By Paul Gable
Tim McGinnis scored a big victory in the special election for House District 56 yesterday with major help from a third party PAC called Citizens for Conservative Values (CCV), which played a major role in the 2015 Myrtle Beach city elections.
The PAC, with common ties to the group that has become the major force in Horry County politics in the last decade through pooling of funds to support preferred candidates, gained another notch in its belt with the McGinnis victory.
One thing I predict from this victory is the crime and infrastructure needs of Carolina Forest will continue to be ignored while the push to help fund I-73 will grow.
Contrary to the propaganda about I-73 that is heard around the county, it is no magic solution to attracting good jobs, bringing in more tourists or helping the local economy overall. It is merely a major boondoggle for the special interests pushing it.
While McGinnis attempted to disclaim all knowledge of this group paying for his television ads, radio ads, most of his direct mail and possibly some of his signs, he has CCV to thank for his victory today. And, I don’t think that support will come without a price.
When I asked McGinnis about CCV and the ads, he claimed to have no knowledge of CCV or the ads and said he hadn’t even seen them. He repeatedly made the same claim to various media and other groups when asked about the ads. As Shakespeare would put it, “Methinks he doth protest too much.”
As Grand Strand Daily has stated in previous articles, the Grand Strand Business Alliance (GSBA) is by far the largest donor to CCV. Steve Chapman is listed as the president and registered agent in South Carolina for both entities and is listed as a member of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (MBACC) Legislative Policy Council on the chamber website.
The MBACC states on its website that it has an organizational relationship with and a portion of its dues goes to GSBA and that MBACC makes political contributions to four PACs affiliated with GSBA.
Brad Dean, President of the MBACC, acknowledged the PAC donations in an email to GSD but said the PACs make the decision on which candidates they support. Dean said the MBACC supports issues, not candidates.
Dean, Chapman and approximately eight other persons met with McGinnis and Scott individually earlier in the campaign. However, Scott met with the group on September 28, 2017, three days after records show the ad buys were already made for the McGinnis campaign. One wonders why the meeting with Scott was held.
It took about one-half hour of research and a couple of emails and phone calls to gather all of this information. Yet, McGinnis, who spent eight years as a news anchor and host of a Sunday political talk show for WPDE television, claims not to know any of this.
Another interesting tie to the McGinnis campaign is Lexington, SC political consultant Walter Whetsell. McGinnis told GSD in a phone conversation that Whetsell contacted him early in the campaign to ask if McGinnis had a political consultant for his campaign.
According to McGinnis, Whetsell designed the McGinnis signs and their respective logos. McGinnis said his campaign paid for both sets of signs.
One mail piece has the logo from the second set of McGinnis signs, which is exactly the same logo that appears on the McGinnis television ads. Both the ads and mail piece were paid for by CCV, but McGinnis said he didn’t know anything about how the logo from the signs paid for by his campaign was used by CCV.
The other mail piece has the logo from the first set of McGinnis signs, but is not identified as to who paid for it, in direct violation of state campaign laws.
However, both mail pieces appear to have been designed by the same person. The layout and font appear to be the same as does the overall appearance of the two pieces. In addition, the same postal permit number is used on both pieces, which means the same business mailed the two pieces.
Coordination between a 527 PAC, as CCV is, and a candidate is strictly forbidden by campaign laws. However, that appears to be what has happened with the McGinnis campaign and CCV.
According to public records, Whetsell did work for the MBACC in 2011, bought ads for CCV in 2015 that were used in the Myrtle Beach city election of that year to say the city was moving in the right direction (a rather obvious message to re-elect the incumbents) and was the campaign consultant for the Tom Rice campaigns for the U.S. Congress.
One more tie between the MBACC, CCV and the McGinnis campaign is Miller Direct Media, which placed the television and radio ads for CCV. Dean said in an email that Miller Direct has a long term relationship with the chamber (since approximately 1999) and places both in area and out of area ads for MBACC.
Considering all of these interlocking relationships, it can only be concluded that the big money, heavy hitters in Myrtle Beach and Horry County lined up behind McGinnis early on in the campaign and had a major stake in his election whether he knows and is willing to admit it or not.