By Paul Gable
Fundraising efforts for Mayor John Rhodes 2013 re-election campaign have begun among members of the Myrtle Beach Mafia.
According to sources familiar with the effort, money raising calls as well as the establishment of a fundraising network of phone chains began Friday.
Rhodes as well as incumbent city council members Wayne Gray, Randal Wallace and Mike Lowder will be on the 2013 election ballot. Keith Van Winkle has announced he will challenge for a seat on city council and we are hearing former council member Chuck Martino is strongly considering another run.
Martino was the only incumbent member of council defeated in the 2009 city elections with Lowder being elected in his stead.
This is the first election cycle for this group of incumbents since the notorious 2009 Chambergate election where a group of LLC’s (with no office locations, employees or apparent income) were used to funnel campaign contributions (through a series of consecutively numbered cashier’s checks) to incumbent council members, members of the county legislative delegation and at least two gubernatorial candidates.
The contributions were alleged to be payback for the state enabling legislation and local city ordinance that established the one cent sales tax for tourism marketing passed in Myrtle Beach. The tax has generated a windfall of slightly more than $20 million per year, on average over the past four years, for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to spend on out of area advertising.
The windfall not only benefited the Chamber, but also the businesses, especially the large hotel operators, who reduced their marketing budgets by approximately 90 percent over the same time period.
As for the Chambergate investigation, we are hearing some stirring.
Several attorneys familiar with federal public corruption/public integrity cases said four and one-half to five years is the normal investigation/fact gathering time frame for these types of investigations.
Sources with knowledge of the Chambergate investigation said recently that something is coming soon.
We don’t have any idea what that something is or what, in this case, the definition of soon is.
Did someone flip? If so, it could be interesting.