... IRREVERENCE, INSTITUTIONALIZED ...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ken Mehlman's Aryan Nation

For whatever reason, national GOP chairman Ken Mehlman keeps popping up on our radar here at FITS.

Maybe it's because of facial expressions like this one, or maybe it's because Mehlman just sucks so bad.

Seriously, sign us up for whatever group of political operatives is waiting in the tall grass for this jerk.

Mehlman got served in this morning's USA Today, and with good reason.

He's funding perhaps the most overtly racist ad since South Carolina's own "Pitchfork Ben Tillman" actually stuck a black guy on a pitchfork and said "Hey White People, Look at Me!"

Okay, that last part didn't actually happen, but Tillman (along with David Duke, James Earl Ray and the first incarnation of George Wallace) would no doubt have loved the ad currently running against Democrat Harold Ford, Jr., in the Tennessee Senate race.

Mehlman, although his RNC is funding the ad, denies any responsibility for or foreknowledge of it.

Of course he does. Race-baiting isn't good PR for a party that's still desperately trying to peddle its "compassionate conservative" schtick.

We have no doubt that Harold Ford, Jr., is a big government liberal who wants to run our economy into the ground by raising taxes to pay for thousands of new government programs. Of course with the way Republicans have been spending money in D.C. over the past six years, Ford would hardly be the exception to the rule in either party.

But rather than make the case against Ford on the issues, the ad Mehlman's paying for attacks him for, wait for it ... liking white girls a little bit too much.

That's right. Forget taxes, spending or Social Security, let's make Jungle Fever the issue and see where that takes us.

Memo to Mehlman: It's 2006, not 1956.

Hall's Investment E-mail Backs GOP Candidates

FITS' mailbox received a Halloween e-mail this evening from Kevin Hall, former Chairman of the South Carolina Retirement System's Investment Panel and rumored challenger to current SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson.

No, he wasn't asking us for candy.

Hall's e-mail - which FITS has since learned went out to just under 50,000 Republicans across the state - did ask us to go to the polls next Tuesday to support Republicans Mark Sanford, Thomas Ravenel and Richard Eckstrom ... and to vote "Yes" on the International Investment Amendment to the State Constitution (Question 3).

If Hall is indeed running for the Party chairmanship, it was an especially shrewd move, particularly the section in which he praises T-Rav, the GOP nominee for State Treasurer.

"A conservative businessman, Thomas is leading the fight to modernize our state’s woefully-underperforming investments, which under incumbent Democratic Treasurer Grady Patterson rank in the bottom 1% of large public pension funds in the nation," Hall writes.

That endorsement contrasts nicely with the middling support T-Rav got from current SCGOP Chairman Dawson when the latter was attacked by RINO-in-Chief John Rainey.

Given that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham's forces would likely align behind Hall in the event he runs, Hall's courting of T-Rav Republicans (many of whom are disenchanted with Graham) makes good political sense.

In another interesting twist, staunch Dawson supporter, GOP fundraiser and blogger extraordinaire Sunny Philips even gave Hall some love this week ... albeit accidentally.

Philips, who to her credit has made no bones concerning her unswerving loyalty to Dawson, devoted this post on her popular blog Sunday to an oped published in The Sun News last week supporting Sanford, Ravenel, Eckstrom and passage of the international investment amendment.

Sunny, like the rest of us, assumed the oped had been written by the person whose name appeared on it - Reynolds Williams, the current Chairman of the S.C. Retirement System Investment Board.

If only The Sun News editorial board knew how to copy and paste.

As its correction the next day noted, the oped was actually written by ... you guessed it, Kevin Hall.

We've already endorsed Kevin's candidacy in the event he runs. He's pretty much a bad ass and besides, Heather S. thinks he's hot. But we were reminded of the real reason we did that (even though he hasn't said he's running yet) when we read the closing line of his e-mail:

"Mark Sanford, Richard Eckstrom and Thomas Ravenel all support bringing South Carolina’s investment strategy into the 21st Century. They also support tax cuts to spur economic growth, strict limits on new state spending and restructuring reforms that will save money and make government more efficient and accountable to the taxpayer. As Republicans, I think we can all agree those are ideas worth fighting for."

Amen, brother. Amen.

Now if we can just get the Republican Party to actually believe those things ... and get a Chairman who actually supports candidates who believe those things ... South Carolina may be in business.

Happy Halloween!

Sic Willie (Jack-O-Lantern on the left) and Trav Robertson (Jack-O-Lantern on the right) took a break from campaigning today to wish all of you a Happy Halloween!

The Greenville News didn't take a break, though, offering this endorsement of GOP Treasurer nominee Thomas Ravenel.

T-Rav has now been endorsed by the News, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal and The State newspaper.

Monday, October 30, 2006

"Generalissimo" McMaster

South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster quietly overthrew state government earlier today, declaring martial law throughout all 46 counties and installing his English Bulldog, Barnwell Junior, as the state's "puppet governor."

Running unopposed for reelection as Attorney General in both the June GOP primary and November general elections, the popular McMaster succeeded in siezing control of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of state government in a bloodless coup precipitated by voter apathy and his own internal inertia.

"With no campaign to run, Henry just got bored," McMaster spokesman Trey Walker told FITS. "And this is what happens when Henry gets bored."

At a hastily-arranged ceremony in the upper lobby of the South Carolina State House, McMaster's bulldog was sworn in by Chief Justice Jean H. Toal seconds prior to to affixing his paw print on an emergency decree that transferred all state power to the AG's office.

The bulldog then drooled on a WIS-TV microphone, bit State newspaper reporter Aaron Gould Sheinin on the buttocks and went "No. 2" on the carpet outside of the State House of Representatives chamber.

McMaster, who gave himself the title "Generalissimo," was unavailable for comment, but allowed himself to be photographed alongside Barnwell Junior on a reviewing stand as a parade of tanks and soldiers passed by on nearby Gervais Street.

"Viva Nacho Libre!" McMaster shouted as he saluted the passing troops.

"Viva La Generalissimo!" Shouted the troops in reply.

Walker said McMaster would permit the November 7 elections to continue, but that the emergency decree would remain in place no matter which party triumphed.

"Los Ejercitos, C'est Henry," Walker said.

UPDATE - AG Deputy Communications Director Mark Plowden now tells FITS the entire takeover was a "Trick-or-Treat" joke.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Five Crappiest Campaigns of 2006

It was fitting that President George W. Bush and White House master strategist Karl Rove were both in the Palmetto State this weekend.

Why? Because both men get honorable mentions in our compilation of the crappiest South Carolina political campaigns of 2006.

To be sure, Rove snuck Bush across the goal line against John Kerry (the Tommy Moore of American politics) in 2004, but this year's cycle is showing the extreme wear apparent on the duo's "bomb the Muslims, blockade the Mexicans" strategy.

In addition to placing Republican control of the House - and possibly the Senate - in jeopardy, Bush and Rove are big contributors to the chart-topper in FITS "Five Crappiest Campaigns of 2006" list:

1. Ralph Norman, Republican, U.S. Fifth District

Ralph Norman is one of the most honest-to-God, nice guys you'll ever meet in your life. He's also got a spotless record when it comes to protecting your tax dollars, in stark contrast to his opponent John Spratt, the consummate Washington insider. Unfortunately, Norman got himself hitched up with the biggest collection of losers since Bob Peeler got his hat handed to him in 2002. These DC and SC morons proceeded to play inside political baseball, pander to social conservatives and make immigration the number one issue of the race - despite the fact that illegals have worked on some of the work sites tied to Norman's development company. Can anybody say "Ryberg and Gambling?" Stupid, stupid, stupid. Norman's campaign is the runaway winner here, especially given the amazing candidate they had to work with.

2. Tommy Moore, Democrat, Governor

Who is Tommy Moore? Well, the fact that polls taken just last week show only half of South Carolina's registered voters can answer that question pretty much says it all. On June 13, Moore trounced his Democratic primary opponent by a 2-to-1 margin and watched Gov. Mark Sanford give up 35% of the GOP vote against a political unknown. Then, as far as we can tell, Moore basically sat on his ass for about two months. Sanford's record was ripe for the picking, his campaign was bumbling through an ill-conceived negative attack and polls showed a single-digit race emerging. Seriously, Eldridge Emory could have been the Democratic nominee and still raised $5 million under those circumstances, but Moore didn't even get half of that when it counted. As a result, Sanford stayed on TV unanswered for months and when Moore finally did show up, it was amateur hour.

3. Karen Floyd, Republican, Superintendent of Education

The first of our Crappy Campaign honorees that will actually end up winning on November 7, Floyd's 2006 effort has nonetheless been a disaster. Her TV ads are awful, she's underperformed in both debates, she's backpedaled on the school choice issue and Jim Rex has eaten her for lunch in the earned media department. Anytime one of your press releases reads "I’m going to travel the state on a bicycle to discuss my comprehensive plan for a zero tolerance policy which includes innovative solutions like putting cameras in the classroom and linking drivers’ licenses to behavior," you know things are bad. From holding a dove hunt fundraiser on 9/11 to a flubbed law enforcement endorsement, Floyd has done everything possible to lose this race. Fortunately for her, Rex only has $4,000 cash on hand.

4. Grady Patterson, Democrat, Treasurer

Anytime The State newspaper endorses a fiscally conservative Republican, you know you've run a pathetic campaign. Team Grady has done nothing but attack GOP nominee Thomas Ravenel, and even then it had to rely on a RINO like John Rainey to do its dirty work. Camp Patterson thought it could hammer T-Rav endlessly on the possibility that he might run for U.S. Senate in 2008, but when Ravenel took that card off of the table the walls in Trav Roberston's world started closing in.

5. Mark Sanford, Republican, Governor

Mark Sanford was born under a lucky star, and in 2006 that star just happened to be named Tommy Moore. In 2002, Sanford was a principled leader, not a politician. This go-round he was the consummate politician. In 2002, Sanford ran a passionate campaign of ideas. This go-round he ran a pedantic campaign of insider intrigue. With a well-established cult of personality and $8 million to promote it, the governor is understandably on cruise control - and has been for months. But it helps when only 1 out of 2 registered voters can identify your opponent. Fortunately for the governor, the ineptness of campaign manager Jason Miller was eclipsed by the inertia of the entire Moore campaign. Oh, and Sanford still looks pretty good - if not as convincing this time -on television.

Not-so-honorable mention: Democrat Drew Theodore (Comptroller General), Republican Hugh Weathers (Agriculture Commissioner), Democrat Jim Rex (Superintendent of Education).

Friday, October 27, 2006

Yeah, It's the Silly Season

We had to take a break from politics yesterday.

Seriously, there's just too much silliness going on.

At the top of the ticket, Gov. Mark Sanford is cruising to a decisive victory, but his intellectual lightweight campaign manager Jason Miller continues to throw amateurish "Hillary Clinton" jabs at Tommy Moore.

Remember the "Thrilla in Manila?" The punch Ali never gave Foreman?

This one's over, Team Sanford. Time to dial down Mr. Miller's testosterone a couple notches and start acting like it.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL

In the Comptroller General's race, Democrat Drew Theodore is running an especially harsh new attack ad against Republican Richard Eckstrom.

Ironically, the same man who's authored Internet posts about husbands cheating on their wives and the feasibility of having sexual intercourse in luxury automobiles claims he will "restore honor and integrity to the Comptroller General's office" in his new ad.

Right.

And Don King is going to restore honor and integrity to Las Vegas.

Incidentally, three weeks later we're still waiting for "DrewT" to provide a shred of evidence supporting his debate statement that Sic Willie "attacked his family" and "attacked his father."

What say you, DrewT? We're still waiting ...

SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION

In the Superintendent of Education race, Jim Rex has no money with which to attack Karen Floyd, so The State newspaper and Laurin Manning are doing their best to pick up the slack. We've always found Laurin to be incredibly objective and fair-minded in the commentary on her blog, which is why reading her rants over the last few weeks has been especially disappointing.

Miss Manning seems to have converted to the belief that all of us who support school choice are "cancers" who are under the thumb of New York millionaire Howard Rich.

She even accuses school choice backers of wanting to turn South Carolina's kids into "guinea pigs."

We can't speak for anybody but ourselves here at FITS, but we happen to support school choice because we've seen it work in other states and believe it's worth trying here, especially in historically underperforming districts. Obviously doubling per pupil funding, doubling the education bureaucracy, raising teacher salaries above the Southeastern average and implementing monumental new governmental "accountability" standards hasn't done the trick.

Seriously, more money hasn't produced the desired result, so why not try something new?

We don't always approve of SCRG's tactics, nor have we been particularly impressed with K-Flo's campaign - and we've said so on multiple occasions.

We even have a great deal of respect for Jim Rex on a personal level, and although we disagree with him on this issue, we think that his conduct over the course of this race has by and large been emblematic of what the political discourse should be about in South Carolina.

We wish the same could be said for Miss Manning.

TREASURER

As the Silly Season goes, this race probably takes the cake.

Democratic Treasurer Trav Robertson - scratch that, Grady Patterson - has launched yet another salvo against GOP nominee Thomas Ravenel, this time on the issue of a $19,500 fine from the Federal Election Commission from Ravenel's 2004 Senate race.

Ravenel, who simply paid the fine rather than spending thousands more to fight the validity of a completely innocuous charge, has to be pleased that this is what Patterson is running on after four decades in the Treasurer's Office.

Patterson's campaign had previously dug up decades-old liens filed against Ravenel's business partner after a sub-contractor failed to pay bills that Ravenel had already given them the money to pay.

Accordingly, Ravenel paid the bills a second time.

Given Grady's stretching of the truth the last go-round, media outlets in South Carolina have been far less inclined to bite on this latest attack.

Ah, the Silly Season ... you gotta love it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Big Game

In his entire career at the University of Tennessee, you could count the times that All-Pro Quarterback Peyton Manning was held to under 200 yards passing on one hand.

Two of those games just happened to come against the University of South Carolina, back in the era when future NFL defensive backs like Arturo Freeman and Lee Wiggins roamed the Gamecock secondary.

And while South Carolina never managed to translate its ability to contain Manning into a "W" during his four years on Rocky Top, last year in Knoxville the Gamecocks finally broke through against Tennessee, beating the Volunteers for the first time in over a decade.

Saturday night, eighth-ranked Tennessee (6-1) comes to Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia looking for its revenge in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Can Carolina (5-2) pull out a win against its nemesis in this pivotal SEC East showdown?

Possibly.

The Gamecock offense, which got off to a horrendous start, finally seems to have the right personnel on the field.

Most notably, senior quarterback Syvelle Newton has emerged as its undisputed leader - a multi-threat playmaker who has hit his stride running Spurrier's evolving offense and developed a potent chemistry with All-America wideout Sidney Rice. Running back Cory Boyd has also eclipsed the 100-yard mark in his last two games, which says as much about Boyd's abilities as it does about the improved performance of the Gamecocks' offensive line.

Defensively, Carolina has played well enough to win every game it has suited up for this season and boasts one of the fastest, hardest-hitting units in the SEC. Anchored by the Brinkley twins (Casper and Jasper) and veteran defensive back Fred Bennett, the Gamecock defense ranks fourth in the SEC (and second against the pass).

But can Carolina withstand the intensity of the Volunteer's offensive onslaught, which has improved by leaps and bounds this season with the return of legendary Offensive Coordinator David Cutcliffe?

After a disastrous 2005 campaign, Tennessee has returned to form under Cutcliffe and ranks second in the SEC this season in total offense.

Even more impressive, the Tennessee offense is at its best when it matters most, leading the conference in third-down conversions and scoring in the red zone. Only twice in 26 tries have the Volunteers gotten inside their opponents' 20-yard line and not walked away with points - including an SEC-leading 18 touchdowns.

That could spell trouble for a Gamecock defense that has built its success on a "bend, don't break" philosophy.

Saturday's game has huge implications.

For Tennessee, it's a "payback" game as well as a chance to keep its slim national title hopes alive. For the Gamecocks, it's a chance to become bowl-eligible, crack the AP Top 25 and prove that last year's upset win in Knoxville wasn't a fluke.

FITS will be following all the action live at Williams-Brice Saturday, but don't forget to tune into ESPN if you can't get your hands on some tickets.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The State Newspaper v. K-Flo, Pt. II

We'll be the first to admit that Spartanburg businesswoman Karen Floyd didn't exactly knock it out of the park in her two debate performances this week.

Nor are Floyd's latest television ads particularly impressive.

And we're still not entirely pleased with her recent backpedaling on the issue of school choice. It's made her look indecisive and evasive, two qualities you don't want prominently displayed on the eve of the fight of your political life.

All in all, whatever retainer Floyd's paying Sanford advisor Jon Lerner, she's obviously not getting the highly-regarded consultant's best effort in this race.

Having said all of that, Floyd has done absolutely nothing to deserve the continuing journalistic mugging she's receiving at the hands of The State newspaper.

This morning's front-page story focuses on a $100 contribution made by Floyd's step-mother to the campaign of her opponent, Jim Rex. It follows another front-page story two days ago that revealed (shock) that 33 of 34 local superintendents (in a poll conducted by The State) were supporting Rex over Floyd.

Let's play devil's advocates, shall we?

Assume that the Floyd campaign put our a press release highlighting the fact that 33 of 34 leading school choice advocates were endorsing her candidacy.

Would The State have run a story on that? Let alone put it on the front page with a screaming headline?

Of course not.

In all likelihood, reporter Bill Robinson would have politely called Floyd spokesman Hogan Gidley back and informed him that, in The State's opinion, school choice supporters endorsing Floyd "isn't news."

In fact, the only way such a hypothetical endorsement would have ever make it into the pages of The State were if Robinson needed a "hook" to write yet another hit piece attacking Floyd for the contributions she has received from school choice supporters.

They might have published it then, and if so, the endorsement might have made the last paragraph of Robinson's one-sided story.

Ready for another hypothetical?

Now let's suppose that The State obtained conclusive evidence that Jim Rex's step-father (in the event he even has one) had written a $100 check to the Floyd campaign.

Would The State have written a story about that? Much less plastered it on the front page with another screaming headline - this time above the fold?

Of course not.

If anything, Aaron Sheinin and John O'Connor (both of whom FITS considers diligent, unbiased reporters, by the way) might have included the item in The State's Sunday "Buzz" section - a humorous, informal collection of weekly political briefs that are read by Rusty DePass, a staffer in Joe Wilson's office and maybe a half-dozen other political junkies.

Go ahead and tell us we're wrong. We're used to hearing that, and occasionally we are wrong.

But honestly, if the two campaigns were reversed in this situation we'd bet every penny in our pockets against every penny in all of your pockets that things would have gone down exactly as we just described them.

That, friends, is the definition of a double standard, and the embodiment of a biased, irresponsible form of agenda-driven journalism that has absolutely no place in a free-thinking society.

Since we railed quite extensively on The State's fundamental abdication of its First Amendment responsibility two days ago, we'll spare you another Dennis Miller-esque rant today.

Just know that as far as the Superintendent of Education race is concerned, The State newspaper might as well be Jim Rex campaign headquarters.

Michigan Governor Flubs Vulcan Salute

Since the South Carolina governor's race is pretty much a snoozer, we figured we'd go North to lovely Michigan, home of the automobile, the "Big House," the Great Lakes and hottie Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

According to FITS' friend (and Washington Post reporter/blogger extraordinaire) Chris Cillizza, Granholm currently holds a "high single digit lead" over Republican businessman Dick DeVos.

After weathering a storm of negative ads trying to link her to Michigan's "South Carolina-esque" unemployment rate, Granholm appears to have momentum on her side as the race enters its final two weeks, and DeVos (though still well-funded) is running out of time to find an issue that resonates with Wolverine State swing voters.

Enter the "Trekkies."

FITS has learned that fans of the famous Star Trek television and film series are enraged with Granholm over her apparent inability to properly deliver a Vulcan Salute (see photo above).

"We're trying to live long and prosper up here and she can't even get a simple hand gesture right," said Phillip Seymour, an Ann Arbor resident and President of Trekkies for DeVos. "That's not leadership, gosh darnit, that's the Vulcan symbol for 'Bite Me' she's flashing in that picture."

Granholm aides were quick to downplay the gesture's significance in the race.

"The governor intended the gesture as a warning to any Romulans or Klingons who may have been watching," Granholm spokeswoman Heidi Watson told FITS. "Michiganians should know she's a Star Trek freak at heart, and often gives the Vulcan Salute on the campaign trail as a way of identifying with her fellow Trekkies."

Seymour dismissed Watson's assertion as "illogical" and challenged Granholm to prove her loyalty by properly giving the Salute at an upcoming Star Trek Convention in Detroit.

"Either she lacks the manual dexterity in her fingers or she's lying," Seymour said. "Either way, Trekkies should demand that Gov. Granholm come clean on this critical election issue."

Not since President George W. Bush flipped the bird into a camera while he was still Governor of Texas has a hand gesture by a politician been this scrutinized.

"Bush's finger malfunction did not cause lasting harm to his candidacy, but this is a knuckle of a different color because Trekkies are important swing voters in states like Michigan," said Dr. Rudolph U. Seerious, Director of the University of South Carolina's Center for the Interpretation of Hand Gesticulation in American Politics (CIHGAP). "If Trekkies believe Granholm is against them because of this incident, they may start 'beaming' new registered voters directly to their local polling places to vote against her."

Dr. Seerious said his office has yet to formally review the film of Granholm's flubbed salute, citing a barrage of incoming calls from in-state reporters about SCGOP Superintendent of Education nominee Karen Floyd's excessive hand movement in two recent debates.

"We will obviously review the Granholm tape in detail at some point but right now the frame-by-frame analysis of Karen Floyd's gratuitous gesticulation at the SCETV and WIS-TV debates is consuming all of our resources," Seerious said. "Perhaps some additional funding for higher ed in South Carolina could enable us to complete this vital research."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What's Up With Sanford, Burroughs & Chapin?

We here at FITS used to love Burroughs & Chapin, the Myrtle Beach real estate conglomerate that, well, owns the Grand Strand for all intents and purposes.

Of course that was before they tore down our favorite mini-golf course - the Jungle Caverns on Kings Highway - to build a bunch of condos.

Bad move, B&C.

Now it appears as if Burroughs & Chapin is backing Tommy Moore in the upcoming gubernatorial race.

Another bad move, in our opinion.

How do we know this is true?

Well, it turns out "Republicans for Tommy Moore" 4X8 signs (complete with the GOP logo) have been popping up by the dozen all along heavily-populated areas on the Grand Strand - and that the overwhelming majority of these signs have been placed on property owned by Burroughs & Chapin.

And what about Sanford signs?

Two sources have independently confirmed to FITS that Burroughs & Chapin specifically refused to allow Sanford for Governor signs on its property. One even indicated that First Lady Jenny Sanford asked Burroughs & Chapin to allow her husband's signs on its properties and was rebuffed.

Hmmm ...

So what, exactly, does Burroughs & Chapin have against Gov. Mark Sanford?

It's hard to say. Sanford has, after all, been one of the most aggressive governors in South Carolina history in terms of promoting our state's $15 billion a year tourism industry, and he even named one of the Strand's favorite sons (Chad Prosser) to lead the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism.

Sanford has also gone to unprecendented lengths to involve coastal municipalities in his hurricane preparation and evacuation planning, which paid big dividends when his Department of Public Safety expertly managed a limited evacuation of the Strand two years ago.

So what gives with Burroughs & Chapin? Why are they permitting "Republicans for Moore" to blanket their properties with signs while refusing to allow the governor's campaign to do the same?

Maybe reporters Zane Wilson or Travis Tritten at The Sun News will do some digging and we can find out.

One Republican who is benefitting from the massive visibility afforded by placing signs on B&C property is none other that State Rep. Tracy Edge. In fact, if signs on land owned by Burroughs & Chapin were the sole indicator, you'd think Moore and Edge were running on a ticket (see one of many examples of the Moore-Edge sign clustering in the photo above).

Of course Edge is employed by B&C, so it's not surprising he's using his connections there to get dozens of signs placed in high-traffic areas. What is surprising is that most of these signs - as the photo above indicates - are right next to Republicans for Tommy Moore signs.

Not exactly the best placement plan for someone who claims to be a Sanford supporter.

B&C is by far and away the Strand's most influential corporate concern. They basically own the coast and are very aggressive politically.

Siding with Moore at this late stage of the game, however, would seem to represent a rare error in political judgment on the company's part - if that's indeed what's happening here.

Sanford's campaign is on cruise control, with $3 million in the bank heading into the final two weeks of the campaign.

What's the point of B&C alienating a governor who's clearly going to be around for another four years? Not to mention one who has treated the coast pretty well all things considered?

Burroughs & Chapin could score some easy points here by allowing Sanford signs on its property (to go with the Moore-Edge barrage).

Oh, and while they're at it, they could bring back our beloved mini-golf course.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Nothing Proper About This Propaganda

If there were any lingering doubts that The State newspaper (a.k.a. La Socialista) is engaged in a full-scale effort to undermine the Karen Floyd for Superintendent campaign, look no further than the front page of today's paper, which blares the headline "District Leaders Prefer Rex in Poll."

Are you kidding us? This is front-page news?

Of course it is - or at least it is in parts of the world where the press exists solely to perpetuate a specific ideology, like North Korea or Communist China ... and apparently, Columbia, S.C. on this cool October morning fifteen days before an election.

The "news" that 33 out of 34 District Superintendents preferred Democratic candidate Jim Rex to Ms. Floyd is indeed shocking. But that's only because it wasn't 34 out of 34.

Let's see, The State polled the principal architects of the nation's worst education system to find out if they are a) supporting a candidate who will demand a better return on our multi-billion state investment, or, b) supporting a candidate who will continue pouring endless gobs of additional money into their fiefdoms no matter how poorly they continue to perform.

Hmmmm ...

Seriously, this is like going into the Gamecock lockerroom right before the Clemson kickoff and asking the Carolina players who they want to win the game. It's like polling an NRA convention on gun rights, or Planned Parenthood lobbyists on abortion, or asking Mothers Against Drunk Driving for their thoughts on, well, drunk driving, as if the name of the group didn't give it away.

Predictably, former Tenenbaum Deputy and Rex Campaign Manager Zeke Stokes called the results "pretty significant."

Only if you're writing your term paper on The State newspaper's interminable drift toward socialism.

Aside from that, let's call this article what it is - the latest manifestation of The State newspaper's transparent vendetta against school choice.

What's next? The State hires a former Inez Tenenbaum Communications Director under the pretense of providing us with "objective" news coverage of education issues? Oh wait - THEY DID THAT ALREADY!

It's one thing if educrat sycophants like Brad Warthen and Cindi Scoppe want to sit on the sidelines and blather incessantly against school choice from the ivory tower of their editorial boardroom.

As columnists, Warthen and Scoppe don't have a journalistic obligation to be impartial, and absent such an obligation they can openly call school choice supporters a "cancer" all day long if they want to. Come to think of it, THEY'VE DONE THAT ALREADY, TOO!

But reporters and news editors do have an obligation to impartiality. And to brazenly ignore that obligation in a blatant attempt to advance a specific agenda - right or wrong - is to make a mockery of the First Amendment and their chosen profession.

The freedom of America's Fourth Estate is unrivaled in the annals of history. It is absolutely essential to our liberty as individuals and as a nation - a vital check against corruption and involuntary compulsion, and a wall of truth separating us from tyranny and subjugation.

As such, it comes with a huge responsibility.

This morning - as it has done on numerous occasions in the past - The State newspaper willfully sacrificed that sacred responsibility on the altar of its own narrow political agenda.

In communist states, there's a word we use when we see internally-manufactured stories splashed all over the front pages of major newspapers.

We call it "Propaganda."

Salt-N-Pepa Endorses Shoopman

In a rare foray into South Carolina politics, members of the popular 1990's R&B/hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa have endorsed Republican Phil Shoopman in the House District 18 race in Greenville County, calling his election to the seat "Very Necessary."

"Shoop. Shoop-a-doop, Shoop-a-doop, Shoop-a-doopa-doopa-doop," said Cheryl James, a.k.a. Salt.

"Whatta man, whatta man, whatta man, whatta mighty good man," said Sandy Denton, a.k.a. Pepa.

Salt-N-Pepa encouraged Shoopman to "Push It" in the two weeks remaining before Election Day.

"Phil needs to Push It," Salt said. "Push It real good."

Shoopman, who was also endorsed by the Greenville News Friday, is running for the seat formerly held by FITS fave Lewis Vaughn.

"Near Parity in Intensity"

FITS was surprised yesterday to open our mailbag and find an e-mail from Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman (pictured left, showing off his opposable thumb).

Okay, okay, we didn't exactly get an e-mail from Ken Mehlman. We were forwarded one. And the person we got it from didn't exactly get an e-mail from Ken Mehlman, either. They just happened to be on his Republi-spam e-mail list.

Anyway, the RNC chair and former Bush-Cheney '04 campaign manager - not to mention one of the brains behind the wildly-popular "Ralph Norman strategy" - had some interesting thoughts to share.

According to Mehlman, national polling research shows "near parity in intensity" among Republican and Democratic voters heading into the November 7 elections.

"In recent days and weeks, the mainstream media have repeatedly claimed that the Republican base is suffering from low voter enthusiasm," Mehlman writes. "It is easy to believe a story that is repeated so frequently, but in fact there is ample evidence to the contrary."

Mehlman then proceeds to wax scientific about three recent polls that he claims support his assertions - one of which just happens to be an internal RNC poll.

All we can say is, "Congratulations," Ken. We hear you've also got some polling that confirms Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas is attractive, or that there was parity in Saturday's Clemson-Georgia Tech game, or that monkeys might fly out of our butts.

Thankfully here in South Carolina - which aside from the impending disaster up in the Fifth District has been spared the "Mehlman treatment" - voter enthusiasm among Republicans actually is high.

That's because our state's GOP candidates aren't following the RNC's "Nancy Pelosi-Immigration-War on Terror" playbook, they're talking about taxes and spending and how we could benefit from both of them being lowered.

In fact, the two candidates who have honed this message most sharply - Gov. Mark Sanford and GOP Treasurer nominee Thomas Ravenel - are also the two S.C. Republicans with the most encouraging poll numbers.

So thanks but no thanks, Ken. With the notable exception of the one race your D.C. buffoons came down to "manage," Republicans in South Carolina appear to be in pretty good shape for the fall.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

S.C. Club for Growth Looking for New Fundraiser

The South Carolina Club for Growth, the state arm of the powerful national conservative advocacy group, is in the process of selecting a new statewide fundraiser.

S.C. Club for Growth officials confirmed to FITS late Friday that a change was being made, and that a number of top Palmetto State fundraisers were being considered for the position.

Led by Charleston businessman and former Sanford Deputy Chief of Staff Chad Walldorf, the Club has been a vocal supporter of the governor and other fiscal conservative candidates running for office in South Carolina.

Club officials would not discuss specific candidates with FITS, but Sunny Philips, Drea Byers and Leslie Gaines would seem to be logical candidates for consideration.

Stay tuned for additional info ...

Friday, October 20, 2006

BEA Fax Machine Attacks Rainey

Liberal BEA Chairman John Rainey was treated for minor head injuries this morning after a fax machine in his office unplugged itself from the wall and began attacking him.

"I am relieved it was not one of those fax machines with the phone and the cord attached or I guarantee you I would not be speaking with you here today," the Seersucker Kingfish told FITS. "That monstrosity reared its head and came at me with clear generational chauvinism and malicious intent in its eyes."

Rainey, who suffered some minor bruises and a slight concussion during the incident, nonetheless appeared not to have had any sense knocked into him.

"I will continue to inaccurately estimate our state revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars so as to reduce the likelihood of income tax relief for working South Carolinians," he said. "This unprovoked attack against me will not deter my efforts on behalf of larger, more wasteful and less efficient government."

The BEA fax machine is currently being held in the Will Folks Wing (maximum security area) of the Alvin Glenn Detention Center outside of Columbia.

"The fax machine isn't talking but we've been able to uncover evidence that suggests a massive conspiracy may exist among the various office supplies over at the BEA," said SLED spokesman Carlos Perezifino. "According to eyewitnesses, several blank pages of BEA stationary attempted to inflict paper cuts on Mr. Rainey just prior to the fax machine's alleged assault."

Rainey, who is seemingly pumping out at least one multi-page fax assault against GOP Treasurer nominee Thomas Ravenel per day lately, denied that his office supplies are rebelling because they have had enough of his publicity-seeking histrionics.

"This is math class," Rainey said. "And math class is dismissed when I say it is, not when my office supplies attempt to usurp my authority."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Good Versus Bad in House District 75

Editor's Note: We tried to talk Sic Willie out of it, but he was so ticked off after The State (a.k.a. La Socialista)'s endorsement in this race that we had to demur ...

Very rarely in politics does a contest come along that pits good versus bad as clearly as the House District 75 race between Republican Jim Harrison and Democratic challenger Boyd Summers.

On the surface, both candidates come across as good guys, but what lies beneath?

Last fall, I attended a party at Dianne’s restaurant on Devine Street following the Junior League of Columbia’s Annual Holiday Market fundraiser. Hundreds of prominent young Columbia couples were present, decked out in their tuxedos and formal evening gowns, dancing, drinking and partying well into the early morning hours.

It was at this event that I happened to meet Boyd Summers, the Democratic candidate recruited by former House Minority Leader Gilda Cobb-Hunter to run against Jim Harrison.

I remember my encounter with Mr. Summers very clearly for a variety of different reasons.

First of all, he was positively inebriated – in other words, drunk to the point he could hardly stand up. Second, he had a political potty-mouth the likes of which I hadn’t heard since the last time I ran into DeMint/ Ryberg campaign manager Terry Sullivan.

Mr. Summers actually offered me a job less than two minutes into our conversation, although I'm sure the alcohol had something to do with that.

Astounded to learn that I work for Democrats from time to time, he told me he was running for the State House and could use my help.

“What district?” I asked him.

“Seventy-five,” he told me.

“Who’s the incumbent?” I asked him, honestly not knowing.

“F---ing Jim Harrison.”

At this point, I told Mr. Summers I appreciated the drinks he had bought for me and thanked him again for his interest in my abilities, but told him I couldn’t help him out. I told him that Jim Harrison was a friend of mine, and one of the few legislators I not only respected politically, but personally as well.

Mr. Summers proceeded to launch into a visceral, profanity-laced tirade about how badly he was going to “f---ing kick Harrison’s ass” and tried to convince me that Harrison was opposed to all of the governor’s reforms. In the same breath, however, he indicated that he was going to take Harrison’s conditional support of Sanford’s Put Parents in Charge bill “shove it up his f---ing ass,” this despite the fact that at least one of Mr. Summers’ children has attended Hammond School, one of Columbia’s most prestigious, formerly segregated private academies.

(True to his word, Mr. Summers criticized Rep. Harrison’s endorsement of a modified PPIC bill at a recent State newspaper editorial board meeting, calling it just one example of Harrison’s “radical” views. When pressed to provide another example, Mr. Summers was forced to admit he didn’t have one).

By the time I managed to withdraw from the conversation, I felt like I needed delousing.

I’ve met plenty of trash-talking politicos in my life, and truth be told I’ve probably acted like one myself at one time or another, but I can’t recall having ever seen a candidate for public office as drunk, obscene or insulting as Boyd Summers was on this particular evening.

Never mind that he was directing his vitriol at a man who has served five tours of duty in the U.S. Military, traveling to faraway places like Bosnia, Haiti and Iraq to fight for democracy.

I’m sure that if Mr. Summers is asked about any of this, he will deny ever having met me, let alone being as drunk as he was or saying all the foul things he said about Jim Harrison.

Perhaps he’ll even make up something nasty to say about me, which wouldn't be the first time that's happened.

In all fairness, it could be that the outburst I witnessed was not at all reflective of Mr. Summers’ character. I hope it wasn’t.

What I can say definitively is that in my brief time in politics, I’ve never met someone whom I hold in higher regard than Jim Harrison, which is saying a lot coming from someone like me who helped turn bashing the General Assembly into an art form.

Jim is one of the most courageous legislators I’ve ever seen, someone who follows his conscience and isn’t afraid to buck the Governor’s Office or his fellow Republican leaders when he believes strongly that something is the right thing to do. His leadership of the House Judiciary Committee is a testament to what the legislative process in this state should be, and his record of fighting to protect the most vulnerable South Carolinians among us is second-to-none.

Jim’s also stuck his neck out on a number of occasions lately in opposition to the gravy train of pork barrel spending coming out of Columbia these days, a rarity among legislators of either party.

Aside from his multiple legislative accomplishments and his long history of service to our state and nation, who can forget the class Jim showed in bowing out of the Speaker’s race in 2005, a race he was within a handful of votes of winning?

Anyone who missed Harrison’s floor speech endorsing then-Ways and Means Chairman Bobby Harrell as the next Speaker of the House missed one of the most gracious, selfless, statesmanlike acts in South Carolina’s storied political history.

With Jim, what you see is what you get. Whether it’s presiding over a heated committee vote, volunteering as a Guardian ad Litem for neglected and abused children, or tailgating with family and friends in the parking lot at Carolina football games, he’s as honest and decent a person as you’re ever going to come across in a business that seldom rewards those qualities.

No wonder Democrats and Republicans unanimously re-elected him as Judiciary Chairman last session.

I don’t live in House District 75, and so I won’t have the privilege of voting for Jim.

I wish I could, though. In a political environment ruled by back-slapping, glad-handing opportunism, he is one of the few remaining genuine articles.

Not to mention the polar opposite of his opponent, based on what I've seen anyway.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

That's The Way You Do It ...

There's a compelling new radio ad poised to hit the South Carolina airwaves this week from a group called No Home Tax.

In case you've never heard of them before, No Home Tax is a grassroots property tax relief group that started making a name for itself during this year's legislative session.

The group's new ad isn't for any specific candidate, it's in support of the November 7 statewide ballot referendum to cap property tax reassessments at 15% (Question 4).

Yeah, we didn't know it was on the ballot until now either.

The ad, which you can listen to here, is a clever dramatization of a phone call between a property owner and a local auditor - shortly after reassessment notices were mailed out.

Sound familiar? It's supposed to.

FITS has since learned that the ad was produced by none other than former Sanford Communications Director (and avid Peter Cetera fan) Chris Drummond, the man most directly responsible for the stratospheric approval ratings the governor enjoyed during his first two years in office.

Since Drummond doesn't like to brag on himself (unlike our boy Sic Willie or current Sanford blabber Joel Sawyer), we figured we'd show him a little love for an ad well done.

Nice work, Chris!

Hopefully your ad buy will include plenty of airtime on all your favorite easy listening stations ...

The Best Thing About Getting a Joe Wilson Keychain, Etc.

What's the best thing about getting one of U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson's ubiquitous keychains?

Getting your hands on one without having to encounter U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson.

Long revered as a sacred relic of South Carolina politics, the Wilson keychain endows its bearer with supernatural powers, inestimable prestige and a mystical infusion of the Congressman's transcendental, metaphysical wisdom.

The keychain is also a status symbol - denoting that its recipient has scaled the seemingly interminable ladder of importance and sashayed him or herself past the velvet rope of influence that surrounds Rep. Wilson wherever he goes.

Many dream of touching greatness, of finding themselves in such close proximity to the fount of all knowledge and understanding, but without the Wilson keychain they are little more than camels attempting to thread the eye of a needle.

Like the lamb's blood painted over the dwellings of the Israelites, or Ralph Lauren Madras pants at the Carolina Cup, Joe Wilson's keychain is a talisman of destiny.

It is in fact "The Sign" of which Ace of Base spoke, and could very well have been the driving force behind Chicago's 1984 hit "You're the Inspiration," particularly when one considers the keychain's dominion over the space-time continuum.

Think about it: "You're the meaning in my life, you're the inspiration. You bring meaning to my life, you're the inspiration."

Based on these lyrics, what else could the song have been referring to other than a Joe Wilson keychain?

"JACKIE O" COOL

The FITS girls were eagerly devouring our Blended Venti Mocha Frappucinos (with the chocolate drizzle) at the local Starbucks this morning when we happened upon one of our favorite people in the whole world, petroleum lobbyist Kay Clamp.

We knew it was her because, as usual, for a split-second we thought that Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis had come back to life and decided to pay a visit to Columbia, S.C.

Seriously girls, you can dream of growing up to be this classy, cool and stylish, but don't count on it.

Kay Clamp is a trendsetter. She could wear RUN-DMC Addidas shoes to the State House lobby next January and every female lobbyist would show up the next day with a pair of their own.

Plus she knows who John Mayer is, which we find exceedingly hot, and she even knew that his new album is called "Continuum" (inspired by the Joe Wilson keychain, no doubt).

PIPER-STRAVINAKIS

The race to replace John Graham Altman in House District 119 is going to go down to the wire. Polls leaked to FITS show Republican Suzanne Piper with a slight lead, but we have also learned that Democrat Leon Stravinakis is planning to drop some serious dollars on television advertising.

FITS has also learned that Stravinakis (whose name sounds an awful lot like an expensive violin) is not a violin player.

More importantly to the outcome of this hotly-contested race, we are looking into reports that John Graham's amazing wife Charm may have been named after ... you guessed it ... a Joe Wilson keychain.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sanford's FOIA Cost Dwarfed

You may recall Queen Laurin getting all hot and bothered a few weeks back when it was revealed that Gov. Mark Sanford's office set a $31,000 price tag on a wide-ranging Democratic Party Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Well Laurin, you ain't seen nothing yet.

According to documents obtained exclusively by FITS, Sanford's $31,000 price tag is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the $434,250 the South Carolina Worker's Compensation Commission recently cited in responding to a FOIA request by the South Carolina Civil Justice Coalition, a pro-Worker's Comp Reform group.

You read that right. $434,250.

And here's the best part: That astronomical price tag doesn't even include the 25-cent per page printing costs!

Furthermore, the FOIA reply - written by Workers' Compensation Commission Executive Director Gary Thibault - only addresses one of the four categories of documents being sought by the Coalition.

Great Googily Moogily ... those are probably the words you were looking for.

Or perhaps "There stands Thibault, standing like a Stone Wall ..."

Look for advocates of Workers' Compensation Reform (and open government, for that matter) to have a field day with this one, and look for Team Sanford to take full advantage of the fact that its recent FOIA response looks perfectly rational by comparison.

After all, freedom's just another word for $434,250 to lose ...

Dawson, Sanford and the GOP's Fortune Cookie Intrigue

“Your principles mean more to you than any money or success.”

-Fortune Cookie Proverb

Miyo’s restaurant in downtown Columbia is the “It” spot for political power lunches ... and telling fortune cookies.

A half-block from the State House on South Main Street, Miyo's is where all the Jokerville insiders go to “see and be seen” between gavels, and on most legislative days you could literally call a quorum of both the House and Senate there.

Not coincidentally, a parade of short-skirted lobbyists, ambitious government staffers and quote-hungry reporters dot the restaurant’s lunch-scape, cozying up to the various powerbrokers for a favor when they're not whispering secrets about them behind their backs.

Ironically, on our last visit to Miyo's we got the fortune cookie proverb quoted above – a little crackle of honesty in an establishment that could probably cook its food in the dining area given all the hot air emanating from its regular patrons.

Sadly, far from meaning “more than any money or success,” principles are anathema to the vast majority of individuals constituting the Columbia establishment. They are akin to faded images from an old family photo album, scarcely-recognizable relics of a past that was sacrificed long ago on the altars of power, greed and convenience.

Take SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson, for example.

Just this morning, Dawson, performed another “see no evil” jig of Swiss Diplomacy in the ongoing spat between GOP Treasurer nominee Thomas Ravenel and liberal philanthropist John Rainey.

Once again, the man most responsible for electing Republicans to statewide office in 2006 allowed a left-leaning, anti-tax cut, attention-seeking blowhard to blister his party’s nominee for one of the most critical elected offices in the state – and get away with it scot-free.

Why?

Like most things in politics, it all boils down to the twin corrosives of personal power and the almighty dollar.

Katon Dawson desperately wants to become an ambassador, to trade in the pedestrian desk at his West Columbia auto parts store for the aristocratic trappings of a faraway embassy.

But to curry favor, he must continue appeasing “Bush Gods” like Karl Rove and David Wilkins, which is why doing his duty to the state party and defending Ravenel against John Rainey just won’t do.

Rainey, after all, has raised significant sums of money for the Bushies, and was recently rewarded for his efforts with a Presidential appointment to the Board of Visitors at West Point. Rainey is also the governor’s Board of Economic Advisor’s Chairman, another bought-and-paid-for honorarium he has parlayed into solidifying his GOP “untouchable” status.

Is that status deserved? We'll let you decide.

In three-plus years at the helm of the BEA, Rainey hasn’t even come close to accurately predicting South Carolina’s incoming revenues. In fact, he’s missed the mark by $800 million.

Rainey defends himself by citing the gross overstatements of revenue that were epidemic during the Hodges administration, but there’s clearly an ulterior method to his misinformed madness.

Had Rainey’s revenue estimates been on the mark, Gov. Mark Sanford would have had a slam dunk case for the job-creating income tax cuts that he pushed so aggressively during the first two years of his administration.

Instead, the Rainey-led BEA low-balled the numbers, and unleashed supposedly neutral State Economist Bill Gillespie to wage nonstop warfare against the governor’s proposed tax cuts.

Gillespie’s weapon of choice? The class warfare argument so frequently employed by the liberal establishment any time conservative Republicans seek to stimulate the economy by cutting taxes. Lapped up eagerly by The State newspaper’s Jennifer Talhelm, every utterance from Gillespie merited another front page story attacking the governor’s wisdom in reducing what is effectively the highest income tax rate in the Southeast.

With the media marching in goose step with Rainey’s BEA, Democrats and anti-Sanford Republicans in the General Assembly, the governor’s tax cuts never had a chance.

One would think that the governor – who desperately needs Ravenel’s vote on the State Budget and Control Board (not to mention another pro-growth Republican in statewide elected office), would have long ago figured out “Who’s Zooming Who?” in this insider intrigue.

Inexplicably, he hasn’t.

In fact, the deafening silence coming from the governor’s office throughout the Rainey-Ravenel exchange is even more disheartening than Chairman Dawson’s tepid support.

Does the governor want to continue going it alone, ramming his head against the institutional wall in Columbia with nothing to show for it? Or could it be that the prospect of another strong fiscal conservative with a statewide bully pulpit somehow threatens the “Maverick Monopoly” he’s carved out for himself?

Despite a double-digit lead in the polls and a nonexistent Democratic challenger, Sanford continues to cite the November election as the root of his lethargy, promising to make things right once his second term has been secured.

Dawson has no such crutch to lean on.

November 7 will soon have come and gone, but no matter what the outcome, Dawson and Sanford have proven that when the rubber hit the road, money and success appear to have meant more to them than their principles.

As a result, we continue to have a government that spends too much, gives back too little and encourages a cycle of dependency that keeps our state at the bottom of the national barrel.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Turnout

There are 2.4 million registered voters in South Carolina, but there won't be 2.4 million ballots cast in the election on November 7.

How many ballots will be cast?

That's the 2.4 million dollar question.

Most political observers insist that only half of South Carolina's registered voters - about 1.2 million - will cast ballots three weeks from now.

That's low for a general election, but on the heels of dismal turnout for the 2006 GOP and Democratic Primaries, it's not surprising.

Democrats have put a lot of energy into registering more African-American voters this cycle, but it remains to be seen whether that effort will pay dividends on Election Day.

So FITS is interested ... what do you think turnout will be on November 7?

It's Boss Appreciation Day!

Just a reminder in case you haven't gotten the memo - today is National Boss Appreciation Day!

To commemorate the occasion, Heather S. took Sic Willie out to a very nice lunch at Yesterday's restaurant in Columbia's downtown Five Points district this afternoon.

Did Sic Willie deserve it? Hell no.

Does your boss? Probably not.

Anyway, if you forgot to do something nice for your boss today, there's still time!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Why, Warner?

In addition to breaking Laurin Manning's heart, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner left a gigantic void in the 2008 Democratic Presidential field with his abrupt departure from the race yesterday.

Sure, we've poked our fair share of fun at Warner in the past, but this guy was without question one of the frontrunners for the Democratic nomination, an electable alternative to Hillary Clinton and a Southern moderate with tremendous cross-party appeal.

Warner was also well ahead of most other 2008 Dems in erecting the massive institutional edifices necessary to mount a successful White House bid, and our assessment was that the pivotal South Carolina Democratic Primary was his to lose.

As we speak, Dems like Evan Bayh, John Edwards and Bill Richardson are scurrying to pick up Warner's people and fill the void left by his sudden exit.

So why did Warner drop out?

No one knows for sure.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Warner's decision - which was based on a desire to spend more time with his family - was reached just this week, and his staff was informed only 24 hours ahead of time.

"I understand that folks in the political world will question it," Warner told the Richmond paper of his unexpected exit.

Of course we will. People in Warner's position don't just drop out on a dime. His PAC had raised $9 million, he'd visited 28 states, he'd been on the cover of the New York Times Magazine and Newsweek ... even Lee Bandy had started showing him some love.

It just doesn't make sense ...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Patterson Interview Available on Warthen's Blog

If you haven't yet seen the video of Treasurer Grady Patterson's editorial board interview with The State newspaper, click here.

You may never see anything quite like it again.

"He makes up stuff," Patterson says of GOP nominee Thomas Ravenel, but then fails to offer any examples.

"I don't have a list of it or anything," Patterson says.

Eventually, Patterson refers to the already debunked arguments of John Rainey, which it appears from the tape he may have been prompted to do by an aide.

Patterson also reiterates his refusal to debate Ravenel (despite the fact Ravenel has met his one condition for debates by pledging to serve a full term) and suggests that he will refute the Republican's well-documented claims "later - at some other forum."

Asked if that meant after the election, Patterson says "we won't have to deal with him after the election, I don't think."

Since we're already getting accused of everything under the sun here at FITS, we'll refrain from any further commentary at this point and let you decide for yourself how Patterson performed.

Hotline Pulls Letter at Lobbyist's Request





This afternoon, the popular political blog SC Hotline removed Will Folks' response to John Rainey's latest attack against GOP Treasurer Nominee Thomas Ravenel.

Several hours later, the website followed suit and removed Rainey's letter.

According to SC Hotline owners Jeffrey Sewell and Mike Green, the letter was pulled at the request of a registered lobbyist in the employ of Richard Davis.

Davis, one of the most successful lobbyists in South Carolina, recently confided to FITS that he was considering running for State Senate in Horry County in 2008 in the event incumbent Democrat Dick Elliot decides not to seek another term. Previously, Davis was a longtime aide to former Democratic Congressman John Jenrette.

It remains unclear what the lobbyist's motivations were in requesting that the post be pulled, or whether Davis knew that someone on his staff had taken such an action.

Ravenel recently delegated responsibility for responding to Rainey's repeated assaults to Folks, who is also advising the campaigns of Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, and who has extensive experience with the "Seersucker Kingfish" dating back to his time in Gov. Mark Sanford's office.

Say It Ain't So

This is one of the most difficult posts we have ever had to write.

South Carolina has just lost one of its most faithful public servants, and like so many of you who are reading this, we here at FITS have lost a true brother in the struggle.

We have learned that longtime Second Amendment advocate and Comptroller General advisor Rick Daniel (shown with Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee) collapsed and died earlier this afternoon while having lunch.

Rick was 45 years old, and was truly one of the most honest, humble and hard-working people we have ever had the privilege of knowing.

His loss will be felt tremendously.

An advisor to four different statewide elected officials, Rick's record of service to his state, his party and his country could fill an Encyclopedia.

We ask that you join us in praying for Rick's family and his many friends. May God grant them each peace and comfort as they cope with this unexpected tragedy.

Still Waiting, Drew

One day later, Drew Theodore's campaign has yet to present any evidence supporting the candidate's claim that Will Folks "attacked his family" and "attacked his father," either here on FITS or anywhere else for that matter.

Theodore's assertion, made during Monday night's Comptroller General debate, has since been picked up by dozens of news outlets across the state, including an editorial in this morning's Sun News.

We'll be the first to admit it's easy to hate Will.

In fact, Heather S. finds him positively intolerable prior to his daily Blended Venti Mocha Frappucino (with the chocolate drizzle) treat from Starbuck's. We're pretty sure David Wilkins, Dan Cooper, Hugh Leatherman, Bobby Harrell and John Rainey aren't big fans, either, to say nothing of Greg and Betty Ryberg. Apparently, Will's mother still loves him, but based on our conversations around town the circle of trust doesn't extend that much further.

Accordingly, it's completely natural to assume that any nefarious and diabolical accusation made against Will must be the truth, which is precisely why Drew Theodore said what he did in Monday's debate.

There's just one small problem.

It's not true.

We've scoured this blog from top to bottom and there's absolutely nothing - zero, zip, zilch, nada - that we've written about either Theodore's family or his father.

Now FITS has suggested that Theodore himself bears an uncanny resemblance to actor Chris Sarandon (pictured above). And we've also had a lot of fun with his strange (and since-removed) posts from several automotive blogs. We may have even slipped up every once in awhile and called him a "liberal" or a "Democrat."

But attacking his family? Attacking his father? Please.

So once again, in the interests of fairness, we're asking Drew Theodore to prove the claim he made in Monday's debate. If he can't, he needs to admit that the statement was untrue and apologize.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Show us, Drew

In last night's Comptroller General debate, Democratic candidate Drew Theodore singled out our own Sic Willie (and the rest of the FITS girls, for that matter) for "attacking his family" and "attacking his father."

We're not exactly sure what Mr. Theodore is talking about.

Perhaps it was a deflection technique given that during last night's debate, voters learned for the first time that two of Mr. Theodore's businesses have been dissolved by the Secretary of State's office.

Mr. Theodore called the charge a "lie," but the Eckstrom campaign has the documentation to prove it.

In that spirit of fairness, we'd now like to give Mr. Theodore a chance to show us he's actually telling the truth for a change. Specifically, we'd like to know when and where we have written anything on this blog (or anywhere else, for that matter) specifically attacking his family.

Seriously, Drew, show us. You went on television last night and accused us of doing just that, so we naturally assume you've got some proof to back that claim up.

Hopefully, you weren't speaking to a statewide audience and making stuff up about us with no supporting documentation, because that would be the definition of a "reckless disregard for the truth" and our lawyers really don't appreciate that sort of thing.

There's no doubt that we've had some fun at "Drew T's" expense, but we've also had some fun at Gen. Eckstrom's expense too. In case you haven't noticed, we have fun at everybody's expense. That's the purpose of entertainment.

So show us, Drew.

And in the event you can't, how about doing us all a favor and putting a sock in it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Post Office Considering Boycott of John Rainey

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is considering a boycott of South Carolina "Blowhard-in-Chief" John Rainey, telling FITS this afternoon that the sheer volume of mail being produced by the "Seersucker Kingfish" is placing an unnecessary strain on the agency's ability to fulfill its mission to the taxpayers.

"You want to talk about people going postal?" said USPS spokesman Jonathan Eastwood. "We're getting to that point with Mr. Rainey."

The Postal Boycott could be a huge blow for Rainey, who is not proficient at using e-mail and has difficulty properly operating fax machines.

"It is the essence of generational chauvinism to accuse me in such a naked manner," Rainey reacted angrily when asked whether or not he knew how to operate electronic mail. "This is science class. I was here when electricity was invented, young lady."

Rainey, who has bombarded GOP Treasurer nominee Thomas Ravenel with letter after letter over the past few weeks, has faded into obscurity recently, prompting him to unleash additional anti-Ravenel rhetoric on unsuspecting individuals like the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the governor's press secretary, or the maid at his Colorado home.

"This seersucker is not pressed to my satisfaction!" Rainey was reported to have bellowed recently to his maid. "And did I mention that Thomas Ravenel is unfit for public office?"

With the media no longer publishing his rants, Rainey has become dependent on the Postal Service as the primary outlet for his increasingly impotent rage. A boycott could severely hamper his ability to communicate with the outside world, perhaps even forcing him to learn how to use a computer.

Rainey dismissed the likelihood of a boycott, and said there was "a perfectly logical explanation" for the criticism.

"The first Postmaster General was appointed on September 26, 1789," Rainey said. "Precisely one hundred and eighty five years later, Will Folks was born. This proves conclusively that South Carolina's investments are performing exactly as they should be under Treasurer Grady Patterson and that Thomas Ravenel, not I, is the one who is nuts."

Rainey added that he would sue anyone, anywhere who disagreed with his assessment, including the Post Office.

All About Cash

Tomorrow we'll have a much better picture of who will and who won't have the dollars to get their message out to voters this election cycle.

It's "Cash Day," and you'll be able to view reports from all the statewide campaigns right here on the State Election Commission's home page.

How much money will Tommy Moore have raised in his effort to unseat Gov. Mark Sanford?

That's the question on most people's minds.

Moore's name ID is currently hanging in the low to mid-50's, not a good spot for someone taking on a popular Republican incumbent who has been on the airwaves virtually uninterrupted since May.

It'll also be interesting to see how much the governor has spent out of his $4 million-plus warchest ...

Bottom line, if Sanford retains a cash-on-hand advantage after months of being on television, Moore's goose is probably pretty well cooked heading into the final four weeks of campaigning.

Stay tuned to FITS for more "Cash Day" analysis tomorrow ...

UPDATE - Wow.

We truly are morons sometimes. Turns out that October 23 is the date of the final pre-election disclosure, so looks like we got you all hopped up there for nothing. Sorry about that.

On the bright side, all you haters out there who love to call us 'idiots' on the comment pages can do so today without fear of contradiction.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Immigrant Song

We hold the implosion of the Ralph Norman for Congress campaign to be self-evident, but in all the breaking furor over a potential immigration scandal (and Norman's deer-in-headlights response), we found this quote from some D.C. insider in this morning's Charlotte Observer quite interesting:

"Employment is a paramount goal for a large share of illegal immigrants," said Steve Camarota, with the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based think-tank advocating controlled immigration. "So we have to make an effort to cut them off as much as possible from jobs."

Yup. Read it again and it'll hit you. It's like this guy is the Love Child of Captain Obvious and Frau Farbissinna, with a little Social Darwinism mixed in for good measure.

Now we don't know much about the Center for Immigration Studies. Ordinarily, we would go look their website up but that would mean missing out on Paris Hilton updates over at What Would Tyler Durden Do?

What we do know is that Norman has allowed Washington insiders to run his campaign into the ground.

First we had the Nancy Pelosi strategy, then the silly "Dear John" letters and now we have TV advertisements based on the supposed "hot button" issue of immigration, which it just so happens to turn out Mr. Norman has a bit of a problem with himself.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. And all so unnecessary given Norman's stellar credentials as a fiscal conservative.

In a supreme twist of irony, Norman's latest TV ad - which attacks Rep. John Spratt on immigration - started today, the same day the Observer story broke.

Sad. This guy could've been one of the best fiscal conservatives Washington D.C. ever saw - a Tom Coburn-size hero.

Now he's going the way of the Gullick.

You Down Wit AYP (Yeah You Know Me)?

It's called Adequate Yearly Progress, and not a single South Carolina public school district made it this year.

That's right, not one.

A central component of No Child Left Behind, AYP is supposed to tell us whether schools are meeting specific proficiency goals year-in, year-out.

This morning's Charleston Post and Courier has an interesting article by reporters Diette Courrege and Mindy Hagen explaining AYP and giving substantial ink to its detractors.

Critics say South Carolina's standards are much higher than the rest of the nation, thus making it more difficult for schools to achieve AYP.

"We continue to feed ignorant regional bias against our state and our public schools by participating in this farce," Berkeley County Assistant Superintendent for Learning Services Mike Turner told the Post and Courier.

"I don't think the measuring stick is measuring effectively," said Dorchester superintendant Joe Pye.

And from our State Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum in this morning's edition of The State: "No Child Left Behind says that every school in America must be perfect, and that's not going to happen."

To be fair, South Carolina's standards are among the toughest in the nation, but that's probably a good thing in a state with the worst graduation rates and SAT scores in the country. Tenenbaum has petitioned the federal government for a uniform measuring stick, but let's be honest - is setting up a system where more schools make a less-stringent AYP standard really a victory?

One of the quotes we found most interesting in this morning's coverage was from Colleton County superintendent Charles Gale, who said that No Child Left Behind was a "political move to make public schools look bad."

Actually, South Carolina's public schools already looked (and were) pretty bad prior to No Child Left Behind, and the progress we've made in the intervening years has failed to even remotely keep pace with the increased taxpayer investment.

There's a reason AYP gets tougher every year, it's because every year the world we live in gets that much more competitive.

So let's have the annual debate over standards. And let's watch as both sides spin the isssue as either another indictment of our public schools or an indictment of No Child Left Behind itself.

But as we argue over AYP, let's not lose sight of the fact that one out of every two South Carolina schoolkids isn't graduating.

We are leaving thousands of kids behind - and we're doing it every year.

Sure, we'll pour another couple hundred million dollars into our public schools again next year, just like we poured another couple hundred million in this year, and last year, and the year before that. Every year it's the same thing, and if you happen to oppose these massive funding increases or support any proposal that veers from the monopoly view, then expect Inez, The State newspaper, the SCEA, the S.C. School Boards Association, the S.C. Association of School Administrators and the rest of the educrat establishment to put out press releases saying you hate public schools.

Maybe one day we'll realize that if we want our kids' test scores to go up by any yardstick, we've got to accompany all that new money with real, market-based accountability.

And maybe one day we'll also realize that supporting that kind of thing doesn't mean you hate public schools, it just means you're ready to try something new to help them.

The old formula - by any standard - isn't doing the trick.

Mudslide

Never seen the movie "Mean Girls?"

Don't worry, just wait for the torrential downpour of negative TV ads about to flood the South Carolina airwaves.

It won't be all that much different.

"Everybody's stupid during election years," a West Wing character once remarked to a colleague.

"No, everybody gets treated like they're stupid during election years," the colleague fired back.

Exactly.

We are slowing descending into the greatest issue-less campaign in state history, and we're still a few weeks away from seeing the heavy artillery emerge. Forget the Peeler-Hodges "Neg-a-Palooza" of 2002, or the Inegative Tenenbaum U.S. Senate campaign of 2004.

2006 is shaping up to be the muddiest race South Carolina has seen in a long time, and it's the issues that are going to suffer the most.

Concerned with minority small business ownership? Let's argue instead about where the NAACP debate is going to be held.

Want to talk about our state's Triple-A credit rating, multi-billion unfunded liability or anemic investment returns? Bor-ing. Instead, let's falsely accuse Richard Eckstrom of remodeling his current office or worry about what future office T-Rav may run for.

Want to have a real debate over school choice and whether it would actually improve our public school graduation rate? Let's not, but claim that Karen Floyd was complicit in a vehicular homocide instead.

Looking for a merit-based discussion on immigration? Instead let's ... actually, come to think of it, Ralph Norman walked right into that one.

Now we're not without sin here at FITS ... far from it, in fact.

Part of politics is entertainment, though, and making people laugh is often the first step in making their hearts and minds more accessible to new ideas.

But the nation's worst graduation rate is no laughing matter. Nor is the Southeast's highest income tax, or second-highest unemployment rate, or the astronomical 22% spending increase we've seen over the last two years, or South Carolina's $24 bilion in unfunded liabilities, or the fact we rank in the bottom 1% nationally in getting a return on our state's investments.

It's not funny at all that our General Assembly would put a question on the ballot asking voters to outlaw something that's already illegal but then refuse to give citizens the power to restructure their government or decide how fast it should grow.

Yeah, that makes sense.

In the final analysis, we get the government we deserve. And we get the campaigns we deserve, too.

As for us, we'll take Lindsey Lohan, Rachel McAdams and the rest of the "Plastics" any day.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

All About Natalia

It's that time! It's getting a little cooler out there so you know what that means girls!?!?!?!?! ... ESPADRILLE SALES!!!

We like the Mia Gwen's (pictured) but oh my God you have got to check out the Natalia florals. Sadly our favorite Prada gold woven leather pair is sold out, but all Bo'em's are on sale (jade suede, sand suede, chocolate suede) if you are girls like us and are on a budget.

LET'S GO SHOPPING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sex, Lies and Text Messages, Etc.

One of FITS favorite bloggers, Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza, has an excellent post today on the Mark Foley sex scandal that's literally consumed American politics these days.

Rather than focusing on the sordid details surrounding Foley's sudden fall from grace, Cillizza's post looks at the political ramifications - specifically comparing the situation currently faced by House Speaker Dennis Hastert to the furor that surrounded former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott in 2002.

Those of us here in South Carolina need no refresher on Lott's remarks - they were made at a birthday party for one of our state's favorite sons, the late U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond.

Cillizza's blog raises a number of interesting parallels, though, so be sure to check it out if you're interested.

PATAKI, PATAKI

How do you say this guy's name anyway? Puh-TACK-ee? Pa-TOCK-ee?

Either way, it makes us want to order some lunch meat - which is a good thing.

As it turns out, the New York Governor is in the Palmetto State today, hanging out with former S.C. Gov. David Beasley and current GOP Treasurer nominee Thomas Ravenel, among other notables.

Unlike the overtly-fawning Mitt Romney and George Allen, Pataki seems to be flying mostly under the radar during his visits, focusing more on building relationships than nailing down the ever-mercurial early commitments.

Given that Allen's Presidential prospects are pretty much D.O.A. given his monkeying around in the Virginia Senate race, Pataki is one of several candidates who seem poised to fill the void.

AND FINALLY ... "JIM DEMINT"

We just wanted to say the name "Jim DeMint."

Mind you, we've got absolutely nothing to say about him today, good or bad, which makes today no different than most days here at FITS, or at any other news outlet in South Carolina, for that matter.

We just wanted to say his name, and now that we have, we feel a little more hopeful about the world for some reason.

Plus, it's just priceless to know that right now, somewhere in Washington, D.C. or Greenville, S.C. (or more likely, both), some bow-tie wearing poly-sci flunkie with a U.S. Senate pin on his lapel is running down the hallway to tell another bow-tie wearing poly-sci flunkie with a U.S. Senate pin on his lapel that we said "Jim DeMint."

Relax, guys.

You'll be snug under your blankets again soon, sipping from a glass of single malt Scotch watching The Rockford Files on DVD.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Theodore Takes "King of the Ladies" Title From Folks

Look how mad Sic Willie is.

Long regarded as the undisputed "King of the Ladies" in the South Carolina political sphere, our favorite bad boy has been asked to give up his crown for just the second time in five years owing to the sudden and unexpected emergence of Democratic Comptroller General Candidate Drew Theodore as a challenger.

"I mean, it's like this guy is Will Ferrell from Wedding Crashers or something," Folks said in relinquishing his title to Theodore. "The innovation is simply astounding. I mean seriously, who would have thought you could use an online automotive forum to scope out hot housewives looking to cheat on their husbands?"

Folks also cited Theodore's impressive garage of vehicles as another contributing factor.

"Chicks dig cars," he said. "I know my '97 Pimpfiniti is a decent ride, but I just can't compete with a guy who's got two Beamers and a Porsche."

And although he disagrees with Theodore's liberal status quo approach to state government, Folks said he found much wisdom in "Drew T's" assessment that automatic transmissions were better than manual ones because, in Theodore's words, "you have other things you want to do with your right hand."

"Oh yeah, baby," Folks said. "I know exactly what he's talking about there. I'm all about automatic transmissions when I'm cruising for Audi-driving housewives."

Folks surrended his title once before - to Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Mark Sweatman in 2004.

"Me and Sweat-dawg really need to go back to the drawing board," Folks said. "This Theodore guy is rewriting the rule book as we speak."

Folks said his first order of business in recapturing the "King of the Ladies" crown would be locating all of the "Drew-T" comments that mysteriously disappeared from Internet after WIS-TV reported on Theodore calling Columbia "the arm pit of the South" in one of his nearly 700 posts.

"Like the wisdom of Solomon, this visionary material must be tracked down and preserved for posterity," he said. "We single guys need all the help we can get."