... IRREVERENCE, INSTITUTIONALIZED ...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More on Possible Third Lite Gov Candidate

While a lot of you boys out there might wish it was The West Wing's Allison Smith set to mount a third-party challenge to Dre' Dawg (a.k.a. Andre Bauer) and Robert Barber in the South Carolina Lite Governor's race ... it's not.

The rumored candidacy has generated wild speculation out there in the S.C. blogosphere, however, and more than a few of you submitted your guesses today into the FITS' mailbag.

Here is a smattering of some of the more popular speculations:

-Mike Campbell
-Carroll A. "Tumpy" Campbell III
-Jenny Sanford
-Will Folks
-Chad Walldorf
-Tom Davis
-Henry Jordan
-John Rainey

What's really interesting is the obscene amount of attention this race gets given its limited and largely ceremonial role in state government.

Ninety-percent of the media coverage these past two weeks predictably focused on the Lite Gov's race, but when you stop and think about it, the office itself is nowhere near as powerful as the "other" race decided on Tuesday, the battle for State Treasurer.

Andre may be getting all of the ink, but we here at FITS theorize it's T-Rav who really knows how to roll.

FITS Exclusive: Andre to Face Third Party Challenge?

FITS has learned this morning that incumbent Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer - who squeaked by Mike Campbell with 51% of the vote in yesterday's GOP runoff - is likely to face a formidable third party challenger in the upcoming general election in addition to well-funded Democrat Robert Barber.

We are scurrying to verify this rumor - first bandied about yesterday evening - and provide you with all the details.

Stay tuned to FITS for the latest ...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Way to Go, Big Government

There's a downright scary cover story in this morning's New York Times by reporter Eric Lipton chronicling the rampant waste and fraud associated with the federal government's abysmal response to Hurricane Katrina last year.

While there will always be sub-humans who attempt to turn a profit by scamming the system in the wake of an unspeakable human tragedy, the now universally-acknowledged federal negligence and inefficiency in responding to the storm of the century is now front-and-center as the driving force behind a $2 billion (and growing) waste rap sheet.

Among the revelations uncovered by the Times:

-$12 million in rental assistance checks that were sent to 1,100 prison inmates
-$8 million spent on recovery-related renovations to an Alabama Air Force Base that cared for a grand total of 10 victims (at a cost of $416,000 per victim)
-$860 million in mobile homes, half of which were never used and now sit vacant at an Arkansas airfield, where FEMA pays $250,000 a month in rent to store them
-11% of the $19 billion spent by FEMA on the disaster recovery is now listed as having been either wastefully or fraudulently spent (the average for major disasters is between 1-3%)

Katrina is the latest case study for those looking to differentiate how government and the private sector respond to a crisis. Simply put, Wal-Mart and dozens of other private sector entities knew more than the government, were better prepared to respond than the government, had better crisis management systems in place than the government and implemented their recovery efforts much faster and much more efficiently than the government.

To put the total waste and fraud figure into some kind of perspective for those of us living here in South Carolina, $2 billion represents nearly a third of our state budget.

Don't get us wrong, the real tragedy isn't that federal waste and inefficiency in responding to Katrina is costing taxpayers $2 billion, it's that federal lethargy and inefficiency cost so many people their lives when the storm tore into the Gulf Coast last summer.

But this kind of blatant mismanagement shouldn't be tolerated, and it should certainly be cause for a reprioritization of our disaster relief spending processes.

Interestingly enough, despite wasting billions on Katrina relief and spending billions more to fight the war in Iraq, the federal government grew by "just" 7% this year. Here in South Carolina, government grew nearly twice that fast - by 13.7%.

Talk about some folks needing to reprioritize ...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Gervais S. Bridges' New Man-Crush

It's true ...

In case you haven't visited Barbecue and Politics lately, the saucy Gervais S. Bridges (a.k.a. Ross Shealy) appears to have dropped his man-crush on Will Folks in exchange for a new obession with libertarian extraordinaire and big-money school choice donor Howie Rich.

A crestfallen Sic Willie was overheard this morning complaining about the six consecutive posts Shealy has devoted to "exposing" Rich as, well, a staunch supporter of school choice who likes to put his millions where his mouth is.

Never minding where Mr. Shealy's mouth has been, apparently Sic Willie, who is clinically diagnosed with "Look at Me Syndrome," felt that six straight posts in a row was a bit much.

"He hasn't run my mug shot in months," Folks said.

JENERETTE UPDATE

The FITS mailbag is literally bursting at the seams from our little blog the other day on Horry County Republican diva Katherine Jenerette. In addition to generating a lot of political commentary (and a tinge of jealousy in some circles), we've had more than a few requests for additional pictures of the striking Gulf War vet who nearly ousted longtime status quo Senator Dick Elliot back in 2004.

FITS has since learned that Elliot is not planning on seeking re-election in 2008, and that Rep. Tracy Edge is currently not inclined to take on Jenerette for the GOP nomination.

Some say an immensely popular Democrat is considering a run for the seat, which we'll have more on in the coming days ...

At any rate, stay tuned for what is obviously going to be one incredibly hot State Senate race.

WHO IS HEATHER S.?

Another top query in the FITS mailbag this week has been the identity of FITS girl Heather S., who believe it or not exists in flesh and blood as opposed to merely being a figment bouncing around the spacious confines of Will Folks' head.

Many say she's House Judiciary hottie Heather Smith, who burst on the scene with a suprising No. 2 appearance on the entirely professional and non-demeaning "Babies with Back" list.

As much as Sic Willie would probably do anything in his inconsiderable power to make that true, it's probably past time we let Ms. Smith off the hook - it's not her.

But keep guessing ...

COMING THIS WEEK - THE NEW BACK PORCH

This week look for an article on the "new" Back Porch on Gervais, the downtown restaurant/bar that might as well have been a candidate for election this year given the unmitigated scorn it received at the hands of Warren-Tompkins-wanna-be and T-Rav blasphemer Terry Sullivan.

Hell, thanks to Sullivan, the place has actually been in Lee Bandy's column ... twice.

Politics aside, the Porch has undergone some major changes in recent months, with a new chef, menu and staff representing just the tip of the iceberg.

FITS will dish the N.Y.-style review and let you see for yourself just what we're talking about ...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Return of the Echo Chamber - Runoff Endorsements

South Carolina independently elects nine Constitutional Officers, maintains the nation's only Budget and Control Board and diminishes our executive branch even further with the presence of literally thousands of state boards and commissions (all with direct legislative appointment or oversight).

Seriously, a night manager at Burger King has more power than South Carolina's Chief Executive Officer.

Of course, if all of that wasn't tribute enough to horse-and-buggy government and post-Reconstruction racism, consider the runoff election - another antiquated throwback to the good ole' days that requires candidates to receive more than 50% of the vote in our primary elections in order to advance to the general election.

Accordingly, if there's a race with three or more candidates and nobody hits the magic number of 50% plus one vote, the top two candidates come back and face off two weeks later in a head-to-head matchup.

Aside from costing the taxpayers of South Carolina untold thousands of dollars and subjecting us to two more weeks of political ads, runoffs don't make any sense. It's hard enough to get people out to vote once every four years, let alone three times in a single year.

But since our state is about as forward-thinking as Mike Tyson is emotionally stable, here we are stuck with another election to talk about and another round of endorsements to make.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR - MIKE CAMPBELL

This one is a no-brainer. Andre Bauer is an embarrassment, an opportunist and a liar. If a highly-trained monkey was on the ballot opposite him, we'd be endorsing the monkey.

Fortunately we've got Mike Campbell in the ring, the son of former Gov. Carroll Campbell and a staunch proponent of government restructuring. As expected, Campbell has been the recipient of the typical Rod Shealy, under-the-radar smear campaign, but fortunately none of it has stuck en route to Campbell receiving an impressive 45% of the vote two weeks ago.

Bauer on the other hand received just 37% of the vote on June 13, in large part thanks to questions about his maturity and fitness for office. That's an awful showing for an incumbent. He's also run perhaps the most misleading, exaggeration-laden, blatantly misrepresentative ad of the entire campaign in which he singlehandedly takes credit for tax relief, shorter lines at the DMV and ending filibusters in the Senate. Honestly, Andre could have run an ad saying he walks on water or can fly like Superman and it would have been closer to the truth.

Andre needs to go gently into that good used car business night, and here's hoping South Carolina voters will send him there and give the nomination to Campbell, who will need all the help he can get against Democrat Robert Barber.

STATE TREASURER - THOMAS RAVENEL

Thomas Ravenel continues to plow his own path to the GOP nomination, defying conventional wisdom and hammering home a die-hard fiscally conservative message that resonated with voters to the tune of 48% of the primary electorate two weeks ago. That's an amazing showing considering one of his former opponents dropped $2 million of his own money into the race and another was an ex-Majority Leader with a rock-solid grassroots movement.

One of Ravenel's greatest strengths is he could care less what the insider crowd thinks of him - after all, he doesn't need their money, endorsements or favors. Ravenel's speaking to the man on the street, and targeting the wasteful spending, inefficiency and backroom dealing in Columbia better than any candidate has done since Mark Sanford rode the anti-Columbia express to victory four years ago.

But as we all know by now, "That's just how Thomas rolls."

What definitely needs to be "rolled" is the 3-2 big government stranglehold that Hugh Leatherman, Dan Cooper and Grady Patterson currently have on the State Budget and Control Board, and Ravenel is the candidate to do it. He would be a strong voice for change on the board, and unlike his opponent Jeff Willis, Ravenel favors restructuring of Constitutional Officers as well as administrative restructuring to put an end to what he calls South Carolina's "five-headed monster."

RICHLAND COUNTY COUNCIL DISTRICT ONE - BILL MALINOWSKI

Say what? A Richland County Council runoff endorsement? That's right, every once in awhile a race like this comes along where the good guy-bad guy dynamic couldn't be any clearer.

On the white horse in growth-ravaged Northwest Richland County is Bill Malinowski, a former FBI agent and car enthusiast who shocked a lot of local politicos by finishing first overall with more than 43% of the vote against Rod Shealy candidate Jim Holcombe, a well-funded banker whose name might as well be Big Development.

Malinowski has stuck to the issues of planning and safety, while Holcombe's campaign has been in a tailspin ever since it was revealed that he would be ineligible to vote on dozens of County issues due to his wife's employment with the Mungo Company, the most active real estate developer in the region. Holcombe, predictably, has gone Shealy (er, negative) on Malinowski in an effort to stop the bleeding, but Malinowski has third place finisher Donald Driver's endorsement and critical momentum heading into Tuesday's runoff vote.

SHANDON DOGCATCHER - SIC WILLIE

In a lesser-known race, Sic Willie and Terry Sullivan each received 49% of the vote in this battle of the hyper-egos, with J.W. Ragley garnering 2% to come in third. Ragley has thrown his weight (which he has a lot of) firmly behind Sullivan, but the latter's whinefest against Thomas Ravenel in the State Newspaper last week coupled with an admission that he'd never seen Friday during ETV's 2006 GOP Shandon Dogcatcher Runoff Debate may have thrown the balance back over to our beloved bad boy.

Sullivan's campaign slogan, "I Wouldn't Vote For Will Folks If He Was Running for Dogcatcher" was also vigorously rebuffed in a recent Palmetto Campaign Watch e-mailed from Folks to thousands of party activists and state employees.

Enjoy your week ... and get out there and vote on Tuesday!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The "Jer"den Endorsement

So let's get this straight - Dr. Henry Jordan (left) is endorsing incumbent go-karter Andre Bauer in next Tuesday's Lite Gov runoff because he thinks Bauer is more likely to support Gov. Mark Sanford's school choice initiative?

Say what?

Aside from the fact that a freshman Representative from friggin' Green Pond, S.C., has more pull on school choice than the Lieutenant Senate Gavel-Banger, let's be polite (well, sort of) and do Dr. "Screw the Buddhists and Kill the Muslims" the favor of analyzing his curious, last-minute Jerdenorsement a bit more closely.

First of all, Dr. "Jer-den" has his head firmly planted in the deserts of Iraq if he thinks for one second that Andre Bauer is going to do ANYTHING to help this governor out if reelected.

Sure, we all know how much Andre loves to talk in public about supporting the governor's agenda. In fact, aside from updating his My Space account, the only thing Andre probably enjoys more than talking in public about his support for the governor's agenda is ripping the governor's agenda to shreds once the TV cameras are gone and he's behind closed doors again.

Take the governor's other top two agenda items - income tax and government restructuring. Bauer claims to support both in public, but he lobbied aggressively behind the scenes to make sure neither got out of the State Senate - even after the governor gave him his plum Office on Aging (a.k.a. Politicization of Elderly) gig, along with its built-in electoral constituency.

Seriously, you're actually going to have us believe that Andre told his fellow Rod Shealy clients Jakie Knotts and Luke Rankin (the only two Republicans who wouldn't vote to shut down Sen. Phil Leventis' income tax filibuster) to jump and they didn't ask "how high?"

Yeah, right. Jakie would give Luke Rankin an open-mouth kiss on the State House steps (and Luke Rankin would like it) if Andre told them to.

And we're supposed to buy that Andre telling the governor to stuff it on restructuring even after Sanford promised him that he'd be the guy on the ticket if it passed was really a show of unanimity?

The truth is, when it comes to finding people to blame for the fact that restructuring didn't pass and our income tax rate is still effectively the highest in the Southeast, put Andre Bauer at the top of that list right alongside his fellow Senate Shealy-ites. In fact when you get right down to it, the only reason Andre probably hasn't worked his anti-Sanford voodoo on the school choice issue is because it's never made it to the "deliberative body" over which he ceremoniously presides, having barely missed making it out of the House two years in a row.

Watching politicians like Andre Bauer and others flip-flop on Sanford issues is a lot like watching a high school basketball team doing wind sprints. They run as fast and hard as they can toward the governor's issues during their campaigns, but once they get elected, they turn around and run just as fast and just as hard in the opposite direction.

Claiming to support Andre Bauer because he would advance even one iota of the Sanford agenda is like hiring Rosanne Barr to model underwear, or seeking out Elizabeth Taylor for marriage counseling, or naming Osama Bin Laden the new Director of Homeland Security.

It's literally as asinine as reading one of those "Never Siphon By Mouth" warning stickers you see on gasoline pumps and deciding THAT's the moment you're going to start questioning authority.

We desperately need school choice in South Carolina, but assuming Andre Bauer has either the power or inclination to do anything that moves us closer toward that objective is a lot like assuming he actually helped shorten lines at the DMV or any of the other things he brags about accomplishing in his reality-challenged television commercials.

FITS will have our official runoff endorsements ready for you tomorrow in the "Return of the Echo Chamber," but as far as the Lt. Governor's race is concerned, if you're a school choice advocate or anybody who believes in lower taxes, less spending and more efficient government, do what 63% of the voters already did two weeks ago - cast a ballot that shows Andre Bauer the friggin' door.

Of course, do make sure it doesn't hit him on the way out. After all, we wouldn't want him reinjuring that heel.

Oh, and Dr. Jordan, one bit of parting advice for you, friend. Either change the spelling of your name or start pronouncing it the way the letters are currently arranged. This is South Carolina, dude, a state where graduate school is also known as "Hooked on Phonics."

Right now, you're just confusing people.

Friday, June 23, 2006

What U Doing?

Cause this is what we're doin' ... God Bless the South Carolina tourism economy!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

She Might Be Senator

She's the mother of four, a Gulf War military veteran, an accomplished athlete and a successful businesswoman ...

Oh, and did we mention, she's also a drop-dead hottie!

Honestly, what's not to like about Horry County political up-and-comer Katherine Jenerette?

An independent-thinking conservative who's not afraid to buck the status quo, Jenerette sent shockwaves through the Palmetto political landscape back in 2004, the year she nearly signed longtime good ole' boy Democratic Sen. Dick Elliot's retirement papers.

Now Elliot, a remarkably well-funded, well-heeled and well-connected Democrat who collects IOU's like Will Folks collects enemies, is suddenly thinking of switching parties a la Luke Rankin - deliberations you can bet your bottom dollar are a direct result of the unexpected Jenerette juggernaut.

After being outspent nearly 10-1 and written off by a State Republican Party who said she didn't "poll well," Jenerette put up a pretty accurate poll of her own, losing to Elliot in the general eletion by a scant 1,800-vote margin out of over 30,000 cast.

Can anybody say "girl got grassroots fo' yo' money?"

All of a sudden, Republican Senators who refused to support Jenerette because of backdoor deals they'd previously cut with Elliot were put on notice that they may have a problem come the next election cycle.

Which they do.

Despite Elliot's potential party-switcheroo and rumblings of a GOP primary challenge from Burroughs & Chapin lap dog Tracy Edge, Jenerette's made clear that she's running again in 2008. In fact, she published a half-page "voter participation" ad in the Myrtle Beach Sun News prior to this year's primary elections.

And why wouldn't she? The advantages a well-supported Jenerette would enjoy against either Elliot or Edge in 2008 are difficult to ignore.

First, she's got great name ID and a reputation for overachieving. Second, she's an outsider who isn't beholden to anybody in Columbia - whether it's the big government Bobby Harrell/ Hugh Leatherman RINO caucus or the fiscally-conservative, Reagan Republican Mark Sanford crowd. Third, Jenerette is an active member of various coastal planning commissions and a strong advocate for the construction of a Grand Strand regional airport, which in Columbia-speak means she's got a finger on the pulse of her district's hot button economic development issues.

Last but not least, Jenerette boasts an apple pie background rooted in three things every red-blooded American can appreciate - family, military and business.

In contrast, Elliot and Edge are consummate "Jokerville" insiders who - between the two of them - are in more people's pockets (and have more people in their pockets) than the street thieves in Dickens' Oliver Twist. In addition to their special interest slavishness and insider taint, neither Edge nor Elliot are particularly effective retail politicians, focusing instead on cloakroom dominance and bringing home the bacon to make their respective cases to the voters.

Obviously we're still a long way from 2008, and anything can happen. Edge hasn't even announced that he's running for the seat and Elliot hasn't switched parties ... yet.

But no matter what institutional forces may align against Katherine Jenerette in a second run for the State Senate, make no mistake that hers is a star on the rise in South Carolina politics.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Heard Outside the Chamber

Well the FITS girls are all here at the beach, outlet shopping, man-hunting and making sure our favorite bad boy puts enough lotion on his back (he didn't today!!!).

With the exception of poor Heather S. (we miss you girlfriend!), all five FITS divas are soaking up the sun Sheryl Crow-style at an undisclosed location along the Grand Strand.

We'll be posting periodically between sips of ice cold Corona (kept cool by our brand new Mike Campbell for Lt. Governor coozies) but for this edition of the echo chamber, just relax and as Rick James says, "Enjoy yourself."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

T-Rav T-Shirts - Flip 'Em Over

As promised, here is the back of the "That's How Thomas Rolls" T-Shirts that Sic Willie is printing up for FITS.

Enjoy and place your orders today!!!

T-Rav T-Shirts - Get 'em While They're Hot!

FITS' mailbag was full of surprises today in the wake of uber-crybaby Terry Sullivan's latest hissy-fit in La Socialista (a.k.a. The State newspaper).

Hot on the heels of the 22-point drubbing his $2 million man received at the hands of GOP Treasurer nominee Thomas Ravenel, Sullivan went ape poo-poo yesterday against both Ravenel and SC GOP Chairman Katon Dawson, calling the former a liar and the latter an "idiot."

To Sullivan, who once jumped all over poor Tommy Windsor for calling Sen. Jim DeMint an idiot, all we at FITS can say is it takes one to know one, bo-bo.

Sullivan's gaffe did open the door to a brand new cottage industry, however, the "That's How Thomas Rolls" T-Shirt and bumper sticker business.

Seriously, how cool is this?

Our next Treasurer is not only a bad-ass fiscal conservative with impeccable business credentials and devastating good looks, he's also fluent in jive!

Kudos to Thomas for his big win and to the Quinn team for backing out of the Treasurer's race yesterday with class and dignity. It's a huge contrast to Team Ryberg's pathetic attack on Ravenel and consultant Warren Tompkins' inability to restrain his attack Shi-Tzu.

As Redfoot once said to Dean Keaton in The Usual Suspects, "better put a leash on that puppy."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Fallout

Although they didn't vote in anywhere near record numbers (turnout was down 9% from the previous off-year election), 380,000 South Carolinians nonetheless sent more than their fair share of shock waves across the state's political landscape in yesterday's primary elections.

So ... now that your election night euphoria (or hangover) is starting to wear off, FITS would like to welcome you to the following new political realities:

1. Gov. Mark Sanford is in Serious Trouble

We love the gov, but there is no way to spin Sanford's 65% showing against a primary opponent he refused to even acknowledge as anything other than a stunning underachievement. The myth of Sanford's populist invincibility has been shattered, and what should have been a November cakewalk will now be a pitched battle for the future of our state. Sanford isn't down for the count by any stretch of the imagination, but Lovelace's surprise punch has severely wounded him.

2. Stick a fork in Warren Tompkins ...

... cause he's done. We wrote in April about the impending decline of this once-vaunted political strategist and many of you laughed. Well, after the abysmal performances of highly-funded statewide candidates Bob Staton and Greg Ryberg last night, don't say we never learned you nothin'. Having already been turned down by numerous 2008 Presidential contenders, Tompkins double-up on double-digit thrashings at the hands of Karen Floyd and Thomas Ravenel. Sure his testosterone-happy lackeys will point to a couple of State House races they won, but the bottom line is if you're looking to win at the state level this guy is now the last consultant you'd call.

3. The School Choice Litmus Test

While it was a mediocre night on the whole for school choice backers like SCRG, Club for Growth and the newly-formed Conservatives in Action, the school choice issue actually took quantum steps forward last night with Karen Floyd's victory. It's ironic, really. SCRG and the other groups focused on making the contested House races more about incumbent spending than school choice and their slate of candidates ended up underperforming. On the other hand, the media makes Floyd's race a referendum on school choice despite the candidate's initial reluctance to be staked out on the issue and she ends up beating Bob Staton like he stole something.

4. Thomas Ravenel is Your Next Treasurer

Most polls heading into the 4-way GOP Treasurer's primary had Charleston businessman Thomas Ravenel finishing no higher than the mid-30's. Well, he ended up with more than 48% of the vote and almost won the GOP nod without a runoff. Of course, State Senator Greg Ryberg has seen the handwriting on the wall and already conceded the nomination to Ravenel. Both names will still be on the ballot, but Thomas Ravenel is your GOP nominee and barring a miraculous debate performance from Trav Robertson, your next Treasurer.

5. Shealy-fied

Give credit where credit is due. We've dogged on consultant Rod Shealy numerous times in the past but he was without question the big winner last night among South Carolina's top-tier political consultants. Whether it was Lovelace's impressive showing against the governor, the T-Rav juggernaut in the Treasurer's race or keeping his cornerstone client Andre Bauer in the Lieutenant Governor's runoff, Shealy probably went to bed last night a happy man.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

And the Winner Is ... Alberto!

Talk about a late entry into the 2006 gubernatorial race.

His name is Alberto, he's from the Carribean and he's currently packing 50 MPH winds as he churns Northeast to rain on South Carolina's primary day parade.

Using Heather S.'s one year of Spanish to communicate with the verile Latin Lothario, FITS sat down for an exclusive interview with this first named storm of the 2006 Hurricane Season.

FITS: So Alberto, what made you want to come to South Carolina?

Alberto: Chicks, baby. There are hot chicks all over this state.

FITS: So you're not political?

Alberto: Political? No baby.

FITS: But how do you explain the huge impact you're having on today's primary elections?

Alberto: You say I'm huge (laughs)? Hey, what can I say, baby. Size matters. Just ask J.W. Ragley.

FITS: So what's your current pressure? Where exactly are you right now?

Alberto: Just did Florida. Doing Georgia right now. Doing you later if I'm lucky. My pressure? I don't know, baby. Wanna check it? You can touch me, baby. It's OK.

FITS: That's quite alright, Alberto. But tell us, seriously, why get involved in South Carolina politics?

Alberto: Chicks dig people they see on TV, baby. And politicians are on TV (laughs) ... just not as much as me today. Check me, baby. Check me. You sure you don't wanna know my pressure?

FITS: Alberto, please. But what's your objective?

Alberto: Objective? I got a lot of moisture to unload, baby. That's all I'm doing. Unloading my manly moisture on all these beautiful Carolina girls. (Begins singing) "Car-o-lina Geerls. Best in Dee World."

FITS: OK, that's more than enough Alberto. Focus with me here. So how long are you going to stay involved in the South Carolina political scene?

Alberto: You kidding me? I'm gonna do what I gotta do tonight and I'm rollin'. Take care of my business and I'm out the door. I'm not looking for no relationship.

FITS: But what about Florida? Georgia?

Alberto: Hey, what can I say, baby. They are beautiful girls. And they were good for me.

FITS: Don't you worry about being a poor role model for younger people?

Alberto: Like Ernesto?

FITS: Ernesto?

Alberto: Yeah, Ernesto, baby. You'll be meeting him later this summer. Fifth named storm of the season. No, baby I don't worry. He'll know how to stroke it like his daddy ...

FITS: Alberto!

Alberto: Sure you don't wanna check my pressure baby? Come on and say hello to my little friend.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Echo Chamber - FITS Endorsement Edition

With Tears for Fears "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" on the stereo and a vintage Pinot Grigio in our glasses, the FITS girls gathered in Charleston this weekend for our bi-annual primary endorsement party.

Having already addressed the GOP Treasurer's race in a previous post, here are the balance of our recommendations for this Tuesday's Republican Primary elections, so sit back relax and strap on your seatbelts:

Governor - Mark Sanford

South Carolina needs eight more Mark Sanford's for each constitutional office and 170 more Mark Sanford's in the General Assembly. If we had them, you'd see job-creating tax cuts, streamlined government, a cap on spending and market-based education choices that would rescue kids as well as improve our public schools. The governor can't do it all by himself (obviously), but give him two election cycles to remove chunks of entrenched institutional opposition and South Carolina might actually start moving forward for a change.

Lt. Governor - Mike Campbell

He may not look like Don Johnson in his ads, but at least he's not lying about his record and inventing accomplishments in an effort to manipulate voters a la Andre Bauer. Campbell would be a voice for reform and an ally of the governor where Bauer has been a voice for the status quo and a roadblock to long overdue structural change in state government.

Superintendent of Education - Karen Floyd

If you want South Carolina to remain dead last in the nation in graduation rates and SAT scores, with one out of every four schools still classified as failing or below average despite billions in new tax dollars having been shoveled into our monopolistic status quo, then by all means vote for Bob Staton. If you want somebody to stop pandering to the system and start fighting for the best interests of each individual child for a change, Karen's your candidate.

Secretary of State - Bill McKown

True, there are dental hygienists who have more responsibility than our Secretary of State, but at least McKown supports changing that and letting the governor pick the position as part of his Cabinet. Incumbent Mark Hammond (a.k.a. "The Bean") opposes restructuring and went native after his election faster than Crocodile Dundee in a New York Subway.

Secretary of Agriculture - Hugh Weathers

Another position that has about as much business being independently-elected as Senate Chaplain, Weathers has nonetheless earned another term after being named to the post by the governor in the wake of Charlie Sharpe's cockfighting indictment. We'd like to see a little more from Weathers in terms of his support for this position being appointed, but we'll take the devil we know over the devil we don't.

Republican Party Chairman - Anybody But Katon Dawson

Whoa ... here's a surprise. And no, Katon isn't actually on the ballot. But it's time people stopped dancing around the obvious and admitted that the SCGOP has turned into a bad joke, a party that pretends to embrace Reagan Republicans like Sanford who fight for limited government, lower taxes and more choices for parents while at the same time throwing their real support toward big-spending RINOs like Bobby Harrell and Hugh Leatherman whose penchant for separating you from your tax dollars would make Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi blush.

Plus, the SCGOP has been man-handled on the message front by Lachlan McIntosh and the Democrats, answering the SCDP's well-wagered political missives with penny-ante press releases about party attendance and financial disclosures.

So you sold out all the tables the Silver Elephant dinner? Got more money on hand than the Dems?

Well whoop-tee-do and la-tee-da, fellas. You're in a friggin' Republican state for crying out loud. That's like saying Luther Vandross sold out the Apollo, or "Beaches" was a popular movie amongst females.

With all due respect, unless the SCGOP takes its trunk out of its a-- and starts fighting for the limited government principles on which the Republican Party was founded, we should look forward to a slew of additional DEERS (Democrats Entering Elections as Republicans) stampeding over the Reagan legacy in primary years to come.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The New Palmetto Voice?

It's been a few weeks since an e-mail from Bob Staton campaign manager Mike Rentiers led to the identification of U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson's lap dog, Preston Grisham, as the party responsible (or at least claiming responsibility) for the now-defunct Palmetto Voice website.

Our readers may remember Palmetto Voice as the blog that attempted to blackmail State Treasurer candidate Rick Quinn, on Easter Sunday no less.

Of course, anyone who's spent more than two seconds with Preston Grisham realizes that he isn't smart enough to walk and chew gum at the same time, let alone operate a computer and formulate a coherent sentence at the same time, so his recent teary-eyed admission that he "was used by other people" as it relates to the Palmetto Voice blog is plausible.

(And hey, Preston, just to show there are no hard feelings, we hyperlinked the word "plausible" to an online dictionary so you can look it up for yourself instead of having to ask Terry Sullivan).

But like an Elon Phoenix rising from the ashes, a new blog that looks remarkably similar to the original Palmetto Voice (not to mention the new Free Carolina) is picking up right where the Tompkins' wanna-be's left off.

Written under the clever nom de plume Rod S. Tompquinns, "Welcome to Consultantville," is already showing its adeptness at sliding things in - and then off - the radar.

When FITS was first forwarded a link to the site on Saturday afternoon, the blog's inaugural substantive post (a rant against Sic Willie alleging his receipt of improper campaign disbursements) included an unflattering reference to the Queen of the S.C. Blogosphere, Laurin Manning.

When we checked back literally a few seconds later, however, the reference to Miss Manning had been removed from the post.

Count on FITS to keep you up to speed on this and every new addition to the S.C. Blogosphere ...

Friday, June 09, 2006

Senator Lie-Berg

A letter to the editor published in The State Newspaper this morning called Treasurer’s Office candidate Greg Ryberg “one of the most honest, honorable and straightforward people I have ever known.”

Kindly permit us to say, "Hogwash."

In all of our years, we have never seen a candidate so willing to deliberately lie and distort his record the way Greg Ryberg has on the gambling issue.

Just this week, FITS received in our mailbox a piece of Ryberg propaganda (pictured above) that said: “When gambling threatened to deal South Carolina families a bad hand … Greg Ryberg ha(d) the courage to stand for what’s right.”

Baloney.

The truth about Greg Ryberg and gambling goes a little something like this: “When gambling threatened to deal the families of South Carolina a bad hand … Greg Ryberg had the audacity to reap huge profits off of the lottery and video poker while pretending to oppose it so he could pander to right wing voters.”

Far from “standing up” and “fighting gambling,” Ryberg made thousands of dollars operating video poker machines for years in his convenience stores. Of course when it came time to run for public office he “conveniently” took them out, but then he flip-flopped once elected and allowed the video poker machines to come right back as part of a $49 million deal to sell his stores.

And that’s not even the half of it. While standing in the well of the South Carolina Senate back in 2000 and railing against the evils of gambling, Ryberg’s convenience stores in Georgia were selling lottery tickets by the thousands.

Talk about a hypocrite. He pockets huge profits from gambling in his “business” life but turns around and claims to be an anti-gambling crusader in his political life.

“No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true,” Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in The Scarlet Letter.

Perhaps Senator Ryberg should read that passage, or maybe he should stop pandering to Bible-Beaters and actually pick up a Bible himself, in which case we would refer him to the Book of Matthew, Chapter 6, Verse 24:

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon.”

We like Greg Ryberg’s fiscal conservatism here at FITS, we really do. But we’ll take an honest big-spender over an outright liar any day of the week. And that’s what Greg Ryberg is – a liar.

Unfortunately, in a rare moment of political miscalculation, Gov. Mark Sanford has chosen to endorse Senator Ryberg. He’s obviously operating under the assumption that Ryberg’s word means something and that he will “stand up” against wasteful spending on the Budget and Control Board.

Given Ryberg’s definition of “standing up,” however, the governor is being incredibly naïve. In fact, when one of Ryberg’s primary opponents was making inroads with influential Clemson University supporters, Ryberg made it clear to them that his support of the governor would not extend to Budget and Control Board votes affecting Clemson.

What a chameleon.

FITS will be unveiling its full list of primary predictions and recommendations in this weekend’s “Heard in the Echo Chamber” edition, but if you care even remotely about honesty and integrity in your elected officials, then your choice in the State Treasurer’s race is crystal clear:

Anybody But Ryberg.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Empty Podium Thrashes Lovelace in Debate

An empty podium trounced "Republican" gubernatorial hopeful Dr. Oscar Lovelace in an ETV debate yesterday, sending the Prosperity physician's campaign scrambling to explain how its candidate could have lost a debate to someone who wasn't even there.

The podium, which would have been occupied by incumbent Gov. Mark Sanford in the event Lovelace was a credible opponent and not the manifestation of political consultant Rod Shealy's impotent rage, nonetheless rocked Lovelace's world during the hour-long debate.

"I was happy with my candidate's performance," said imaginary political consultant Sic Willie, a spokesman for the podium. "Even though he is made of wood and can't talk, he looked great out there tonight."

The podium scored huge points when Lovelace was busted lying about his political history, claiming throughout the campaign that he never ran for public office when in fact he finished in last place in a 1995 Prosperity Town Council race, getting a whopping 47 votes.

An angry Lovelace lashed out at the podium shortly thereafter, reprising a famous debate moment immortalized by the late Sen. Lloyd Bensten.

"Podium, I knew the podium of John Kennedy, I worked with the podium of John Kennedy, the podium of John Kennedy was a friend of mine and podium, you're not the podium of John Kennedy," Lovelace said.

Momentarily caught off guard, the podium got back on track when Lovelace was unable to identify any concrete policy proposals other than raising the state cigarette tax, which has already been endorsed by Gov. Mark Sanford as parter of a broader, net tax cut for the people of South Carolina.

"Podium, I bet you smoke," Lovelace chided. "You better speak up now or we're just going to have to assume you're a smoker."

Maintaining its composure, the podium did not respond to Lovelace's barbs, and got a break when Lovelace was asked why his campaign is being run by a political consultant who has been indicted for election fraud.

"I ... I ..." Lovelace stammered. "Look, I'm not some unemployed black fisherman Rod hired and Mark Sanford is not Rod Shealy's sister."

"That's when we knew we had him," Sic Willie said. "My client the podium didn't have to say a thing, because everyone knows that Dr. Lovelace is in fact a Caucasian physician and that Rod Shealy's sister is in fact not the governor."

The last GOP hopeful to challenge an incumbent in the primary got 28% of the vote - and that was without lifting a finger. Lovelace, to his credit, has been busting his sawbones buns across the state.

The Republican GOP gubernatorial primary is June 13.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Eckstrom Announces Bombing Campaign

A tireless crusader against rampant waste, inefficiency and duplication in South Carolina's bloated higher education system, State Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom (left) announced this morning that he is fed up with being out-voted on the Budget and Control Board and is taking matters into his own hands.

"Since the Budget and Control Board refuses to back the governor and eliminate the higher ed pork, then I have no choice but to protect the taxpayers the old-fashioned way, also known as the Old Testament way," Eckstrom said. "We have identified several targets for elimination and our strategic bombing campaign against them will begin immediately."

South Carolina has 33 state-supported colleges and universities at over 80 campus locations (or 1.7 campuses per county), a huge number for a state with a population of just 4 million. As a result, South Carolina spends 17% of its budget on higher ed as opposed to the national average of 10%.

"I hope USC-Salkahatchie, USC-Union and all the other targets out there are reading this message loud and clear," Eckstrom said. "Get out now because we are about to bomb you back to the stone age."

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Heard in the Echo Chamber - Budget Duckin' Nothing New

A lot of people were surprised when the General Assembly headed home last Thursday afternoon without sending its pork-laden $6.7 billion budget downstairs to Gov. Mark Sanford.

But not FITS ... while accomplishing little else (save massive increases in government spending) over the past four years, this General Assembly has proved beyond the shadow of a duck (er, doubt) that it knows how to 'duck and run' with the best of 'em when faced with a potentially difficult decision.

Like the 'Artful Dodger' from Dickens' Oliver Twist, Speaker Bobby Harrell gave his RINO Caucus plenty of cover last week by conspiring with Senate Dems (sorry, they call themselves Republicans these days) to hold back the budget.

This means Sanford's vetoes won't be addressed until after the primary elections have already been held, thus sparing liberal Republicans like Ken Clark, Bill Cotty, Becky Martin, Gene Pinson, Adam Taylor, Bill Whitmire and others the embarassment of standing against the governor (again) just days before facing voters.

Sadly, Republicans playing political games with the budget during an election year isn't something that should have caught us off guard. In fact, it's happened four times in the decade since the GOP took control of the legislature - in 1996, 1998, 2000 and this session.

This year's gambit faces an uphill battle, however. A 25.7% uphill battle, to be exact, which is the amount these so-called Republicans have increased the size of state government over the past two years. The governor has threatened to take his charts and graphs show on the road in districts where liberal Republican legislators have stood in his way, and given the prevalence of the spending issue on the minds of voters this summer, FITS is hopeful he'll make good on that threat.

Planetariums, aquariums, solariums ... you name it and chances are they've bought it.

That's right, when it comes to protecting your hard-earned tax dollars, this Legislature just doesn't give a duck.

HOW OUT OF TOUCH IS THE STATE NEWSPAPER?

Despite doubling per-pupil funding and doubling its education bureaucracy over the past decade, South Carolina still ranks last in the nation in SAT scores and graduation rates. Oh, and one out of every four schools in the state is either failing or below average, effectively trapping 140,000 kids each year in an educational setting that isn't meeting their needs.

Only one out of 11 African-American eighth-graders is proficient in writing, only one out of ten is proficient in math and only one out of nine is proficient in reading.

So ... now that you've got the facts, consider today's State Newspaper headline endorsing Tenenbaum protege and Democrat-in-hiding Bob Staton:

"Staton Best Choice to Continue Real School Progress."

Kind of says it all, don't it?

HOPPER HEADING TO STUDIO 54?

FITS has learned that formerly boxy-attired but currently bodacious lobbyist Sara Hopper has been contacted by the owners of the new Studio 54 nightclub in New York City. Apparently impressed with her work at the Lobbyist Sine Die Party last week, Hopper has been offered a six-figure deal to control access at the club's velvet rope.

"Anybody who says 'no' to Dr. No is the kind of person we're looking for," co-owner Dandy Warhol told FITS, referring to Hooper booting Sanford Senior Policy Advisor Scott English from the party not once, but twice.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Open Letter to Gov. Mark Sanford

Dear Mark,

Hey, it's me, your 4X8 campaign sign from the corner of Gervais and Huger Streets in downtown Columbia writing.

Look, I know your frugality is legendary and you're just trying to save a little campaign cash and all, but we really need to talk.

First of all, do you remember when I told you back in 2002 that I felt a little weird going up on roadsides all over South Carolina with your 1994 Congressional picture splashed all over my front and back?

Now don't get me wrong - we're not breaking up.

I still think you're an incredibly handsome man and I love having you all over me, so to speak, but let's be honest - this is starting to get a little bit ridiculous.

I mean, it was one thing to campaign in 2002 using a picture that was 8 years old. But now you're campaigning in 2006 using a picture that's 12 years old. What's up with that?

Seriously, Mark. You had a one-year old baby and had never served a minute in public office when that picture was taken. Now you've got four kids and have served six years in the U.S. Congress, not to mention three-and-a-half as governor.

I know all the girls are crazy about the John Frank hair-do and everything, but it's 2006 for crying out loud! And you're forty-six, not twenty-six.

Please don't misinterpret this, I don't want you to stop being who you are. I don't want you to stop writing on both sides of Post-It notes, double-bunking with Joel Sawyer on road trips or hitting up your underpaid staff for Wendy's Taco Salads every half-hour, but we 4X8 signs are important to your campaign and quite frankly, it's past time for an upgrade!

I promise I am not trying to be rude. I just want you to think about everything I'm doing for you out here. I mean, it gets hot standing on the side of the road in the blazing sun all day. And then when it starts raining I get completely drenched and cold. Plus, there's this little Boston Terrier that comes down from those new Vista Apartments and pees on my leg every single freakin' day. And I'm still kind of scared of the dark at night.

Oh, and I know you like that Greg Ryberg guy a lot but his 4X8 sign is right next to me and Mark - the way he's looking at me scares me to death.

Also, I think the Karen Floyd sign they just put up on the other side of me has got a little bit of a crush on you ... or you 12 years ago, anyway.

Just think about the things I'm saying to you, Mark. I want you to win big and I want to be a part of that. But we can't very well campaign on trying to move South Carolina into the 21st Century with your 1994 picture on all of our road signs.

Sincerely,

Your Faithful 4X8 Sign on the Corner of Gervais and Huger Streets

P.S. - Call me sometime. There's a McDonald's across the street where we could do lunch.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Governors Pataki, Sanford Getting Their Bog On in Horry

Not one, but two of America's most fiscally-conservative governors will be in Horry County this evening for the 12th Annual Elephant Stampede "Bog-off," an event sponsored each year by the Myrtle Beach Republican Women.

Joining our own Gov. Mark Sanford will be New York Gov. George Pataki, a possible 2008 GOP Presidential contender, as well as a veritable slew of other statewide and local candidates.

Pataki, who has yet to say definitively whether he's running for President or not, has nonetheless developed potent grassroot networks in early decision states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Tonight marks his first major visit to the Palmetto State, a chance for him to size up our various "Chicken Bog" recipes while we in turn size up, well, him.

In addition to Pataki's visit, a straw poll will be taken at the event on statewide contests that organizers claim has correctly predicted the like, uh, winner, in like, uh, each race in like, uh, every year, like, since its inception over a decade ago, or like, something.

Of course, to find out who's really going to win, you'll have to wait for FITS "2006 Primary Endorsements and Prognostications," scheduled to be released next week.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

No Sine Die Party For You!

The list of casualties crashing the gates at this year's Lobbyist Sine Die Party (grainy image at left) was long and distinguished, kinda like Sic Willie's ... uh, well, nevermind.

Anyway, unless you were a card-carrying member of the Columbia Jokersquad (a.k.a. registered lobbyist), your chances of getting past Sara Hopper's velvet rope for this year's bash at the Back Porch on Gervais were zero, zip, zilch and nada, respectively.

In fact, FITS has learned that a number of big name S.C. political luminaries were denied entrance, including Sanford Co-Chief of Staff Tom Davis, Press Secretary Joel Sawyer, Senior Policy Advisor Scott English (twice), Associated Press reporter Jim Davenport and even resident Senate nice guy John Hazzard.

And what party would be complete without non-luminary (but RINO-herder extraordinaire) Wes Donohue skulking out in the parking lot, trying to decide whether to go inside or call somebody to come tear down those big Rick Quinn signs overlooking Gervais Street?

Yes, it was not a good night for most would-be partygoers, but because we go the extra mile on this blog, FITS had Maureen D. in the bushes, Deb N. in the sky, Laurie D. in the kitchen and Diane S. by the by, so naturally we got all the scoop - aside from the fact they all live in Will Folks' head.

In what is becoming a tradition, Sic Willie made the annual lobbyist song again this year, marking the second time in three years our favorite bad boy has been memorialized in its lyrics.

Watch out New England Patriots ... we got a dynasty on our hands!

In other news, well, a lot of people got incredibly drunk.

Long story short just remember, Ms. Hopper, you can never keep FITS past your velvet rope!

We are everywhere!

FITS Exclusive: Knotts to Mount Write-In Campaign for Governor

Three sources have confirmed to FITS that State Sen. Jakie Knotts (left) is planning to run for governor against incumbent Mark Sanford in the general election as a write-in candidate.

In 2002, Knotts supported Democratic Governor Jim Hodges against Sanford and has already endorsed Newberry physician Dr. Oscar Lovelace against the governor in this year's GOP primary.

Knotts' political consultant, Rod Shealy, is currently running Dr. Lovelace's primary campaign.

Must See Web TV: Election Mania

We're sure King RINO's Bob Staton and Warren Tompkins will be more than a little upset when they finish their latest strategy session (left) and log onto "Election Mania," a product of the newest group giving voice to the great Silent Majority here in South Carolina, "Conservatives in Action."

Watch out RINOs. This site packs a punch.

It's got a killer "I Am A Real Republican" soundtrack, great flash art and scathing rebukes of big-spending RINOs like Staton and Reps. Becky Martin, Adam Taylor, Bill Cotty and others.

Be sure to put Election Mania and Conservatives in Action on your list of must see political sites today ...

2006 Superlatives

FITS and the Queen were proud to team up this year and provide you with the be-all, end-all list of legislative session superlatives. Enjoy yourselves ...

Best Nickname
1st Place – “Pee Dee Rock Star Legislator” Thad Viers
2nd Place – “Mayor of Importantville” Bobby Harrell
3rd Place – “Chairman Eggtooth” Dan Cooper

Best Floor Exchange
Shrek and Donkey – Reps. Chip Limehouse, Michael Thompson

Most Metrosexual Lobbyist
Larry Marchant

Most Disturbing Impromptu Squeal at a Public Bill Signing Ceremony
Kristen Maguire

Queerest Statement from a Governor’s Office Staff Member
Scott English listening to Sen. Clementa Pinckney, “His voice is just so soothing. I wish he would read me a bedtime story.”

Couple Most Likely to Produce Tanned Offspring
Barbara Melvin and Chris Drummond

Most Likely to Be Mistaken for SLED at Pavlov’s
Sen. Scott Richardson

Most Likely to Be Mistaken for Frat Boy at Pavlov's
John Frank

Blogger Most Likely to Misspell Own Name
Paul Adams

Best Group Nickname
1st Place - The TFC
2nd Place – The Millage People

The Two Half Teeth Make a Whole Tooth Award
Laurin Manning and David “Skinny” Haskins

Most Spouses in a 10-year period (ironically all supporters of “parental choice”)
Tie – Larry Marchant, Rep. Dan Tripp and Karen Floyd

The Red Wine Goes Directly to my Cheeks Award
Rep. Nelson Hardwick

Quote of the Year
“Oompa Loompa Steps” by Jimmy Merrill

Pimp My Ride of the Year Award
Rep. Todd Rutherford’s Yellow Golf Cart

Boondoggle of the Year Award
Sen. Glenn “Hunley or Bust” McConnell

Things Never to Say to Sen. Harvey Peeler at a Beer Truck Award
“I just got 90% head” – Laurin Manning

Best Blog Callout
Gervais S. Bridges’ busting Will Folks’ Stiletto Mafia

State House Pocket Pool Champion
Tom Davis

Best Lobbyist Boxers
Mark Sweatman’s “Stop and Go” Glow-in-the-dark Undies

Wardrobe Upgrade of the Year
Sarah "Boxy to Bodacious" Hopper

Bill Cosby Called and Wants His Sweater Collection Back Award
Rep. Tracy Edge

Adventures in Babysitting Award
Heather Singletary (Sic Willie's Assistant)

WWF Smackdown of the Year Award
Jerome Heyward and Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter

Candidate Most Likely to Have Gone to School on Short Bus Award
Mike Campbell

Consultant Most Likely to Stage a Plane Crash to Win Reelection
Rod Shealy

Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain Award
Trav Robertson

Most Likely to Spend $2 Million on a Downballot Election and Still Finish in Third Place
Sen. Greg Ryberg

Senate Ladykiller Award
Sen. Vince Sheheen

House Ladykiller Award
Rep. Jim Merrill

Most Powerful Male Legislator
Sen. Glenn McConnell

Most Powerful Female Legislator
Rep. Annette Young

Legislator Most Likely to Die as a Result of Sanford’s Lexington Heart Center Veto
Sen. Jakie Knotts

Best Legislative Event of the Year
Citadel BBQ

Most Fantasized About Legislators
Speaker Bobby Harrell, Rep. Nikki Haley

Most Fantasized About Lobbyists
Michael Gunn, Ashley Smith

Legislator Most Likely to be on the Wrong End of a Female Class-Action Lawsuit
Rep. Ralph “Dildo Baggins” Davenport

That’s all, Folks! See you during the Special Session!