By Paul Gable
It took a week before Alan Clemmons issued a public explanation of his nearly $150,000 total payments to Heather Ammons Crawford from his campaign account in the years 2008-2012 inclusive.
The Clemmons statement came in the form of a letter to the editor of FitsNews.com, a Columbia online political outlet.
The second paragraph in the letter is the key to Clemmons’ explanation of his hiring Crawford as a contract employee. It is quoted below in full:
“Prior to Heather’s election and having been seated in the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2013, Heather was a full-time contract employee in my local district office. She served in that role from 2008 through 2012. When hired, her salary was $2,000 per month and was later increased to $2,500 per month. Heather consulted and advised me regarding campaign and election matters, managed my district office, handled officeholder account bookkeeping and filed my public reports. The bulk of her full-time focus was, however, assisting me in serving the needs of my constituents. Heather kept regular hours in the district office, housed at no cost to the taxpayer or my supporters on the premises of my law firm.”
Clemmons went on to say he takes constituent service very seriously, hence the position for Crawford.
According to Clemmons’ campaign disclosure filings, he hired Crawford in April 2008 for the sum of $2,000 per month plus expenses. That amount was increased to $2,500 per month plus expenses beginning May 2009 and running at that rate through December 2012. All payments to Crawford were made from Clemmons’ campaign account.
As a state representative, Clemmons spends approximately three days per week, five months per year in Columbia for legislative sessions. He is paid $10,400 per year salary, $12,000 per year ($1,000 per month) for In District Expenses, subsistence for hotel and meals while attending legislative sessions, mileage to and from Columbia and some additional expense reimbursements as appropriate.
As a state representative from Horry County, he has access to the services of the two employees of the county legislative delegation office in Conway (paid for from county council general fund). These aides are employed to take phone calls, handle correspondence, and provide additional support, as needed, for the members of the Horry County Legislative Delegation.
In Columbia, Clemmons shares an office suite with two or three other representatives. Each office suite includes an aide who provides support services for the representatives of the office suite. During the time Clemmons was chairman of a sub-committee in the House, he had access to additional legislative assistant services.
According to his explanation, in addition to the two aides/clerks in the county legislative delegation office and at least one aide in Columbia available to him, Clemmons felt the need to hire his own year around personal assistant to help him with constituent service even though he only spends three days a week in Columbia for approximately five months of the year. None of the $1,000 per month for in-district expenses Clemmons receives from the state went to pay Crawford. The entire expense for her position came from his campaign account.
For the year 2009, the first full year Crawford worked for Clemmons, she was paid $28,000 plus expenses for her work assisting Clemmons, according to his campaign finance reports. For 2009, Clemmons was paid $22,400 ($10,400 salary plus $12,000 in-district expense) as a legislator, according to his Statement of Economic Interests. Clemmons received $5,600 less than his assistant for the year.
In the year 2011, a year Clemmons received additional pay as a sub-committee chairman, he received $35,106.44 personal income as a legislator from the state, (salary, in-district expense, subsistence and other expenses) while he paid Crawford $32,204.36 for salary and expenses as his personal assistant in addition to the at least three assistants available to him from county or state sources.
Between 2008-2012, Crawford earned between 91% and 125% of Clemmons earnings as a legislator just to help him. Why?
If Crawford’s position as Clemmons’ personal assistant for constituent service was so vital to Clemmons as a legislator, why didn’t he replace Crawford when she left at the end of December 2012 to enter the legislature as a House member?
Did the need for a personal assistant suddenly go away or is Clemmons just ignoring constituent service now? Clemmons hasn’t had a personal assistant since Crawford left.
From the research I have done, I couldn’t find any of the other 125 representatives in the South Carolina House of Representatives who has determined a need to hire a full-time, year around personal assistant paid from his or her campaign account. They seem to do just fine with the aides/assistants provided by the counties and the state.
As I said at the beginning, it took Clemmons a week to come up with his answer. To date, Crawford has said nothing at all. If she was so valuable and necessary, why hasn’t Crawford come forward to explain what a great and demanding job she performed?
Given all the facts he failed to include, Clemmons parsed the language in his explanation, probably as best he could, to make his version seem favorable to Crawford and himself. However, now it’s his story, holes and all, and he’s stuck with it.
And Clemmons still hasn’t explained the other $330,000 he spent from his campaign account between 2008 and 2018 while facing no opposition. Elected officials in the SC General Assembly should not get a free pass for any expenditure from their campaign accounts they care to make, including trips around the world for that great government boondoggle ‘economic development,’ with no explanation to the people who contribute to those accounts.
Link to Clemmons letter: https://www.fitsnews.com/2020/05/01/letter-alan-clemmons-responds-to-campaign-finance-critics/