... IRREVERENCE, INSTITUTIONALIZED ...

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Babies Got Back

Things just wouldn't be right here at FITS if we didn't post something once in awhile to make jaws drop and our dear friends at the State House say "now this time they've gone too far." So we've followed up our extremely controversial Hot Legs list with something even more shocking ... not to mention the most shocking thing of all is that Sic Willie is not even writing this.

He is a big baby and is too scared of getting sued. Well phooey on you, Wilbur, but the show most go on. And yes you will still get sued even though you tried to back out of doing the a-- list and the rest of us had to do it for you.

So with the help of Sir Mix-A-Lot, Eminem, Beyonce, Bubba Sparxxx, Black Eyed Peas, P Diddy, Trace Adkins and J-Lo, FITS is proud to unveil the Top 15 "Babes Wit Back" at the S.C. State House ...

15. Catherine "Little in the Middle But She Got Much Back" Ceips - State Representative

14. Dona "Ass Like That" Ayers - Secretary of State's Office

13. Bonnie "Bootylicious" Drake - Lobbyist

12. Laurin "Luscious Lady Lumps" Manning - Queen of S.C. Blogosphere

11. Sara "Shake Yo Tailfeather" Hopper - Lobbyist

10. Sherry "Shake Dat A--" Street - Lobbyist

9. Katie "Double Up ... Uh, Uh" Dunning - Lobbyist

8. Herb "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" Kirsch - State Representative

7. Barbara "Shake Your Moneymaker" Melvin - Lobbyist

6. Kay "Curvalicuous" Clamp - Lobbyist

5. Ashley "Miss New Booty" Smith - Lobbyist

4. Peggy "I'm Sorry Miss Boykin" Boykin - Lobbyist

3. Natalie "Phelt on the Big Phat Phanny" Viers - Municipal Association

2. Heather "Hips Don't Lie" Smith - Judiciary Committee

1. Shirley "Baby Got Back" Hinson - State Representative

So there you have it ... now go and slap Herb Kirsh a good one right on that fabulous fanny of his.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Oh Canada

So what the hell does Canada have to do with FITS? On the day after Memorial Day, no less? Well, according to our website tracker, at least two of our most loyal readers come from the Great North, Ottawa in particular.

And after this post, we're sure they'll be back ...

But more importantly, as it turns out, FITS' part-time contributor Sic Willie was recently the subject of some less-than-flattering comments coming from one of Canada's newest and most powerful inhabitants, the Chief of Staff to U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins.

And over a Richland County Council race, no less.

That's right, FITS has learned that Ambassador Wilkins' longtime "advisor" and frequent Sic Willie antagonist, Christy Cox, was more than a tad miffed that our favorite bad boy was actually getting some business (as opposed to imaginary clients) back home and undertook an unsuccessful effort to have him, well, canned.

To our knowledge, this is the first time in history that the Canadian Embassy has ever involved itself in Richland County politics.

Stay tuned to FITS for more on this developing story ...

Monday, May 29, 2006

"What We Must All Ask"

The following remarks were delivered by President Ronald Reagan on Memorial Day, May 31, 1982, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers in Arlington National Cemetary:

Mr. President, General, the distinguished guests here with us today, my fellow citizens:

In America's cities and towns today, flags will be placed on graves in cemeteries; public officials will speak of the sacrifice and the valor of those whose memory we honor.

In 1863, when he dedicated a small cemetery in Pennsylvania marking a terrible collision between the armies of North and South, Abraham Lincoln noted the swift obscurity of such speeches. Well, we know now that Lincoln was wrong about that particular occasion. His remarks commemorating those who gave their "last full measure of devotion'' were long remembered. But since that moment at Gettysburg, few other such addresses have become part of our national heritage -- not because of the inadequacy of the speakers, but because of the inadequacy of words.

I have no illusions about what little I can add now to the silent testimony of those who gave their lives willingly for their country. Words are even more feeble on this Memorial Day, for the sight before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for them.

Yet, we must try to honor them -- not for their sakes alone, but for our own. And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice.

Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we -- in a less final, less heroic way -- be willing to give of ourselves.

It is this, beyond the controversy and the congressional debate, beyond the blizzard of budget numbers and the complexity of modern weapons systems, that motivates us in our search for security and peace. War will not come again, other young men will not have to die, if we will speak honestly of the dangers that confront us and remain strong enough to meet those dangers.

It's not just strength or courage that we need, but understanding and a measure of wisdom as well. We must understand enough about our world to see the value of our alliances. We must be wise enough about ourselves to listen to our allies, to work with them, to build and strengthen the bonds between us.

Our understanding must also extend to potential adversaries. We must strive to speak of them not belligerently, but firmly and frankly. And that's why we must never fail to note, as frequently as necessary, the wide gulf between our codes of morality. And that's why we must never hesitate to acknowledge the irrefutable difference between our view of man as master of the state and their view of man as servant of the state. Nor must we ever underestimate the seriousness of their aspirations to global expansion. The risk is the very freedom that has been so dearly won.

It is this honesty of mind that can open paths to peace, that can lead to fruitful negotiation, that can build a foundation upon which treaties between our nations can stand and last -- treaties that can someday bring about a reduction in the terrible arms of destruction, arms that threaten us with war even more terrible than those that have taken the lives of the Americans we honor today.

In the quest for peace, the United States has proposed to the Soviet Union that we reduce the threat of nuclear weapons by negotiating a stable balance at far lower levels of strategic forces.

This is a fitting occasion to announce that START, as we call it, strategic arms reductions, that the negotiations between our country and the Soviet Union will begin on the 29th of June.
As for existing strategic arms agreements, we will refrain from actions which undercut them so long as the Soviet Union shows equal restraint. With good will and dedication on both sides, I pray that we will achieve a safer world.

Our goal is peace. We can gain that peace by strengthening our alliances, by speaking candidly of the dangers before us, by assuring potential adversaries of our seriousness, by actively pursuing every chance of honest and fruitful negotiation.

It is with these goals in mind that I will depart Wednesday for Europe, and it's altogether fitting that we have this moment to reflect on the price of freedom and those who have so willingly paid it. For however important the matters of state before us this next week, they must not disturb the solemnity of this occasion. Nor must they dilute our sense of reverence and the silent gratitude we hold for those who are buried here.

The willingness of some to give their lives so that others might live never fails to evoke in us a sense of wonder and mystery. One gets that feeling here on this hallowed ground, and I have known that same poignant feeling as I looked out across the rows of white crosses and Stars of David in Europe, in the Philippines, and the military cemeteries here in our own land. Each one marks the resting place of an American hero and, in my lifetime, the heroes of World War I, the Doughboys, the GI's of World War II or Korea or Vietnam. They span several generations of young Americans, all different and yet all alike, like the markers above their resting places, all alike in a truly meaningful way.

Winston Churchill said of those he knew in World War II they seemed to be the only young men who could laugh and fight at the same time. A great general in that war called them our secret weapon, "just the best darn kids in the world.'' Each died for a cause he considered more important than his own life. Well, they didn't volunteer to die; they volunteered to defend values for which men have always been willing to die if need be, the values which make up what we call civilization. And how they must have wished, in all the ugliness that war brings, that no other generation of young men to follow would have to undergo that same experience.

As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation. And let us also pledge to do our utmost to carry out what must have been their wish: that no other generation of young men will ever have to share their experiences and repeat their sacrifice.

Earlier today, with the music that we have heard and that of our National Anthem -- I can't claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don't know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: Does that flag still wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? That is what we must all ask.

Thank you.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Poll Position?

For those of you who don't follow thoroughbred racing, the picture at left is the legendary Secretariat cruising to immortality in the 1973 Belmont Stakes - not only winning the Triple Crown but setting a world record for the mile-and-a-half (one that still stands today) and beating his nearest opponent by 31 lengths - the largest victory margin in American stakes racing history.

Many consider Secretariat's win to be the most dominanting performance in all of sports history.

It's unlikely any political victory in South Carolina's June 13 primary election is going to be quite as convincing, but some political consultants are trying to make you think that at least one of them is.

According to sources who spoke with FITS on the condition of anonymity, a new poll conducted for RINO consultant Warren Tompkins shows Gov. Mark Sanford leading Dr. Oscar Lovelace by a margin of 73-16 (with 11% undecided) in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

While those numbers are consistent with Sanford's recently-reported 62% approval rating among all voters and his 20-point head-to-head lead in a general election over either Democratic challenger, FITS is understandably suspicious.

Everybody knows Tompkins loathes Sanford, so why would he leak information favorable to the governor's campaign? And why would he not release the poll results from other races - like Superintendent of Education and State Treasurer - in which he has big-dollar candidates in the running?

Hmmm ...

For its part, Team Sanford has been good at minimizing expectations, allowing Lovelace supporters to raise the bar in the hopes that a big Sanford win will exceed pundit projections and make the governor look stronger headed into a matchup against either Tommy Moore or Frank Willis.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

House Majority Leader Jimmy Merrill certainly takes the cake for his "Oompa Loompa steps" comment on the property tax debate to Post and Courier reporter John Frank, but a strong second-place showing goes to a very well-read blogger who assessed the performance of Superintendent of Education candidate Karen Floyd in her three TV commercials:

"She looks like somebody stuck a horse tranquilizer in her butt before they started taping," our anonymous blogger friend said of Floyd's slightly less-than-gripping ads.

All FITS can say is we're sure there are a number of men out there who would be happy to volunteer for that campaign assignment, and as much as Floyd's ads do fail to capture her good looks and remarkable presence on the stump, it could have been worse.

It could have been a Bob Staton RINO tranquilizer.

KEEP THE (UPSTATE) BEAT

FITS has learned that our own part-time contributor Sic Willie will be featured in next week's edition of "Upstate Beat," a biweekly, Greenville-based alternative news publication covering four Upstate counties.

In a far-ranging, discussion-style interview with publisher James Shannon, Willie offers his thoughts on the upcoming 2006 elections, life after the glare of the governor's office and his upcoming book on South Carolina politics ... as well as some other surprises.

No word yet on when the RINO goober machine over at Tompkins, Thomson and Whatever plans on threatening "Upstate Beat" with advertising blackmail the same way they threatened the Andy Thomas Radio Show last week in the wake of Willie's twice-weekly appearances on that program.

THE QUEEN IS (NOT) DEAD

After leaving a curious picture of a married couple and a horse posted on her website for over a week, FITS was happy to see the Queen of the S.C. Blogosphere back and at the top of her game this week, cutting through the bull propogated by those blowhards over at Starboard Communications like a hot knife through butta'.

The Queen's string, incidentally, was continued with this Sunday's excellent feature on Democrat Lite Guv hopeful Robert Barber.

Welcome back, Laurin. It's your world. The rest of us in the blogosphere are just payin' rent.

HONKY TONK BADONKADONK

After the rousing success of FITS' collaboration with ZZ Top on the "Top 20 Legs at the State House" post, the Stiletto Mafia is pleased to announce that it has entered into a contractual agreement with Seattle-based rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot to rank the Top 15 "Babes Wit' Back" in South Carolina politics.

And just when you thought you'd made it through the legislative session "unmolested" ...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Hard to Starboard

We here at FITS have always liked State Rep. Ralph Norman. After all, he's one of Gov. Mark Sanford's "Taxpayer Heroes," a rare, genuine fiscal conservative in a sea of big-spending Columbia RINOs.

That's why we were so excited, initially at least, when Norman announced last October that he would challenge incumbent Democrat John Spratt for the U.S. Congress. He seemed just the kind of small government, lower tax-candidate that was needed to oust one of D.C.'s most powerful Democratic insiders.

Of course, we had no way of knowing at the time that Norman would end up associating his campaign with one of the sleaziest political goon squads the state of South Carolina has ever seen. We also had no way of knowing that this ethically-challenged outfit would pull an Armstrong Williams, essentially paying off an ostensibly "unbiased" journalist to write favorable content about Norman's chances.

Thanks to some intrepid reporting from the Queen of the S.C. Blogosphere, however, we now know the truth, a little something the folks over at Starboard Communications (pictured above) are apparently still having at little problem owning up to.

"It's the lie that gets you," Richard Nixon once boasted after nailing Alger Hiss on perjury charges in 1950. Of course it was the lie that ultimately got Nixon, too.

Not surprisingly, Starboard's President, Walter Whetsell, has a history of this kind of shadiness.

It was Whetsell who was famously busted in the 2002 GOP gubernatorial runoff after creating a fictitious group for the purpose of sending a false and inflammatory mail piece attacking Gov. Mark Sanford's conservative credentials, part of a secretive last-ditch effort by former Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler's campaign to thwart Sanford's GOP primary momentum.

It was the lie that got Starboard back then, too.

Sanford's campaign was able to link the Whetsell mailing back to Peeler and the whole scam blew up in their faces.

But begging the larger question, Mark Sanford? A liberal? On what planet does that hold true?

Kind of makes you wonder how Whetsell & Co. expect to be taken seriously when they call John Spratt a "Nancy Pelosi liberal." That may in fact be true, but this is a crew that has cried wolf one too many times.

Tragically, Ralph Norman has gravitated to these gutter-dwellers and let a White House with a 30% approval rating dictate his campaign strategy. No wonder recent polls show him getting his rear end handed to him in the 5th District, in spite of the "momentum" that Town Hall columnists are being paid to tell you his campaign is enjoying.

Wise up, Ralph. You're better than this.

You need to be plowing full-speed ahead into the challenges facing your district with a positive, issues-based campaign that the voters can be proud of, not trying to skirt around them with cookie-cutter political goonsmanship.

Just remember where "Hard to Starboard" got Titanic.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Oompa Loompa Steps?

FITS has got to hand it to House Majority Leader Jimmy Merrill, who busted out what may well be the quote of the year in this morning's edition of the Charleston Post and Courier - a brilliant swipe at the methodical moronisitude of the state's so-called "deliberative body."

"While the House is willing to take great strides to achieve property tax relief, the Senate seems determined to take Oompa-Loompa steps," Merrill said of the current Legislative impasse.

Oompa Loompa steps?

Ouch. Somebody just got Suuuuuurviced!

We're not sure how diminuitive Senate Finance Chairman Hugh "Huge Government in a Little Package" Leatherman took Merrill's remark, but it's a safe bet he's already got RINO communications hack Bob McAlister working on another oped about Chicken Little and the sky falling or something equally nauseating.

Fortunately, we may not have to subject ourselves to the latest incoherent ramblings from Little Roosevelt.

FITS has learned that in spite of all the inter-Chamber bad blood that's been boiling this week, conferees may be close to working out a deal that would provide some measure of property tax relief and allow the state budget to move forward.

Keep it tuned right here for all the latest ...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Harrell: Mayor Nickname Not So Bad

FITS got a rare treat last night, some face time with the main man himself, House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

As much as we criticize the "Mayor of Importantville" for his big spending, anti-school choice ways, we have to admit that the guy is a great sport and one of the most personable, intelligent and (according to Heather S., at least) "very easy on the eyes" people we've ever come across.

Bobby also believes passionately in what he's doing, and despite the fact that we disagree with him as to how we get there, we have no doubt that he wants South Carolina to succeed and move forward just like we do.

The Speaker shared a number of things with us "off the blog" yesterday evening, but one thing we felt worth mentioning was that he actually likes his "Mayor of Importantville" nickname.

"Yeah, I don't mind that one at all," the Speaker told FITS. "It's the newest nickname I've heard about that I don't particularly care for."

Actually, we agree with Bobby that our little "Superintendent of Stupid" reference a few weeks back was probably a wee bit over the top. So from here on out, Mr. Speaker, you can call us the "Superintendents of Sorry, Dude."

Anyway, props to Bobby Harrell for being such a class act and a good sport last night.

NEW SANFORD POLL NUMBERS

Gov. Mark Sanford has a 62% approval rating according to new polling information obtained by FITS. The highly-classified internal poll was conducted just last week by a top Washington, D.C. firm, one with a history of accuracy presaging electoral results.

Our source refused to provide any additional information on Sanford's head-to-head numbers against Democratic candidates Tommy Moore and Frank Willis, but a 62% approval rating meshes with recent Rasmussen polling information showing Sanford with a 20-point or higher lead over either opponent.

ANDRE PLANE CRASH UPDATE

Some stitches and a broken ankle notwithstanding, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer is no worse for the wear after his harrowing aviation ordeal in Cherokee County yesterday afternoon. The Lite Gov and a passenger, John M. Leonhardt of Columbia, both managed to escape serious injury after Bauer's Mooney M20-E went down in flames shortly after takeoff.

Thanks to everybody who joined us in offering up a prayer for Andre and his friend's safety and we'll keep rooting for him to make a full and speedy recovery.

Of course, we'd be remiss not to mention we're praying for Mike Campbell, too.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bauer Involved in Plane Crash

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer was involved in a plane crash late this afternoon in Cherokee County. As of this writing, WLTX TV 19 in Columbia is the only major media outlet that has published the story. Here is their initial report:

(WLTX TV 19 Columbia - Blacksburg) - South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer has been injured in an ultralight aircraft crash. The accident happened Tuesday afternoon in the Cherokee County town of Blacksburg. The plane was registered to Bauer. Few details have been released, but News19 has learned Bauer was transported to the hospital with what are called non life-threatening injuries. -END WLTX REPORT.

Regardless of your political affiliation, please join us in praying for Andre's safety, for those who will treat his injuries and that he will enjoy a complete and speedy recovery.

Dwight Loftis on Staton's Status Quo Shakedown

FITS received some information recently about Superintendent of Education candidate Bob "Status Quo" Staton shaking down M.B. Kahn, Inc., the state's largest public school construction firm, and its subsidiaries for big dollar campaign contributions.

We were tempted to write a blog about it until we saw a magnificent opinion editorial on this very subject by Rep. Dwight Loftis (pictured), which appeared in last week's edition of the Greenville Times Examiner.

Since we couldn't have said it better ourselves, FITS is proud to offer for your consideration the following opinion editorial from Rep. Loftis regarding the latest "Staton Status Quo Shakedown:"

Extortion, Shrewd Politics, or Status Quo Shakedown?
By Rep. Dwight Loftis

The most important political race in South Carolina could very well be in the June 13th Republican Primary for State Superintendent of Education.

One question is crucial to voters in this election, “Do I want South Carolina to rise from the bottom in student performance or continue down the path of mediocrity?”

Recent Republican Primary elections have produced the chameleon politician. A Democrat who portrays himself to have conservative Republican values when in reality has a record of just the opposite. The race for State Superintendent of Education has seemingly not only produced at least one such candidate but one who blatantly seems to be using shakedown tactics in campaign fundraising efforts to achieve his goal.

Former Education Oversight Chairman Bob Staton is running as a “conservative” in the Republican Primary, promising “More Results, Less Waste.” His record however, tells a different story of support for big government and for maintaining the status quo of a floundering education system where student achievement is consistently mired in mediocrity.

It should be no secret that I am a longtime supporter of needed educational reform. I passionately disagree with Chairman Staton’s belief that the solution for improving education is to throw still more money at a failing, patently flawed public school system that is leaving far too many of our children behind. Perhaps a more truthful slogan would read, More Waste, Less Results.

As former Chairman of the Education Oversight Committee Mr. Staton should justify the fact, why per pupil funding has more than doubled over the past decade, pouring billions of additional dollars into an education bureaucracy but continues to produce the nation’s worst graduation and lowest SAT scores.

I also leave it entirely to Chairman Staton to justify why one out of every four public schools in our state is either failing or below average according to the accountability standards he himself was personally responsible for administering.

While I disagree with Chairman Staton, I respect his right to his beliefs. What I cannot respect and refuse to ignore is one who claims to support “changing the system,” while at the same time is actively shaking down that very system’s most powerful entrenched forces for campaign contributions in an effort to ensure its enduring legacy of underachievement.

Sadly, this is precisely what Chairman Staton’s campaign appears to be doing- operating a “status quo” shakedown at the expense of the school children of the state of South Carolina.

It has recently come to light that the largest public school construction company in the state is actively involved in fundraising efforts for Mr. Staton, in what some might consider a “shakedown” of its subcontractors and related companies that do business with the state. I have obtained a copy of a letter under the letterhead of M.B. Kahn Company, Inc. written to such contractors. This is a major contractor, doing millions of dollars of work in South Carolina, most of it in schools.

In a “wink-and-nod” letter asking these companies to give $500 each to Staton’s campaign, the letter reads in part, “I appreciate the partnership that our respective companies have enjoyed over the years and I am now writing to ask your support…” The letter continues with, “I am also personally asking you to support Bob, financially. I ask that you make a $500 contribution to his campaign…”

Is this a shakedown, extortion or shrewd political fundraising? You may draw your own conclusions, but if I were in the shoes of those contractors I would consider it a threat to, “either do what I ask or forget about doing business with us. Just consider it a cost of doing business or forget about having a piece of the ‘action’ in the multi-billion dollar school construction business.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only example of the tactics coming out of the Staton campaign, as there are other letters. School administrators are being asked to post invitations for Staton receptions at the school to encourage school staff to attend.

Whether you call this a shakedown, extortion, influence buying or shrewd politics, it paints a sickening picture of devious politics preying on honest small businessmen and the teachers and administrators we ask to teach our children. This is clearly a system defending itself, protecting itself from any reform or change.

All of these tactics are despicable and frankly beneath the dignity of the Superintendent’s office and anyone who would seek to occupy it. In fact, these tactics contribute to election of candidates, whether Mr. Staton or anyone else, whose only idea of “changes to the system” are tax increases, spending increases and more of the same wasteful, inefficient and ineffective bureaucracy that has made our current system the laughing stock of the entire nation. I’m sure most of us have heard that the definition o stupid is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

As a South Carolina Legislator and native South Carolinian, I will continue to support structural reforms to our public school system. My loyalty will always reside with what I believe to be the best for each individual child in this state, not what serves the special interest of well-heeled state bureaucrats and their corporate cronies.

It gives me no pleasure to criticize a candidate, but these tactics are not in the best interest of children or the taxpayers and should be exposed. As a businessman in the 1980’s I saw the deficiencies in students who came from public education system and became a volunteer in the Business Education Partnership, hoping to contribute something that would improve student outcomes in Greenville. I began to see then what still continues today, a protective hedge around a flawed system delinquent to its responsibilities to our children. Despite slick campaign slogans, Mr. Staton’s campaign “arm twisting” has made it clear where he stands – firmly on the side of those who would keep business as usual at all cost, and leave over 130,000 South Carolina school children trapped in an educational setting that is failing to meet their needs. Such failure will last their lifetime and our children deserve better. South Carolina deserves better.

We have a choice in South Carolina- we can embrace changes and real reform, expanding educational opportunity and improving public school performance or we can settle for more of the same failure from special interest-fed politicians who would stop at nothing to maintain the status quo.

Post and Courier's John Frank Heading to Florida

In the fast-paced world of political reporting there are journalists ... and then there are storytellers.

For the past year and a half, South Carolina has been fortunate to have in its press ranks one of the latter, Charleston Post and Courier beat writer and columnist John Frank.

FITS has learned that after much deliberation, the 24-year old wunderkid has accepted a position with the St. Petersburg Times, the top daily newspaper in Florida and stepping stone to such sacred media institutions as the New York Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.

Frank, who is scheduled to leave Columbia following the 2006 primary elections this June, is slated to cover courts, crime and local government in Tampa-St. Pete, but tells FITS he hopes to come back to South Carolina with the Times to cover our state's "First-in-the-South" 2008 Presidential primaries.

A former Washington D.C. correspondent for the Houston Chronicle, Frank made his mark quickly in South Carolina political circles, cultivating a diverse network of sources and producing volumes of edgy, insightful and at times controversial content for the Post. In addition to reporting, his Sunday columns quickly became "must-read material" for South Carolina powerbrokers and political junkies. Frank was also a frequently-cited (and frequently written about) personality on the burgeoning S.C. political blogosphere, as well as a regular contributor on Andy Thomas' statewide political radio program, "Inside the Bubble."

Frank tells FITS his decision was not easy. He says he grew to love South Carolina and its colorful political scene and that leaving it will be difficult for him, which is not at all surprising given the impressive network of friends, acquaintances and sources he was able to cultivate in such a short period of time.

Look for Frank to continue impressing in his new gig, where he not only will receive a well-deserved raise, but quintuple his audience as well.

FITS wishes you nothing but the best of luck in your new endeavor, John, and we'll be sure to leak a copy of the "Who's Hot at the State House" list to your soon-to-be colleagues down in Florida.

DR. EGGTOOTH, WE PRESUME?

FITS has just learned that House Ways & Means Chairman Dan "Egg-tooth" Cooper recently received an honorary doctorate from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, presumably for his consistent support of dental originality.

Let us be among the first to say, "Congratulations, Dr. Egg-tooth!"

Now show us your top teeth, dammit.

GLARING OMISSIONS

It's never easy to admit we were wrong about something, unless of course that something is "coming to grips" with lobbyist Meredith Strawhorn's legs ... well, maybe not her actual legs but the fact they clearly should have been included in our recent FITS/ZZ TOP "Best Legs at the State House" list.

We'd also like to show a little "leg love" to another gal who without question belonged on that list, lobbyist Ashley Smith.

It appears the boys from ZZ TOP (all in their sixties) may have overlooked some of the real "Young Guns" at the State House in compiling their selections, for which we here at FITS sincerely apologize.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game

Webster's dictionary defines the word "hate" as consisting of "intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury."

Well if that's the criteria, then the following South Carolina politicos more than make the cut.

Of course, as you enjoy this inaugural installment of FITS' "Top Ten Most Hated People in SC Politics," do at least consider the advice of our good friends in the band Nada Surf, who'd humbly remind you that "hate will get you every time," or for that matter John Lennon, who said "all you need is love."

1. Will Folks - Owner of the sharpest, most vitriolic tongue and the most poisonous pen in South Carolina politics, Sic Willie Style is all about bringing the visceral hatred for the status quo. "Will Folks isn't going to be a thorn in my side, is he?" a politician recently asked one of the top political consultants in the state. "Nope," the consultant answered. "But he will be a .45 Magnum in your face." 'Nuff said.

2. Phil Leventis - This one's easy. His excessive filibustering keeps State Senators from the two most important things in their lives - their liquor and their mistresses. Plus, listening to his incessant nasal droning is about as entertaining as listening to that Chinese dude from American Idol.

3. Randy Page - Ironically, Randy is one of the nicest guys in the business. He just happens to be top dog for the state's premier political ass-cutting squad, South Carolinians for Responsible Government. Randy also happens to be very good at what he does, which often involves "dropping the hammer" (albeit politely) on RINO legislators who oppose school choice, tax cuts and other market-based reforms.

4. Scott English - Known affectionately around the State House as "Dr. No," who knows how many millions in budget vetoes or new spending would have been spared the gubernatorial axe had "The English" not been in the building. What's the expression, a camel through the eye of a needle? That's getting tax dollars through English's policy shop in the Governor's Office.

5. Larry Marchant - Larry just doesn't give a damn. He's one of the richest, most influential lobbyists in the business and he takes on all of the most controversial clients and issues. Dapper, debonair and raised on the Carroll Campbell school of bruised knuckle politics, is it any surprise he's always got the hottest babes in the business working for him? Jealousy, it would seem, breeds contempt.

6. Jim Davenport - He's the last call you want to get late at night if you're a politician in South Carolina. An old-school reporter who's broken more big stories and scandals in this state that the top three major papers combined, "Davs" is another nice guy who just happens to do his job incredibly well. He's hated because he's good and when he's got dirt, he doesn't discriminate.

7. Mark Sanford - Everything was mozying along just fine up in the Jokerville favor factory, a little back-scratch here, a little pork barrel project there, until one day this tall, tanned, chart-and-graph toting egghead from Sullivans Island came up and decided to start protecting the taxpayer for a change. Nothing's been the same since, and they hate him for it.

8. Terry Sullivan - Reporters hate Sullivan. But then again to meet Sullivan is pretty much too hate him, unless of course you enjoy condescending arrogance coupled with incessant whining. It's almost like listening to Will Folks bitch and moan except without the occasional relaxing break to talk about all the hot women he's slept with.

9. Mark Sweatman - After his title as State House pimp was briefly taken from him in 2003, "Sweat-dog" is back - with a vengeance. Talk about All-Star numbers, particularly with multiple runners in "scoring" position. "Don't go 'round breaking young girls hearts," Michael Jackson's momma warned him in Billie Jean. Sweaty ain't buyin' that.

10. Annette Young - People love Annette. Really. What's not to love about somebody with a sailor's vocabulary and enough gravel in her voice to meet all of South Carolina's unmet infrastructure needs? No, people love Annette because she's the Mayor's girl when it comes to moving votes, and crossing her means crossing Bobby.

Well there you have it ... enjoy and make sure to tell us who we missed!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Missing (the) Mark

FITS has never made a secret of our support for South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Fighting for meaningful change against a recalcitrant status quo is a noble thing, and for the better part of the last three-and-a-half years our maverick, unpredictable governor has done just that.

That's why the last several months of the Sanford administration have been so disappointing.

While no one can argue that the governor hasn't been steadfast in his fiscal conservatism and valiant in his defense of the taxpayer, the gradual sacrifice of his core agenda items on the rotating altars of populism, practicality and politics has led some to question his true commitment to the ideals he campaigned so passionately in support of just four years ago.

With token primary opposition and a weak slate of Democratic candidates the only things standing between him and reelection, the self-styled "Happy Warrior" should be standing firm and resolute on principle and pressing the need for change to the legions of disaffected voters who are demanding it.

Yet instead of flexing his political muscle in a uniquely well-suited electoral climate, Sanford is once again failing to take the fight to the enemy, choosing instead to show acquiescence over strength, deal-making over decisiveness, in short, following over leading.

THE MYTH OF NON-COMPROMISE

While it is true that the governor does not work well with the General Assembly, legislators have brilliantly exploited Sanford's pre-existing maverick reputation, penchant for gimmickry and occasional reversion to hard-line tactics to successfully paint him as the one who refuses to compromise.

In fact, the opposite is true.

During his first two years in office, Sanford cut his proposed income tax reduction plan by more than two-thirds, dramatically scaled back his school choice initiative and ditched more than half of his aggressive restructuring agenda.

Rather than insist on complete elimination of the income tax, Sanford offered a modest 40% reduction over four years - a tax cut he wanted so badly he was willing to raise the cigarette tax in order to get it. Instead of giving school vouchers to everyone, Sanford agreed to tax credits for failing and below average schools only. And instead of appointing eight constitutional officers, Sanford trimmed that number to three - and post-dated those reforms to take place in 2011 when his presumed second term would be at an end.

Even Sanford's budget vetoes (never totalling much more than $100 million out of budgets ranging from $5 to $6 billion) were lenient attempts to find a middle ground with legislators in paying back trust and reserve accounts.

If anything, Sanford compromised too much, too fast - and did so at the peak of his political power.

No, it was the General Assembly which was unwilling to compromise with the governor, but that point has been lost forever in a dense maze of charts and graphs, the daily soap opera of State House intrigue and innuendo and a Legislature that grew increasingly emboldened when it realized it could step in and deliver body blows to this executive branch without having to take a solid punch in return.

FROM COMPROMISE TO CAVING

No one denies that last year's tort reform bill was a good thing, or that this year's workers' compensation efforts were well-intended and would have been hugely beneficial to our state's economy. And certainly, both are items that the governor was entirely correct in supporting.

But the fact that these two "down-ballot" executive initiatives, to borrow campaign terminology, were transformed into top-of-the-ticket administration priorities is a telling indicator of how desperate Sanford has gradually become to have some accomplishments - any accomplishments - to point to in his reelection campaign.

Predictably, tort reform plays a starring role in the governor's first 2006 television ad, along with a small business income tax cut that his campaign dubiously labels "personal" income tax relief. Of course, it is "personal" income tax relief if you happen to own your own company, but if you're one of the millions of South Carolinians who works for somebody else, you're still paying what is effectively the highest income tax rate in the Southeast.

And that rate is unlikely to drop anytime soon, now that Sanford has effectively abandoned his four-year quest for income tax cuts by embracing the populist property tax relief movement long-favored by his legislative antagonists. In inviting supporters to a hastily-arranged and poorly-attended State House rally over the weekend, the governor argued that the state should "use a portion of the incredible increase in this year’s tax revenues to fund permanent property tax relief."

Say it ain't so, governor. We thought it was income tax relief that stimulated job growth and investment, lured corporate management teams and attracted wealthy retirees to South Carolina, not property tax relief? When did feeding the populist beast to bolster reelection efforts become more important than creating jobs, raising income levels, expanding our revenue base and making South Carolina more competitive in the "flat world" that is the 21st Century economy?

Apparently, now.

Praised by legislators for his about-face, Sanford's inability to stick to his guns on this - the centerpiece of his 2002 campaign - is likely to be a quiet (if not conscience-grinding) footnote to the warm, public embrace he receives from vocal property tax activists, a big chunk of which are orchestrated, incidentally, by his former Communications guru, Chris Drummond.

CHOOSING LESS CHOICE

It's no coincidence that the most egregious of Sanford's recent reverals comes on the issue that generated the most controversy for the governor during his first term in office, his support of vouchers and tax credits for children trapped in failing schools.

Or perhaps we should say his "former" support of vouchers and tax credits for children trapped in failing schools.

The massively-curtailed "Put Parents in Charge" bill, which failed to pass the House of Representatives earlier this month by a scant seven votes, would have been a major step forward on the school choice front for the most at-risk school children in our state - specifically the 140,000 kids currently attending public schools rated as "failing" or "below average."

True, the bill wasn't the broad-based choice plan offered by the governor during his 2002 campaign or the near-universal choice proposal included in the original PPIC bill, but it would have been a remarkable first step in bringing the power of the marketplace to bear on an increasingly-expensive monopoly of academic failure.

Unfortunately, while lobbyists on both sides of the fight waged hand-to-hand combat for the hearts and minds of undecided legislators, the governor and his team were nowhere to be found. Having decided prior to the start of the legislative session that the PPIC compromise was not going to happen, Sanford instead put all of his political capital behind a statewide Charter School bill and left the much broader tax credit compromise to basically wither on the vine.

The Charter School bill passed, of course, and while it does represent a major step forward in expanding parental options, it won't have anywhere near the same impact as the tax credit compromise.

Of course, we're sure it will look great in a campaign commercial.

GUNS, NOT BUTTER

So where does this road of compromising and caving ultimately lead for our governor?

Few political observers see any real chance that Sanford will fail to win a second term, but wasn't that also the case before he inexplicably decided to take his foot off the accelerator on his big ticket reforms?

With millions of dollars in his campaign war chest, the anti-spending issue (which he owns) topping the voters' list of complaints, his popularity still remarkably high and four political lightweights constituting his only opposition, did Sanford really need to start taking "the road more traveled?"

Accomplishments like campaign finance reform, shorter lines at the DMV, millions in savings from his groundbreaking executive budgets and small business tax relief should provide more than enough meat to convince voters you've gotten something done - especially with over $5 million in the bank six months out from Election Day.

Some contend the governor is waiting for his second term to press the income tax, school choice and restructuring issues that formed the basis of his ascension to the office in the first place.

If so, fine.

But pressing them successfully will require Sanford to actively support legislative challengers in this primary and in 2008 who will swing the roll call margins in his favor, particularly in the State Senate. Thusfar, the governor has shown little appetite for doing so, despite the popular perception that he is "running against the General Assembly."

That certainly wasn't the case in 2004 and Sanford has little time left to make it the case in 2006.

Sanford must also learn to develop a more forceful, consequences-based standard in dealing with legislators who consistently oppose him - especially in districts where he is popular. It is frankly past time he shelved the charts and graphs and started speaking to RINO legislators and other opponents in the only language they understand - the political equivalent of a loaded gun pointed at their heads with an itchy trigger finger that's tired of waiting for change.

There's a reason they call it the "bully" pulpit, and if there's one thing Sanford needs above all else right now it would be a little more "bully" and a little less "pulpit."

The governor's slogan in 2002 was "A leader, not a politician." His slogan this go 'round is "A different kind of governor."

Of course he also believes that "politics is the art of the possible" and "change doesn't happen overnight."

It doesn't happen overnight, governor. But it doesn't happen at all if we don't keep fighting for it.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Radio Blowup

While it's true that political campaigns use all sorts of factors to determine where and when they will run television, radio and newspaper advertisements ... we've never heard of anything quite like this.

FITS has learned that Aiken Senator and candidate for State Treasurer Greg Ryberg is refusing to run radio advertisements on the popular Andy Thomas Show until part-time contributor Sic Willie is dismissed from the program's "Inside the Bubble" political segment.

The threat was made this Friday afternoon by a Ryberg spokesman, one day after our favorite bad boy criticized Ryberg for his hypocrisy on the gambling issue.

Thomas refused to be cowed and in fact stood up for Sic Willie, who appears on the show twice a week and is frequently joined by Club for Growth Executive Director Josh Gross, Post and Courier reporter John Frank and Queen of the S.C. Blogosphere Laurin Manning, among others.

Not surprisingly, this isn't the first time Folks has generated controversy for the program. Back in March, he called the NAACP the "National Association for the Abandonment of Colored People" on the school choice issue. On another segment discussing South Carolina's vaunted educational accountability program in February, Folks said, "Has it proven anything? Yes. It's proved our tests are smart but our kids are stupid."

Thomas, who indicated that this was the first time he could recall having a political campaign threaten to withhold an advertising buy, left a message for FITS saying that Sic Willie was staying on the show.

"This show is stirring the pot," Thomas said. "It's stirring and people are listening."

To hear for yourself what all the fuss is about, tune into "Inside the Bubble" every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. on "The Andy Thomas Show," featured on Columbia's WOIC Radio, 1230 AM.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

Somebody alert the Notorious B.I.G. - South Carolina's Board of Economic Advisors just certified an additional $180 million in new revenue for the state late this afternoon.

Like tasty taxpayer manna falling from heaven, the two State House conference committees trying to hammer out budget and property tax compromises just got another nice-sized infusion of We The People's hard-earned green to play with.

And play with it they will ...

Look for the Mayor of Importantville, Bobby Harrell, and his GOP Caucus cronies to insist that the vast majority of this new dough be earmarked for the House of Representatives' ill-conceived property-sales tax shift.

Then expect Senator "Huge Government" Leatherman and his comrades to make our eyes glaze over as they deliberate themselves into oblivion, perhaps even into November.

Gov. Mark Sanford, for his part, will likely make the case for additional income tax relief, perhaps hoping to make that spiffy new commercial in which he says he provided "personal" income tax relief a shade more accurate.

Forgetting for a moment that it was actually small business income tax relief, the governor is absolutely right here.

Having grown government spending by double digits and dispensed ungodly portions of pork to every corner of the state, this Legislature has no excuse not to find some way to give every penny of this new $180 million back to the people of South Carolina. Quite frankly, it should have already sent a whole lot more of it back home to the people before these new millions fell from the sky.

We've said it before and we'll say it again - put a dollar back into the private sector and watch it grow into 10, 20, 50, maybe even a hundred bucks (which incidentally brings a lot more new revenue into the state).

Put that same dollar into some new government boondoggle or legislator's pet pork project and you'll watch it do something else ... head straight down the proverbial drain.

Also, let's not forget that even after growing government nearly four times as fast as your paycheck grew this year, these so-called "Republican" legislators did nothing to address the gaping unfunded liabilities in both our state retirement and pre-paid tuition programs, huge fiscal shortfalls you better believe are going to come back and bite us in the ass.

But this, remember, is the South Carolina General Assembly. What did we honestly expect?

There are big, special interest lobbies like the SCEA, State Chamber, Outdoor Association and countless others to keep happy out there, and where would all those lobbyists be without their new seer sucker suits, white bucks and Palmetto tree bow ties? (Of course Sara Hopper did look positively riveting in her light brown seer sucker ensemble and matching patent leather pumps yesterday - you go girl!)

We shouldn't be surprised.

These are the same "Republicans" who didn't learn their lesson back in the heady revenue days of the late 1990's. Growing government by nearly 25% over a two-year period, they failed to realize that the next financial crisis is always right around the corner, and that you brace for it by saving more and putting more into the economy where it will grow jobs, raise income levels and (duh) create additional revenue.

These are also the same "Republicans" who are on track to grow government by another 22-25% in the current two-year period.

We sincerely hope that the glad-handers under the Copper Dome will start getting their act together by putting this new $180 million where it belongs - back in the people's pockets - but don't be surprised if the South Carolina Legislature continues to sing its tired, old refrain of, "The More Money We Come Into, The More Problems We See."

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Whose Campaign Is It Anyway?

We here at FITS have called State Senator Greg Ryberg a lot of things ... the proud owner of a gargantuan noggin', a total panderer and hypocrite on the gambling issue, the scarer of small children, etc.

But one thing we've never called him is a RINO. That's because as rude and arrogant as he may be on a personal level and as irritatingly brown-nosed as he tends to get when shamelessly sucking up to the governor, for the most part he's a fiscal conservative ... (unless Sanford vetoes Clemson PSA funding again this year, of course, in which case the jury's still out).

That's why we here at FITS were shocked to receive the latest bit of Ryberg propoganda from the "Masters" over at Tompkins, Thompson and Whatever, you know, that consulting firm (a.k.a. RINOcerous factory) over in the Southtrust building that specializes in mortgaging its conservative ideals to suck at the teet of the status quo tax-and-spend-o-cracy.

Anyway, in case you missed the latest Ryberg for Treasurer e-mail, we'll fill you in.

It turns out Big Head Greg and the Monsters won a little straw poll up in Anderson County - home of RINO's Becky Martin and Dan "Egg-tooth" Cooper. Predictably, given the obnoxious size of his cranium (and perhaps the sinking sensation he's getting from his poll numbers), Big Head Greg wanted to send a "personal message" out to all of his "friends" letting them know about his "strong showing."

Forgetting for a moment that a hundred GOP activists in Anderson is about as representative of the South Carolina electorate as Jerry Falwell and James Baker are representative of the Christian faith, everything was going along just swimmingly in the Ryberg camp until one of Tompkins' amateur sabre-rattlers accidentally unsheathed the wrong sword while delivering this Samurai swipe into the underbelly of the Senator's opponents.

As it turns out, the incredibly personal "Greg Ryberg - Gaining Momentum!" e-mail lost a little bit of its intimacy when it was inadvertantly sent out to the entire Ryberg campaign database by none other than Democrat-in-Hiding Bob Staton, another Tompkins client.

That's right. Ryberg groupies everywhere got their latest "Greg Fix" from a very unlikely source, the e-mail address of "Status Quo" Staton himself, info@statonforeducation.com.

Seriously, Warren. You got Tommy Windsor running the IT Department up there or what?

It'll be interesting to see if Tompkins can get his stable of blockheads in line by the time the general election rolls around in November ... that is if any of his candidates even make it past the primary.

As our good friends over at Ryberg-Staton headquarters like to say, "Way to go, geniouses (sic)."

Drummond, Davis to Perform at Sine Die Party

In the wake of controversial anti-Sanford performances at previous events, FITS has learned that this year's Lobbyist Sine Die Party will feature musical entertainment from two top Sanford confidents, former Communications Director D. (J.) Christopher Drummond (left) and current Co-Chief of Staff Tom "Ice Cold" Davis, a.k.a. The Man Behind the Curtain.

DJ Drummond, who resigned from the Governor's Office in late 2005 for the stated purpose of expanding his rare Air Supply and Peter Cetera LP collection, is the undisputed Easy Listening King of South Carolina.

"Obviously I'll be bringing some Chicago, some Early Patsy Cline, a little Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 and of course the soundtrack from Officer and a Gentleman," Drummond told FITS. "But there will be lots of surprises, too, like which song I'm going to play from the Top Gun soundtrack. Here's a hint - the band that sings it is also a European capital."

"Man this is some bulls---," said Forge Consulting lobbyist Michael Gunn. "Bo, nobody wants to listen to frickin' Air Supply."

Balancing out Drummond's adult contemporary repertoire will be the straight-up ghetto fabulous dope rhymes of Tom Davis, who is slated to perform his by now infamous karaoke renditions of Outkast's "Roses" and "Hey Ya." In fact, extra security will be required at the Back Porch when Davis sings Hey Ya's signature "Shake it Like a Pola-roid Picture" line, as teeming masses of highly-aroused women have been known to lurch uncontrollably toward the stage.

Event planner and polka dot hottie Sara Hopper says the new musical lineup won't mean the phase-out of time-honored favorites.

"Ted Riley will still be getting positively hammered and moonwalking to Michael Jackson's Billie Jean again this year," Hopper assured FITS. "And Larry Marchant will absolutely be dry-humping the bar to Aerosmith's Love in an Elevator."

Hopper also said DOT employee Michael "Covey" Covington will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, provided Will Folks doesn't leak it to the press first.

"Man, Covey and I have been cool," Folks assured FITS. "Yo, respects. Dude made me famous with 'Pigs in the State House,' I can't dis the Cuv."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Palmetto Campaign Watch

By now many of you have probably seen or heard of the latest Sic Willie Joint, Palmetto Campaign Watch.

An e-mail newsletter distributed by the thousands to his loyal legions, Palmetto Campaign Watch kicked off last week with a slap directed at Bob "Mo' Money" Staton, the longtime tax-and-spend liberal Democrat who wants you to think he's a waste-cutting conservative Republican.

FITS has learned that this coming week's installment of PCW will be directed at State Senator Greg "Dice Man" Ryberg, and that future editions may even include fact checks of Gov. Mark Sanford's new ads.

To sign up for the new Palmetto Campaign Watch e-mail list and get hooked up with the truth behind the ads, just e-mail our resident evil genius himself at will.folks@gmail.com.

To avoid being the subject of a Palmetto Campaign Watch, here's a novel idea: Tell the truth in your ads.

SUSPICIOUS PACKAGE

Downtown Jokerville was abuzz last Thursday when a suspicious package forced a brief evacuation of the State House. Legislators and lobbyists fled from the object while Protective Service agents gingerly approached it, ultimately discovering a single common sense, fiscally-conservative idea inside.

Suspicious, indeed at the South Carolina State House.

SUB SINKING McCONNELL?

In case you didn't pick up your copy of La Socialista (a.k.a. The State newspaper) this morning, "news columnist" John Monk broke it off on State Sen. Glenn McConnell.

According to Monk's article McConnell, a powerful and eclectic old-schooler who basically has his way with the Senate given his status as President Pro Tempore and Judiciary Chairman, has steered nearly $100 million to the submarine, most of it in taxpayer dollars that veered well outside the bounds of established procurement guidelines.

McConnell, who didn't comment for the article saying he feared a "negative outcome," certainly got one, with more bad news apparently en route. Monk's article is the first in a three-part series on the sub and its finances, and while a case can certainly be made for this particular reporter's lack of objectivity and inability to play fair with the side he opposes, the fact remains that these are very damaging revelations for the powerful Senator.

It probably also didn't help that the story ran with an above-the-fold photo of McConnell - owner of a Civil War Memorabilia store and longtime re-enactor - wearing a Confederate General's uniform.

Believe it or not, we here at FITS are fans of both Sen. McConnell and his submarine. History should be celebrated, and a well-done Hunley museum could be a major cash cow for South Carolina's tourism economy, bringing thousands of visitors and their sorely-needed revenue to our state.

Our only question is this: If getting $100 million for the Hunley was so easy to get through the legislative process, what happened to the government restructuring bill McConnell sponsored and claimed to champion on behalf of Gov. Mark Sanford back in 2004?

Oh that's right, we forgot. It didn't even make it out of his own committee intact.

If Monk's story proved anything, it's that if McConnell really wants something, he gets it.

DARLIN' DON'T YOU GO AND CUT YOUR HAIR ...

In a much more important development emanating from the South Carolina Lowcountry, Flopp-a-licious Charleston Post and Courier reporter/columnist John Frank got his hair cut last week.

We're sure hundreds of State House groupies joined the Stiletto Mafia (and possibly Gervais S. Bi-ridges, too) in shedding copious tears over the loss of those luxurious locks.

Say it ain't so, John!

No word yet on whether State reporter Aaron Gould Sheinin will follow suit and trim his sideburns, or whether the original well-heeled lobbyist Dwight Drake will get cracking on that pesky ear and nose hair.

2006 SINE DIE SUPERLATIVES COMING SOON

FITS' Stiletto Mafia is proud to announce a brand new partnership with a powerful, as yet undisclosed organization for the purpose of bringing you the "2006 Sine Die Superlatives," an upcoming awards post like nothing you've ever seen.

You've read "Who's Hot at The State House?," "FITS-ZZ TOP Hot Legs," "The Bloggies," and our personal favorite, "Top Ten Bald Sugardaddies," but this list promises to put them all to shame.

We're busy collecting nominations for prospective categories and winners, so feel free to post or send us any ideas you've got!

FITS' 2006 Sine Die Superlatives ... coming soon to a lap (hopefully) or desktop near you ...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Shealy Caught Making Out With Sic Willie Mug Shot

FITS has learned that Barbecue and Politics blogger Gervais S. Bridges has been caught making out with a life-sized version of FITS contributor Sic Willie's mug shot.

The oversized police photograph of our doe-eyed hero (left), which is four times the size of a normal head (i.e. Nathan Ballentine) given Folks' enormous ego, was confiscated by University Police after the BBQ blogger was observed licking it on the cheek in his University of South Carolina Office.

"While there is certainly a long-established place for homoerotic fixations at liberal institutions of higher learning, we will strenuously oppose any such demonstrations being made toward Mr. Folks," said USC spokesman Russ McKinney. "He is an entirely inappropriate outlet for an otherwise appropriate emotion."

Bridges, who posts the Will Folks mug shot on his blog at least once a week, could not be reached for comment. A University Police search of his computer, however, turned up a number of disturbing Photoshop documents in which Folks' head and the head of Gov. Mark Sanford had been superimposed on male bodies in various states of undress.

"I've never seen an obsession quite like it," said Dr. Phil Ittupnow, Dean of Gay and Lesbian Studies at Harvard University. "It would appear that the plaintive, forlorn gaze of Mr. Folks' delicious, dark brown eyes have lulled this particular individual into a homoerotic state that defies current clinical diagnosis."

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Egg-tooth Bared Briefly at Sanford Gas Tax Event

House Ways & Means Chairman Dan "Egg-tooth" Cooper attended a gubernatorial press conference at the State House today, briefly baring his trademark Maxillofacial (above, back right corner) as numerous other unsuspecting RINO's herded around Gov. Mark Sanford to show their support for his new gas tax proposal.

Cooper and the rest of the pictured RINO's (Mayor Bobby Harrell, Reps. Annette Young, Joan Brady, Ken Clark, Alan Clemmons, Bob Leach and Nathan Ballentine) apparently got their signals crossed with the Governor's Office (surprise, surprise) on the purpose of the event, evidently thinking they were attending a press conference to show their support for an increase in the gas tax.

FITS photographers were able to capture the precise moment when Gov. Sanford announced a temporary suspension of the gas tax instead, prompting the emergence of Cooper's now infamous tooth.

Revered USC Anthropologist and longtime Egg-tooth observer Dr. Spen Ding Adeekshun said today's appearance of the tooth measured only a 4.3 out of a possible 10 on the University's $18.4 million Egg-Tooth-O-Meter.

"Wee eexpect da beeg one to come dureeeng da budget committeeee," Dr. Adeekshun told FITS.

Pippi Wrongstockings

We here at FITS have always liked The State newspaper's editorial queen Cindi Ross Scoppe.

She's smart, provocative and, like Bob Staton and so many other defenders of the failed status quo, passionately believes that bigger government, higher taxes and still more money for public education is all we need to turn academic achievement around in South Carolina.

She's dead wrong, of course, (which has been proven more conclusively than gravity) but Cindi has always been several cuts above the average public school apologist in the intellectual vigor and adroitness of her arguments.

On top of that, Cindi is just a fun, colorful and genuinely enjoyable lady to be around - whether we're talking about her breezy, cheery personality or the Skittles' rainbow wardrobe selections she employs to brighten up otherwise drab days at the State House.

That's why it was so disheartening to read Ms. Scoppe's most recent article, a blistering attack on the South Carolina Club for Growth and South Carolinians for Responsible Government, a diatribe in the first degree delivered under the guise of a campaign finance reform editorial.

Calling these groups "a cancer," "extremists" and bemoaning their "radical agenda," Ms. Scoppe - in uncharacteristic fashion - set aside her typically high-minded defense of our state's last-in-the-nation public school system, got her multi-colored threads down in the gutter and started throwing cheap, political mud. In doing so, Ms. Scoppe sadly reverted to the same pedestrian brand of tawdry name-calling that she herself has routinely tarred-and-feathered others for engaging in.

Shame on you, Cindi.

Which brings us to the point of our article. Rather than resort to name-calling ourselves (well, now that we've gotten that Pippi Wrongstockings thing out of the way, at any rate), we'd like to ask you a couple of questions - and challenge you to print your responses the same way you printed your recent vitriol against those groups seeking to improve the lot of our state's young people as opposed to perpetuating their underachievement.

1. Is it "cancerous" to support changes to a public school system which, despite doubling per pupil spending, creating a massive new pre-K bureaucracy, raising teacher salaries, spending over a billion on new school construction and doubling the number of $50,000-a-year educrats residing in the Rutledge Building - still ranks dead last in the nation in graduation rates and SAT scores?

2. Is it "radical" to want to provide alternatives for the 130,000 school children currently trapped in failing or below average schools, most of them poor minorities locked into a public education system that currently yields 1 out of 11 African-American students who are proficient in writing, 1 out of 10 in reading and 1 out of 9 in math?

3. Is it "extremist" to embrace reforms boasting countless examples of improving public education by making it more competitive and responsive and zero examples of hurting public schools (in large part because they have additional resources to spend on each individual student)?

In fact, go ahead, Ms. Scoppe, make our day.

Show us one - just one - example of where school choice has NOT improved the public school system in the city or state in which it was implemented and we'll shut up.

We're betting you can't - probably because one doesn't exist.

Editorials like the one penned by Ms. Scoppe this week are the last gasps, the dying hacks, the painful, anguished terminal throes of a status quo finally succombing to the weight of its own decades-old legacy of failure.

The rising tide of loyalty to the educational outcome of each one of our school children - not the bloated, bumbling bureaucracy that pitifully attempts to educate them - is as irreversible as the ongoing rush of time.

You cannot stop school choice Ms. Scoppe, Mr. Staton or Mrs. Tenenbaum, you can only hope to delay it.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Blurry Bauer: "I Invented the DMV"

He hasn't yet stooped to the level of Al Gore, but Lt. Governor Andre Bauer is coming perilously close to the same pile of self-aggrandizing horse manure that stuck to the former Vice President like a rotten road apple following his infamous "I invented the Internet" remark.

Turns out the lead-footed Lite Gov, whose campaign has been in a tailspin ever since consultant Rod Shealy uber-flubbed Bauer's speeding fiasco several weeks back, is seeking to reinvent himself to voters.

Problem is, he's having to pull an Al Gore to do it.

"When voters start paying attention nearer to the election, they'll focus on Bauer's strong record: reforming the filibuster, shorter lines at DMV, stopping over a billion dollars in new taxes, and, last week, casting the tie-breaking vote to keep property tax relief alive," Shealy said recently in The Greenville News.

Huh? Andre reformed the filibuster?

Actually, Bauer didn't reform the filibuster. Sen. Larry Martin and his staff, working with Sen. Glenn McConnell and Gov. Mark Sanford, did that.

Andre created shorter lines at the DMV? Seriously?

The only contribution Andre Bauer has made to shorter lines at the DMV is not being in one, which is where he should have been had the cops confiscated his license following his 101-mph jaunt down I-77. You can bet your bottom tax dollar that's where anybody else who pulled that kind of reckless indiscretion would have ended up once their suspension was over.

Again, Andre, the governor shortened lines at the DMV, not you.

Andre stopped a billion dollars in new taxes? When? How?

If history has proven anything, it's that the Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina can't stop an angry gnat, let alone a billion dollars in new taxes. In fact, Andre was supposed to lower taxes by delivering RINO Senators Jakie Knotts and Luke Rankin in 2004 on income tax relief in exchange for the plum Office on Aging he got from the Governor's Office.

Except he didn't.

Knotts and Rankin refused to end a filibuster that would have forced a vote on income tax relief in the Senate, and as a result your income tax rate is still effectively the highest in the Southeast.

We're sure Mr. Shealy has some hyper-convoluted, truth-twisting, redneck rationalization for how this latest exaggeration-on-Steroids can appear completely true. It'll probably be similar to the logic he used to convince Jim Miles that he was the frontrunner in the 2002 GOP Gubernatorial Primary, or the circus math he employed to keep Thomas Ravenel from waltzing into the Lt. Governor's Office this election cycle.

Mr. Shealy and other political operatives call it spin.

We call it bull----.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Shutdown Street?

South Carolina's state budget could be headed for a train wreck if House and Senate conferees can't come together on a property tax relief plan.

House Majority Leader Jimmy Merrill (pictured above w/ Rep. Shirley Hinson) dropped the first hint of a possible government shutdown in a press release issued last week from the House GOP Caucus.

Buried midway through the otherwise vanilla news release, Merrill said, "There are a number of Caucus members more than willing to go home without a budget to accomplish property tax relief."

Say what?

"'Dems fightin' words," as we like to say down here in the nation's poorest-educated state.

Of course, when you think about it, "going home without a budget" might be the best thing that ever happened to South Carolina considering the General Assembly we've currently got at the wheel.

Given both chambers' inability to control their addiction to new spending, the taxpayers of this state are currently looking at the largest two-year increase in the growth of government since 1998-99, right before the bottom fell out of the American economy and future Assemblies were forced to raid trust and reserve funds, enact massive mid-year budget cuts, deny state employee raises for three consecutive years and run an unconstitutional $155 million deficit.

Did the Legislature learn anything during this latest boom-to-bust cycle?

Of course not.

Politically-speaking, however, threatening a shutdown is a risky move to make.

First, Senators aren't up for reelection this year, but House members are. Voters who don't want to take the time sifting through the blame game are likely to take their aggression out on the first available scapegoats at the ballot box.

Second, a shutdown would play right into the hands of Gov. Mark Sanford, who would have a field day decrying the status quo's selfishness at the expense of hard-working taxpayers and state employees. This General Assembly has already run circles of inactivity around less-than-industrious Legislatures past, and a budget shutdown would only solidify the already marketable "do-nothing" moniker.

Third, it is highly unlikely a shutdown threat will bring Senators to anywhere close to where the House wants them to be on property tax relief. The two different plans are miles apart, and neither does anything to address what will likely be the big issues on the campaign trail - broader, job-creating structural reform to the tax code and slowing government growth to a more reasonable level.

Finally, shutdowns are almost always blamed on those who initiate them, as evidenced by the 1995 government shutdown at the federal level that backfired completely on Republicans and simultaneously established Bill Clinton as a political force to be reckoned with. The momentum of the previous year's "Contract with America," already flailing at that point due to sell-outs in the Republican leadership, forever evaporated and paved the way for Clinton's convincing 1996 re-election victory.

All of these realities point to the House conferees likely having to swallow some form of compromise on the property tax issue, the extent of which will determine the extent of the body blow dealt to the leadership of Bobby Harrell, who made the property tax-sales tax swap his raison d'etre shortly after taking the reins from former Speaker David Wilkins.

Look for cooler heads to prevail at the State House over the next few weeks and for a shutdown to be avoided, but the fact that one has even been publicly discussed as an option should illustrate the high stakes and contentiousness of the upcoming debate.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Inside the Mind of Mark Sanford

"You never know what you're going to get."

If politicos in South Carolina have learned one thing over the past three-and-a-half years, it's that like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, the mind of Governor Mark Sanford defies predictibility.

Call it libertarian, call it obsessive-compulsive, call it cheap, but whatever you do, don't call it easy to read. Even those bound by position or proximity to the governor's unique train of thought rarely know which station the conductor is pulling into at any given time.

"Maddening," one Sanford aide told FITS recently. "It's deliberative hell."

Interestingly enough, one of the core ideals on which the governor's cult of personality rests is the notion of ideological consistency. It's everywhere in his language, in subtle, non-political expressions like "I've said from day one," or "We've felt all along," or "From the beginning I've believed" and so on and so forth.

And the case for ideological purity is difficult to ignore. With a few exceptions, the governor generally ends up staying remarkably well-aligned with the less government, lower taxes, limited spending mantra that's formed the basis of his time in public life.

A perfect case in point was last week's gubernatorial veto of a bill that would have amended DHEC certificate of need standards to allow for a new heart center to be built in Lexington County.

Never mind that the preeminent heart center in the Midlands region of South Carolina is operating at less than half its capacity, or the fact that legislative meddling of this kind sets a horrible healthcare precedent for the future, the politics of the veto were still awful.

Simply put, Sanford's decision gave his political opponents exactly what they wanted - a simplistic, election year newspaper headline that screamed bad news for the home folks - smack dab in the middle of a Republican hotbed, no less.

What might the governor have gained by compromising with the politically-potent Lexington delegation? We'll never know. How much will it matter that the technical merits of the veto were decidedly in the governor's favor? Probably not much.

Following up the heart center veto was the governor's rebuke of a bill that would have raised the fine for child seat violations from $25 to $150.

Supported by virtually every member of his staff, the governor went ahead and vetoed the bill anyway on the grounds that it was yet another example of the big government "nanny state" at work. Making the odd argument that parents also take additional risks when they drive with their kids in the rain or at night, Sanford put his uber-Libertarian foot forward on this one.

It's one thing to veto a $150 fine for driving in the left lane (which Sanford did last session), but little kids? In car seats?

In spite of this past week's perceived political missteps - reported on dexterously by the Post and Courier's John Frank and the blogosphere's own Laurin Manning - it would still be unwise to underestimate the acumen of the governor's political antennae.

Just below the surface madness of the Sanford deliberative process lies an incredibly keen awareness of spin and self-impact, a political radar that while frequently ignored by its owner is nonetheless among the sharpest in the business, as evidenced by the governor's seemingly indeflatable approval ratings.

What's next on tap for the mercurial, miserly and yet politically masterful mind of Mark Sanford?

Might as well grab a box of chocolates ...

Friday, May 05, 2006

Dildo Baggins and Other New Nicknames

In the history of South Carolina politics, there has probably never been a bill guaranteed to bring out the female vote quite like the proposal offered by Rep. Ralph Davenport (left) to ban sex toys in our state.

Specifically, H. 4830 would make it illegal to possess any product "designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs" and encompasses "vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse, whether actual or simulated, normal or perverted, whether between human beings, animals, or a combination thereof."

Momentarily discounting the months of therapy owed to whoever drew the short straw and had to actually write this crap up for the Legislative Council's office, does Rep. Davenport really comprehend the stickiness of the wicket in which he's getting himself entangled?

That's right, we're talking about batteries. It's all about the batteries, baby. Duracell, Rayovac and that Energizer, um, rabbit. We're talking about a big market here.

Anyway, for his tireless efforts to deprive us women of the one good part of our day, we hereby christen Rep. Davenport with his new FITS State House Nickname, Rep. Dildo Baggins.

IT'S FUN TO STAY AT THE .... S.C. SENATE?

Yes, some form of watered-down tax swap finally passed the State Senate yesterday, another tinkering around the edges of an outdated system that's about as competitive as this year's Kansas City Royals baseball team.

But anyway, for their tireless efforts to promote the feeding of the populist beast that is "property tax relief," we at FITS hereby christen State Senators Chip "Brokeback Fishing Trip" Campsen, Larry "Broom" Grooms, Greg "Ry-borg" Ryberg, Jakie "Pizza the Hut" Knotts and Vincent "The Godnephew" Sheheen with our first ever group nickname: "The Millage People."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

FITS Exclusive: Staton Backers Urging Public Schools to Break Ethics Law

Supporters of Democrat-in-hiding Bob Staton (left) are contacting public school officials and urging them to post campaign literature in our children's schools, according to documents obtained by FITS.

On April 28, 2006, James E. Jackson, Jr. of the Orangeburg-based law firm Yarborough, Hutto & Jackson wrote the following letter to Laurine Hilliard, Principal of the Star Center for Learning in Cope, S.C.:

"Enclosed please find five copies of an invitation to a reception that I am hosting for Bob Staton, who is a Republican Candidate for South Carolina Superintendent of Education. I would appreciate your posting these invitations at your school (emphasis added). We wish to invite you and all of your teachers as well as other educators to this reception. I hope that you will take this opportunity to meet Bob Staton and will encourage others at your school to do the same (emphasis added)."

Attached to the letter is an official campaign invitation bearing the "Staton: Republican for Education" campaign logo.

State ethics law strictly prohibits public officials from using taxpayer time, equipment or other resources for campaign-related purposes.

The Star Center for Learning is a public school in Orangeburg District 4 that focuses on children with learning disabilities.

FITS spoke with Principal Hilliard this afternoon, who says she made the decision immediately not to post the Staton campaign literature in her school.

"There was no legal counsel involved," Principal Hilliard told FITS. "I knew it was against the law and I knew that we could be fined if we posted it."

Similar letters may have been sent to other public school officials in the area.

Staton, who complained recently to Dan Hoover of the Greenville News about the growing skepticism surrounding his Republican credentials, publicly admitted at a First Tuesday Republican luncheon in Columbia this week that he had voted for Inez Tenenbaum.

According to voting records uncovered by FITS, Staton registered for the 1994 Democratic Primary when Tenenbaum was running for Lieutenant Governor. Tenenbaum, who captured the Superintendent's seat four years later, finished third in the Democratic Primary that year behind Theo Mitchell and eventual nominee Liz Patterson.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sic Willie Towed for Handicapped Indiscretion

In hot water for parking in a handicapped spot in the Vista two weeks ago, the long arm of the Columbia Parking Police finally caught up with our favorite bad boy Sic Willie this afternoon, towing his now infamous 1997 Infiniti Q45 and forcing him to cough up over $200 for the indiscretion.

FITS' beat writer Heather S. witnessed the towing as it took place on Main Street in downtown Columbia this afternoon at around 2:50 p.m., concluding a top-secret mission Columbia Mayor Bob Coble referred to publicly for the first time today as "Operation Lost Vehicle."

"This operation has been in the works for the past two weeks," Coble told FITS. "As soon as we received the photographic evidence of the indiscretion, City Manager Charles Austin, Chief of Police Dean Crisp and myself began laying the groundwork for Operation Lost Vehicle. Today, thanks to the ingenuity of our parking police and the good people over at Elgin's body shop, Sic Willie has finally been brought to justice for this horrific deed."

Pictured above retrieving his vehicle from Elgin's tow lot on Gervais Street, Sic Willie refused to comment about the incident when questioned by FITS.