contest for a non-gubernatorial statewide office.

The Do-Nothing Legislature

Former President Harry Truman had the "Do-Nothing Congress" to contend with during his 1948 re-election campaign. S.C. Governor Mark Sanford now has the "Do-Nothing Legislature."

Wrapped in the guise of "pro-business reforms" and "common-sense conservatism," the 116th General Assembly is now halfway through its second legislative session with precious little to show for itself - unless you count the pork included in back-to-back budgets that could end up growing government by over 20% in just two years.

Pro-business reforms, FITS asks? Only if you follow the Socialist model of economic development.

Common-sense conservatism, FITS wonders? Only if you think Lyndon Johnson qualifies as a small government kind of guy.

Yesterday, the House once again failed to get anything even remotely productive done under the leadership of Speaker Bobby Harrell (above) in passing a Workers' Compensation Reform bill that somehow lost all its "reform" en route to a 92-16 floor vote.

Rep. Converse Chellis called it "a strong bill that will help stabilize premiums" as well as a bill that "should promote competition."

Actually, it's a watered-down bill that won't do anything to stabilize premiums. And as for competition, well, it certainly has a good chance of promoting it ... if you live somewhere outside of South Carolina.

But this is typical of the "wisdom" of the South Carolina General Assembly, which embraces the private sector and free market economy in much the same way that the Jewish faith embraces Mein Kampf.

They've rejected income tax relief that's created jobs and increased state revenues everywhere it's been implemented, they've dismissed market-based choice in education that's improved public schools everywhere it's been implemented, they've refused to restructure government to make it more efficient and accountable to you, the taxpayer - all while spending your money like Richard Pryor in Brewster's Millions.

Former Speaker David Wilkins, no Sanford ally himself, nonetheless managed to rattle off two-thirds of the governor's "Contract for Change" agenda in 2004, only to see the vast majority of it killed over in the Senate by RINOs like Jakie Knotts, Luke Rankin and Speedmeister Andre Bauer.

Wilkins never would have let this workers' comp disaster happen under his watch.

Harrell has staked his speakership on a property tax reform bill that's DOA in the Senate. He's personally holding up a Charter School Reform bill that's passed both the House and the Senate. He can't control the House to get meaningful legislation out the door on something as vital as workers' comp reform and given yesterday's announcement by Sen. Hugh Leatherman, he's now in the position of being futher to the left of the biggest RINO of them all on trust and reserve fund repayment.

And let's not forget he's presiding over the biggest government spending spree since the glad-handed heyday of the late 1990's.

Oh well, at least we got the breastfeeding bill done. In a state full of suckers, it's only fitting we encourage that behavior.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Yancey McGill: In His Own, Um, Words ... Sort of

In case you missed this gem in The State newspaper this morning, it appears a first-grader at one of our state's public schools somewhere along the "Corridor of Shame" is now writing opinion-editorial pieces for Senator Yancey McGill.

Rarely does a reputable newspaper like The State allow something this poorly-written to be published, but we at FITS would like to extend to them our most sincere thanks for doing so in this instance.

Without further adieu, here in his own, um, words ... sort of ... is State Senator Yancey McGill:

Cheap Shots from the Governor's Office
By Sen. J. Yancey McGill

(OK, good title, you're possibly onto something here and while your name is definitely a little odd, you've got us hooked).

This issue of a driver for Andre Bauer is the most ridiculous and absurd implication and misrepresentation of the facts that I have ever experienced in the 35 years of public service.

(Wait a minute ... don't you mean "in my 35 years of public service?" What the hell is "in the 35 years of public service?" Are there other people's years of public service you meant to reference here but forgot? And isn't it somebody else's position on the issue of a driver for Andre you find ridiculous and absurd, not the issue of a driver for Andre itself? I mean, that's what the rest of us find ridiculous about the whole thing, but ...)

Political mind games and cheap political shots by the governor and his staff spokesmen have set a new, dirty low in South Carolina government. The governor and his staff spokesmen should apologize to the citizens of South Carolina and to my family.

(So you're saying there's something political going on here ... we gotcha ... but isn't Joel Sawyer, the governor's staff spokesman, just one person? I mean, sure he could probably stand to drop five pounds or so, but the last time FITS checked he was still a single human being, as well as the only person other than Sanford himself who speaks for the administration ...)

From the start, instead of working with the lieutenant governor on issues, the governor has never given quality time to the lieutenant governor. The theme has been all about self and his political future. He shall and will not shift the focus on his negative leadership to my son, John McGill, or myself.

(Forgetting for the moment that Sanford gave Andre the Office on Aging in 2004 in exchange for legislative support on the income tax cut, support that never materialized by the way, you'd probably want to go with "shall not and will not" there ... More importantly, exactly what kind of "quality time" is Andre looking for? Hmmm ...)

Honor, trust, love, compassion and godly principles are and have been my family’s basic values and successes. My civic policy has always been one of fairness, openness and sensitivity to others. I have never believed in shifting my burdens on anyone else. Though I am not perfect, thanks for God’s grace, I walk quietly, have tried to give all credit to others and have attempted to show godly love and compassion to my fellow South Carolinians.

(God is probably happy you capitalized His Holy Name at least once out of three times there ...)

I am proud of my son’s work ethic, honesty and commitment. He is a fine young man. He is one of our many wonderful young people in South Carolina trying to make life better for all of our citizens. Young people should be encouraged to participate in our communities at all levels. John stated to me some time ago that he was not interested in security work but enjoyed solving problems, constituent service and working with the citizens of our state.

(No problems here. We're down with all that. Your boy is definitely good peeps ... )

Our lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer, admitted that he was not correct in speeding and so stated that he was not above the law. He also stated that he would adjust his overactive schedule of meetings and events accordingly. Lt. Gov. Bauer is sincere and quick to access for all citizens and not just a chosen few. This man is honest, intelligent and one of the hardest-working public elected state officials I have ever met.

(Andre was honest of course, except when reporters asked him point blank beforehand if he'd been pulled for a speeding ticket recently ... speaking of which, don't we want our public officials to be subject to the law all the time? Not just when they're caught trying to be above it? And finally, he's "quick to access?" What does that mean? Again, things that make you go hmmm ...)

The lieutenant governor’s potential security detail was requested and talked about with the chief of the State Law Enforcement Division some three years ago, but not approved. Chief Robert Stewart’s decision was based on absence of legislative direction on the issue, and I commend Chief Stewart for the excellent job he performs at SLED.

(Everybody loves Chief Stewart, and God knows we could all use a little more "legislative direction" in our lives. Oh yeah, sub an "an" in there in front of absence next time ...)

For the record, I did not request, negotiate or ask anyone for special or standard job help for my son at the lieutenant governor’s office. John McGill’s abilities of communication, fast reaction and clear understanding of his position and issues qualify him for his present job and any other such position. He did not seek this position at the lieutenant governor’s office, but was asked if he would be interested in his present position by the lieutenant governor.

(We know you probably said something convincing in there, we're just laughing so hard at this point that it's become increasingly difficult to take your op-ed seriously ...)

John was truly honored and felt that he could contribute and accepted this position.I rarely respond to any articles of news about myself, but I must stand up for my son, as any father would. This dark misrepresentation of the truth does not tickle my intelligence nor lend any credibility to the governor’s inability to work with others.

(Obviously it didn't "tickle" your writing ability either ... and we're guessing you meant to say it didn't lend any credibility to the governor's ability to work with others, which we're not even sure is a real sentence to begin with even if you had gotten it right ... next time try "nor lend credibility to those who claim the governor works well with others" ... )

In conclusion, twisting the truth is highly shameful and not the South Carolina or American way, as I know.

(Wouldn't that be South Carolinian and American way? We've never heard of the America Way ...)

This governor should not be re-elected!

(A very wise person once told FITS, "you only get three exclamation points a lifetime, use them wisely ...")

Originally, I had great hope and expectation of this new governor, but now I agree with many others that I am saddened by his politically cheap mentality.

(You "agree with many others that I am saddened?" Try "I agree with many others who are saddened ...)

Sen. McGill, a Democrat, represents portions of Florence, Georgetown, Horry and Williamsburg counties in the S.C. Senate.

(Finally, a well-written sentence).

Give us a call next-time, Yancey. It's great you're giving public school kids in your district an opportunity to showcase their skills, but you really should leave these things to the professionals ...

Bush's New Strategy: "F--- It"

In the wake of mounting dissatisfaction with his job performance and approval ratings languishing in the mid-30's, President George W. Bush (above) is accompanying a recent staff shakeup with a new approach to governing that White House observers are already referring to as the "F--- It" strategy.

"He's not up for reelection, why should he give a s---?" said one senior White House staffer who spoke with FITS on the condition of anonymity. "All this worrying about what everybody thinks about him all the time doesn't work for him, this President is at his best when he's staring into the camera and telling the enemies of freedom, you know what? F--- it."

FITS has learned that Step One in the President's new "F--- It" plan is the formation of a harem similiar to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il's "Pleasure Squad," a collection of roughly fifty 18-24 year-old women (all carrying the rank of First Lieutenant in the People's Army of North Korea, incidentally) who are divided into the "massage team," "dance team" and the hopefully self-explanatory "fulfillment team." The stated function of the "Pleasure Squad" is to preserve the "vitality and longevity of The Leader."

"What can I say," Bush told reporters at a recent White House press conference. "Dictatorship has its privileges."

Step Two is bombing the living hell out of any nation that so much as thinks derisive thoughts about America, starting with what Bush called "those narcissistic p---ies over in France."

Step Three is the installation of a new "trap-door" system in the White House press room, where the simple push of a button can remove offending journalists as the President sees fit.

Finally, Step Four is to start a new relationship with the U.S. Congress, which FITS has learned involves calling it into a joint session under the pretense of a Presidential Address, but then flying overhead with the 82nd Airborne and helping bomb the s--- out of the U.S. Capitol.

"After that I'll drill in Alaska, domestic wiretap your asses and mispronounce words whenever I want, b--ches," Bush said. "I'm George W. Bush, muthaf--kas. F--- it."