Another Suspicious Poll from MBACC Alleges Support for I-73

By Paul Gable

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is up to its old tricks by again trying to convince local citizens that there is widespread support for the construction of Interstate 73.

Two days ago, the Chamber issued a press release and an eight-page document supposedly reporting the results of a poll conducted in July 2021 on I-73.

The document stated that 79 percent of 405 registered voters responding from across the state supported I-73. It also stated that 82 percent of an unspecified number of voters, included in the overall 405 number, from the 7th Congressional District supported I-73.

These reported results are in line with another supposed poll the Chamber said was conducted two years ago. The results from that poll supposedly said that of 1,774 respondents to a poll on I-73, 74.6 percent of the respondents favored the project.

Two years ago, I called B— S—- on the 2019 supposed poll and I submit the same sentiment applies to these most recent reported results.

The latest supposed poll results come at a time when the newest brainstorm, as reported in local media, to keep some life in the I-73 project is to have the local city and the county governments pledge by resolution a total of $250 million toward construction of I-73.

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune strongly supported local funding from the city, even though the city recently cancelled health insurance coverage promised to retired city workers and police manning is down while young women apparently can be snatched off the street in mid-afternoon only to have their body turn up in Florence several days later.

However, Horry County Council members are very reluctant to pass even a resolution supporting county funding of I-73, despite concerted effort by council member Dennis DiSabato. It took the county a year to reverse the debacle council had to extract itself from two years ago after a 2018 resolution pushed by then county chairman Mark Lazarus committed the county to providing $25 million per year to SCDOT for the I-73 project.

The idea is that state Rep. Case Brittain can take those pledges to Columbia to ask the state government to pledge $500 million toward the project. Then, with $750 million pledged, maybe Tom Rice can finally get enough out of the federal government to construct the road at least to connection to I-95 in Dillon, a total cost of approximately $1.5-2 billion.

How this is supposed to succeed is anyone’s guess as the best Gov. Henry McMaster could do last spring was get SCDOT to commit $500,000 per year for three years to the I-73 project IF the local governments provided a total match of $500,000 per year.

The reasons to question whether a poll was even conducted are many.

The supposed report of the results basically consists of minimal explanation of the methodology combined with a couple of pie graphs and one line graph. Nowhere are the actual questions used and their respective results reported.

The results fly directly in the face of what 7th Congressional District candidate Ken Richardson has experienced while speaking at events on the campaign trail. Richardson recently said he asks for a show of hands of those who support I-73 at every event he speaks at in the 7th District. Richardson has asked that question at over 50 events to date and only one hand in one event was raised in support of I-73.

Probably the biggest reason to question the poll, however, lies in the interlocking interests associated with the poll.

According to the report, the poll was conducted by Starboard Communications, a Lexington, SC political consulting business owned by Walter Whetsell. Whetsell acts as the political consultant to Tom Rice, Brenda Bethune and Case Brittain.

In addition, Whetsell has been the ‘go to guy’ for the Chamber for a number of years. According to Chamber records, Starboard received nearly $25,000 from Chamber TDF revenue in 2011 to allegedly place out of area marketing ads for the Chamber. In 2015, Starboard was paid by the supposedly independent third-party PAC Citizens for Conservative Values to produce mailers supporting the incumbents in that year’s Myrtle Beach city elections. According to donation reports from and the IRS 990 filings, Citizens for Conservative Values is almost entirely funded by the Grand Strand Business Alliance which is almost wholly funded by the Chamber.

The most recent poll is displayed on the website of the National I-73/74/75 Corridor Association, an impressive sounding organization at first glance.

However, digging down into records of the association, one finds that it really is an extension of the MBACC attempts to make the I-73 project relevant. The three board members for South Carolina listed on the association website are Case Brittain, Mike Wooten one of the main local business supporters of I-73 and Rodney Berry, the District Director for Congressman Rice.

The officers of the Board of Directors with Chamber connections are Jimmy Gray, President and Executive Director of the association and Director of Governmental Affairs for the MBACC, Board Chairman Rep. Case Brittain and Board Secretary-Treasurer Mike Wooten.

I submit the press release of the alleged poll results from the Chamber on September 22, 2021 is nothing more than an attempt to keep the I-73 project and its current three-year funding commitment of $500,000 per year from the state on life support while the Chamber and its cronies work behind the scenes to attempt to pressure local governments to pony up the $250 million local commitment.

I further submit that, regardless of any statements from the Chamber to the contrary, the only real supporters of I-73 are those individuals and businesses who expect to benefit financially if the project ever gets any real funding

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