By Paul Gable
Voters in House District 107 will again go to the polls today to determine who will be the new Republican nominee for the South Carolina House of Representatives seat from that district.
The special primary was made necessary when former representative Alan Clemmons resigned from his House seat five weeks after being nominated for his tenth term in office.
Clemmons had been looking for another government job for the past two years with no luck so he took the default position of raising campaign donations and running for nomination for his tenth term. It has been obvious that he would bolt from that seat when prospects of a much higher paying job was potentially in the offing. When he learned the Master in Equities judge position would be available next July, he resigned from the House to secure the one year lapse, required by state law, from service in the General Assembly to appointment to a judgeship.
There is one way Clemmons can prove me wrong with my above conclusion. I challenge Clemmons to come out publicly with a statement that his affidavit to the S. C. Election Commission was truthful about resigning his seat in the House and his nomination to another term for non-political reasons, as stated in the affidavit, and that under no circumstances will he seek nor accept the position of Horry County Master in Equity, which would be a political appointment.
As soon as he decided to resign, Clemmons, in his own words, called his opponent in the June regular primary, Case Brittain, to notify Brittain of his decision and start the process that would make Brittain the choice of the Myrtle Beach cabal in the special primary.
Brittain was reportedly advised by Clemmons and Mark Lazarus to hire the cabal’s go to political consultant Walter Whetsell and his Starboard Communications for the special primary.
The choice tomorrow is between the cabal’s candidate, Brittain, and former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride.
Clemmons did the bidding of the cabal, securing passage of the enabling legislation for the Tourism Development Fee in 2009 and amending the original legislation to eliminate the ten-year sunset provision so the fee could be continued ad infinitum.
Clemmons was also a major voice pushing I-73 at the state level but was wholly unsuccessful in obtaining any construction grants from the state for the road.
Before the end of his service as county council chairman, Lazarus successfully eliminated the sunset provision in the county hospitality fee legislation with a view to directing the approximately $40 million collected from that fee to construction of I-73 within Horry County.
The cabal has no qualms with expecting local tax dollars to be dedicated to projects and initiatives that will enhance the bottom line of its members. In the case of the TDF, the largest players in the cabal get a local option sales tax to pay for advertising thereby eliminating the need for them to expend corporate dollars to advertise for tourists. I-73 construction in Horry County is potentially worth millions in engineering contracts, construction contracts and right of way purchases for cabal players.
The cabal members lost their main player in the county when Lazarus lost the 2018 primary for nomination to another term as county chairman. They lost their main player in the General Assembly when Clemmons resigned. That is why it is so important to the cabal to win this primary.
McBride has been a thorn in the side of the cabal for a number of years. Its members banded together to defeat McBride in his attempt to gain a third term as mayor in 2005.
He has been a constant critic of the TDF and, in this election, McBride advocates amending the state enabling legislation to allow Myrtle Beach, the major area in District 107, to use a portion of the advertising dollars that currently go to the Chamber of Commerce to pay for additional public safety positions in the city. The city has experienced increasing crime for a number of years including major shootings on Ocean Boulevard, something that can’t help but have a negative effect on tourism.
The cabal, however, has no desire to dig into its own pockets to make up any difference in advertising expenditures this change would cause. Therefore it must defeat McBride and get its chosen candidate nominated in the special primary.
McBride is no fan of taxes. However, his campaign message has been why not use this pot of money to help the voters by solving an increasing crime problem in Myrtle Beach instead of continuing to be a form of corporate welfare benefiting some large corporations at the expense of average taxpayers.
An extremely suspicious, supposed independent third party group, Americans United for Values, has been listed as the entity that paid for three mail pieces designed to smear McBride.
Americans United for Values is not an organization registered to operate in South Carolina, according to filings with the S. C. Secretary of State. The address listed on the mailers for this entity is a vacant building in Surfside Beach.
In 2005, 2009 and other election cycles, several supposed third party groups paid for hit pieces on McBride when he was running for city office. However, those groups were registered properly and easily traceable to members of the Chamber of Commerce and other cabal players. This time there is no transparency.
Interestingly, the same attacks made against McBride in those campaigns are being used this time. Much of the negative information about McBride sent out in the last week is the same as has been used by third party groups since 2005.
The same bulk mail permit currently being used by the Brittain campaign is also being used by the supposed Americans United for Values.
If Americans United for Values was a real entity, it is possible that the campaign and this group independently decided to use the same mail house, hence the same permit number.
However, not only is there no registration and no actual local address for the third party group, an internet search turned up an old and apparently ignored internet website with its donation page deleted and a phone number listed on the website that goes to a Google Voice answering service.
Additionally, the few items on the website refer to national issues, nothing from South Carolina or the Myrtle Beach area.
If Americans United for Values ever was an independent, issue oriented 527 entity, it certainly gives the appearance of being extinct now.
Not only are use of false names and addresses on political mail pieces a violation of state ethics laws, coordination between the campaign and a third party group is strictly against the law, both state and federal. It would be illegal for Starboard Communications to have any knowledge of such coordination.
So how is a group that is apparently false and illegal, essentially non-existent, using the same issues to attack McBride that have been used since 2005? It certainly appears to be guided by the invisible hand of the cabal.
And, if the cabal is using such a bogus and illegal group in the campaign against McBride, should the voters pay any attention to the smear tactics or the candidate who stands to benefit from them?
The answer is up to the voters tomorrow. Will it be a decision to help themselves or continue benefiting the bottom line of a privileged few?