Tag: Case Brittain

Rice Fishes for Voters While Fry Fishes for Money

It’s been one year since Congressman Tom Rice’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.
That fateful January 13, 2021 vote marked the beginning of Rice’s rapid fall from grace with the Republican voters of the SC 7th Congressional District, who constitute a considerable majority of the total voters in the district.
The SC 7th Congressional District is one of the most pro-Trump Congressional districts in the nation. From a political standpoint, Rice could have done nothing worse than his betrayal of the president to the constituents he represents.
Shortly after Rice’s fatal vote, Rice’s political consultant, Walter Whetsell, the go to guy for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, told news media that a week is like a lifetime in politics and the voters would forget about the impeachment vote in a couple of weeks.
Whetsell’s statement only goes to prove how out of touch Whetsell is with the realities of current day Republicanism in the 7th Congressional District.
Rice has chosen to run for reelection telling media representatives that the Republican Party must move on from Trump and that he (Rice) will run on his record of accomplishment for the nearly 10 years he has represented the 7th Congressional District.
But, Rice has no record of accomplishment in Washington. He went to Washington with two big goals – secure funding for Interstate 73 and bring “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” to the district. Despite working with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives for his first six years there, Rice was unable to secure any significant funding for I-73.
While Rice likes to point to the Dillon inland port as an example of his ability to create jobs, that project actually owes its existence considerably more to former state Sen. Hugh Leatherman than anything Rice produced.
I-73 will probably be at the core of Rice’s reelection effort. It was the Chamber and the cabal of would be ‘movers and shakers’ associated with it that first got Rice elected to Congress and has been as the center of his reelection efforts since. The thought was that Rice and lobbying efforts in Washington would secure funding for the road’s construction.
Whetsell is firmly attached to the I-73 project as the “poll(?)” he conducted last year on the project for the Chamber demonstrates. And Whetsell represents Chamber candidates such as Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune, state Reps. Case Brittain and Tim McGinnis and will represent Mark Lazarus’ attempt to win back the county chairman position he lost in 2018, all with the idea that local tax dollars must be dedicated to I-73.

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Gov. McMaster Tries to Keep I-73 Project Alive

Gov. Henry McMaster requested the General Assembly appropriate $300 million, from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds the state received from the federal government, to construction of Interstate 73 as one of the items in the executive budget he submitted to the legislative body earlier this week.
McMaster made good on the promise he made to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce at an October 2021 press conference when he said he would request the I-73 funding from the General Assembly.
Traditionally, executive budgets submitted by governors of this state have received minimal consideration before being shelved and ignored when the SC House writes the budget. There is no reason to believe the same won’t happen with the governor’s request for I-73 funding.
McMaster presented a funding plan for the I-73 project which consisted of $800 million from the state, including the $300 million which is actually federal funds given to the state, an additional $450 million from the federal government and $350 million from the local governments in Horry County.
However, Chamber President Karen Riordan attempted to spin the governor’s remarks at the October press conference as a pledge that the I-73 project would receive $300 million from the state. She was joined in that spin effort by Rep. Case Brittain, who in his first year in the SC House was made president of the I-73/74/75 Corridor Association, which is a high-sounding name for a Chamber created entity.
In addition, Congressman Tom Rice and SC Rep. Russell Fry were prominent at the press conference and enthusiastic in their statements on I-73 funding. Fry, of course, announced in August that he was challenging Rice for the Congressional seat because Rice has been a failure to his constituents in the 7th Congressional District. GSD has said over and over that Fry is really a clone of Rice who hopes to gain Chamber support for his Congressional run should Rice continue to falter with voters.
Actually, the press conference and statements by the various elected officials was nothing more than an attempt to keep the I-73 project on some kind of life support.
What has happened since that October press conference?

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North Myrtle Beach Council Members Vote for I-73 Funding – Or Did They?

North Myrtle Beach City Council voted at last night’s meeting to provide $1.7 million annually to construction of Interstate 73 contingent on so many variables it really isn’t a provision at all.
Among the contingencies required for North Myrtle Beach to provide any money to I-73 is a requirement for the other cities and counties that would supposedly benefit from construction of the highway to also contribute money for construction of the road.
In addition, North Myrtle Beach restricted use of any money it may provide to actual construction costs. Specifically prohibited from use of any money provided by North Myrtle Beach are right of way acquisition, engineering and legal services, construction documents, environmental studies and reports of any kind. Funds from North Myrtle Beach may not be used on SC 22 or any other roadway and actual construction must begin before December 31, 2024.
Despite the headlines of local television stations last night, the North Myrtle Beach resolution contains so many restrictions and prior requirements from other local governmental agencies in three counties as to make it virtually meaningless.
The North Myrtle Beach resolution varies widely from a proposal by Gov. Henry McMaster during a press conference at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce in October 2021.
According to the governor’s proposed $1.6 billion funding plan, the state will be asked to provide $795 million for the I-73 project all of which will be spent in Dillon and Marion counties. The federal government will be asked to provide $450 million, most of which will be spent in Marion and Dillon counties. Local governments in Horry County were asked to provide $350 million for construction of the road in Horry County. None of the cities in Dillon and Marion counties nor the county governments themselves were asked to provide any money toward construction of I-73.
The governor’s plan only included funding for construction of what is really an interstate spur road from I-95 south of Dillon to the eastern terminus of the road at the end of the current SC 22 in the Briarcliffe area.

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How Thoroughly Will JMSC Screen Alan Clemmons for Master in Equity Position?

Former state Rep. Alan Clemmons will be screened by the Judicial Merit Selection Commission tomorrow to determine whether he merits recommendation from the commission for the Horry County Master in Equity judicial position.
The questions asked of Clemmons will be a litmus test of how serious the JMSC, composed of six state senators and six state representatives, is of recommending qualified candidates to become judges.
There are certainly questions surrounding the Clemmons’ candidacy that should be answered to the satisfaction of both commission members and the general public.
Last year, five weeks after winning the Republican Primary for nomination on the general election ballot for what would have been his tenth term as the representative for House District 107, Clemmons resigned his seat as a representative.
By waiting to resign until after winning the primary, Clemmons was required to submit a sworn affidavit to the S. C. Election Commission explaining he was resigning for “non-political reasons” in order for a new Republican candidate to be determined by a special primary election.
It is important to note here that Clemmons affirmed to the election commission, under penalty of perjury, that his dropping out as the nominated candidate was for “non-political reasons”.
Clemmons’ affidavit cited spending more time with his family and new clients for his law firm who would “require a large investment of my time and focus.”
But, was there another reason?
Horry County Master in Equity Cynthia Graham Howe announced around the time of the June 2020 primary that she would retire in July 2021 at the end of her current term in office. State law requires state lawmakers to be out of office for at least one year before they are eligible to be appointed to a judgeship.
According to state law, the burden of proof for justifying “non-political reasons” lies solely with the resigning candidate.

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Graham Allen Campaign Filings Raise Eyebrows but not Profile

Quarterly reports on contributions and expenditures by political campaigns are often seen as guidelines of the viability of a candidate.
Often, too much emphasis is placed on the contribution side of the ledger. Actually, it is the value realized from the expenditure side in raising the profile and message of a candidate that provides a more accurate picture of viability.
For that reason, the recent filing by Graham Allen, the non-resident candidate for the 7th Congressional District Republican nomination, raises some questions.
According to the Allen campaign’s most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission, a total of $646,000 (in round numbers) has been raised in contributions over the last two calendar quarters. Added to this amount is a $92,000 loan which brings total receipts for the campaign to date of $738,000, a seemingly good amount for a first-time candidate.
However, according to the filing, the Allen campaign has spent a total of $435,000 over those same two periods with no appreciable increase in Allen’s name recognition or message among 7th District voters. No tv or radio ads, no mailers, no billboards, nothing!
Having never lived in the 7th District and only a recent resident of South Carolina in the Greenville area, Allen was always going to have a difficult time getting voters to know who he is, much less what he stands for. After the reported expenditure of $435,000 this hasn’t changed.
When Allen first announced his candidacy for the 7th District Congressional seat currently held by Tom Rice, my first thought was Allen doesn’t know anybody in the 7th District and nobody knows him.
It now appears that thought was probably mistaken. It appears possible that Allen has had some type of contact with Alan Clemmons, Horry County’s own master of spending campaign funds while not advancing a campaign.
According to Clemmons’ campaign filings with the S. C. Ethics Commission, he spent approximately $480,000 from his campaign funds during the six election cycles from 2008-2018 inclusive but never had an opponent in either the primary or general elections in those years. Included in the $480,000 of expenditures were payments totaling approximately $150,000 to Heather Ammons Crawford noted as “campaign services” or “contract services” before she was elected to the House.

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Horry County Council Rejects I-73 Funding

By a 6-5 vote, Horry County Council, at its regular meeting Tuesday night, rejected a proposal to dedicate $4.2 million per year for 30 years from hospitality fee revenue to the construction of Interstate 73.
The margin was one vote, but it wasn’t that close. It was a clear demonstration that six members of council are solid in their determination to vote in the interests of the citizens not special interests.
The vote was a clear defeat for council members Johnny Vaught and Dennis DiSabato, the two on council who drank the Chamber Kool-Aid and spearheaded the effort to dedicate funding to I-73. It wasn’t their idea, but Vaught and DiSabato agreed to ‘carry the water’ for the Chamber and its cronies in this latest effort to obtain local funding for the road. They spilled most of that water.
The question now is, have Vaught and DiSabato destroyed any hope for the Chamber to secure local funding for its pet project?
The effort to secure funding for I-73 from countywide hospitality fees has been four and one-half years in the making. It began in Spring 2017 when former council chairman Mark Lazarus convinced county council to remove the sunset provision from the county ordinance establishing hospitality fee collection.
Lazarus next tried to convince council to dedicate the entire approximately $45 million annual revenue from countywide hospitality fees to fund construction of I-73. However, the people were beginning to be heard as their rejection of Lazarus for reelection in 2018 demonstrated, and Lazarus, in his final days in office, was only able to push through authorization for the county to enter into a funding agreement with the South Carolina Department of Transportation for up to $25 million per year from hospitality fees for I-73 construction.
That funding agreement was immediately challenged by a lawsuit brought by the cities against the county and the agreement was cancelled by county council in late 2019 with no money having ever been sent to SCDOT.
The settlement of that lawsuit included vague language that the county and the cities would work together to try and find alternative means of providing local funding for I-73.
After a break due to the uncertainties of the effects of Covid on local governments, a small group reportedly consisting of Chamber officials, state Rep. Case Brittain, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune, North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley and DiSabato began meeting last summer to concoct a new local funding plan for I-73.
The spin at the time was dedicated funding from local governments could be taken to the S. C. General Assembly to lobby for state funds to be appropriated to I-73 construction and that resulting package could be taken to Washington to lobby for federal funds.
That entire concept seems to be upside down logic. Why should local governments be the first to dedicate funding for an interstate highway in an attempt to convince the state and feds they should contribute?

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Local Politicians Risk Lives in Supporting I-73 Over Public Safety

According to recent statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Myrtle Beach is the third most dangerous city of over 10,000 residents in the country.
According to those statistics, Myrtle Beach has nearly double the murders per 1,000 population as the national average. Among other violent crimes, Myrtle Beach has nearly four times the number of rapes, three and one-half times the number of robberies and three times the number of assaults as the national average.
Last month, the website for Coastal Law, of which Russell Fry is one of the two practicing attorneys, posted a story about these Myrtle Beach statistics. The entire story can be viewed at this link: https://coastal-law.com/myrtle-beach-crime-rates-are-we-the-3rd-most-dangerous-city-in-america/
With the crime rate so high in the city in which he practices law and wants to represent in Congress, why is Fry so effusive in his support of the plan for funding Interstate 73 by using locally collected hospitality fee revenue from Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Horry County? This public revenue could be put to better use funding additional public safety personnel and equipment as well as other, more critical, local infrastructure needs.
One could conclude that Fry is more interested in supporting the interests of those who fund his campaigns than he is in improving the welfare of those he currently represents and those he hopes to represent in Congress.
A true, conservative politician would prioritize the spending of local public dollars solving the issues that currently reduce the quality of life of his or her constituents, such as crime and poor infrastructure, rather than spending those limited public dollars on a new boondoggle project.
If Fry believes only new projects give life to his campaign, why isn’t he promoting construction of the SELL road, which would give a new access road to his current southeastern Horry County constituents in House District 106, rather than I-73?
Fry is not alone, among local politicians, in ignoring the need to fight crime in Myrtle Beach and improve current infrastructure in favor of spending locally generated tax dollars on the I-73 boondoggle.
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune has done nothing to reduce crime rates in Myrtle Beach during her current nearly four-year term in office. Bethune was joined at the governor’s press conference by city council members Jackie Hatley, Gregg Smith and John Krajc. Bethune, Hatley and Smith are on the ballot for reelection next month.

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Horry County Taxpayers Betrayed in Governor’s I-73 Plan

Gov. Henry McMaster travelled from Columbia to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce headquarters Monday to unveil his “Potential Funding Plan” for Interstate 73 from its eastern terminus at U. S. 17 in Briarcliffe to connection with I-95 near Dillon.
It was a duplicitous move by the governor when one considers that all of the $795 million from state funds recommended by McMaster will be spent entirely in Dillon and Marion counties. McMaster’s funding plan for completion of the Horry County section of I-73 is placed on the backs of Horry County taxpayers with possibly $150 million of federal funds being thrown in.
Even by standards of a South Carolina state government that continuously uses Horry as a donor county to the rest of the state, the plan is outrageous. It is outright Marxist philosophy that our “so-called conservative Republican” elected officials claim to fight against.
In 1875, Karl Marx wrote the economic and political philosophy of his “communism” was “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” In other words, transfer the wealth from the rich to the poor. That is exactly what is being done with Horry County tax dollars so Dillon and Marion taxpayers don’t have to contribute any locally collected tax dollars.
In addition, that $350 million of local contribution from the county and the cities would be better spent on existing infrastructure needs such as Hwy 90, Hwy 905, the SELL road and the proposed road around Conway to 701 for the county, infrastructure and police needs in Myrtle Beach and parking and other infrastructure needs in North Myrtle Beach.
Furthermore, the elected officials representing Horry County voters who showed up to praise the plan, Congressman Tom Rice, state legislators Sen. Luke Rankin, Sen. Greg Hembree, Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, Rep. Russell Fry, Rep. Case Brittain, and Rep. Heather Crawford, county council members Dennis DiSabato, Orton Bellamy, Johnny Vaught, Bill Howard, Tyler Servant and Gary Loftus, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and city council members Jackie Hatley, Gregg Smith and John Krajc and North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley, have a lot of splainin’ to do for supporting the plan.
Rice, Brittain, Crawford, Bellamy, Vaught, Howard and Servant are all up for reelection in 2022. Bethune, Jackie Hatley, Smith and Marilyn Hatley are up for reelection in the upcoming November 2021 city elections. Fry is giving up his statehouse seat to challenge Rice for Congress. Will the voters reject these liberal Marxist spendthrifts?
The entire funding plan projects $795 million from the state, $430 million from the feds and $350 million combined from Horry County, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. None of that money is approved to be spent on I-73 at this time. Dillon and Marion counties are not projected to appropriate any money.
If Horry County and the cities send $350 million of hospitality fee revenue to the state to spend on I-73 rather than local roads, the net loss to county taxpayers will be $700 million – the $350 million sent to the state and that same $350 million that could, but will not, be spent to improve existing roads.

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Reasons Behind Russell Fry’s Deafening Silence on I-73 Funding Controversy

(The above picture shows voter response to a request to raise their hands to show support for I-73)

State Rep. Russell Fry, an announced candidate in the upcoming SC 7th Congressional District Republican primary, has been deafeningly silent during the last week’s controversy over funding for the Interstate 73 project.
When Fry announced his candidacy, he said, like incumbent Congressman Tom Rice, he strongly supported the construction of I-73.
During the last week, we have seen an eruption of controversy surrounding a promised visit tomorrow by Governor Henry McMaster to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce headquarters to make an important announcement on I-73.
First, it was reported by local media that McMaster would announce he was giving $300 million to the I-73 project. Local politicians who want Chamber associated funding for their campaigns such as, county council members Johnny Vaught and Dennis DiSabato, state Rep. Case Brittain, state Sen. Stephen Goldfinch and Rice himself, quickly committed to attending McMaster’s Chamber announcement. All praised McMaster for committing money to I-73. Fry was conspicuous by his silence.
Vaught and DiSabato went one step further. After a DiSabato authored resolution for the county to dedicate $4.2 million per year for 30 years to I-73 was deferred until October 26th by the county’s Administration Committee, which is chaired by Vaught, a special meeting of the committee was called by Vaught for this coming Tuesday to again attempt to pass the resolution. The excuse given for the special called meeting was with the governor bringing $300 million for I-73, it was time for the county to step up with local funding for the road.
However, the two most important people for state appropriations and local appropriations for I-73, Speaker of the House Jay Lucas and County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner, will not be at the Chamber/McMaster event, according to sources I have spoken to.
There are additional problems with the above narrative. The governor cannot commit any funding for I-73. The best he can do is request the SC General Assembly to do so. The county committee can only recommend the entire county council vote to approve funding for I-73.
The $300 million announced is $200 million short of the $500 million a group, reportedly consisting of Brittain, the Chamber, DiSabato and city mayors Brenda Bethune and Marilyn Hatley, said they would seek from the state two weeks ago. The group also requested local governments, primarily the county council along with Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach city councils, to commit a total of $250 million in locally collected tax and fee revenue to I-73. That number is now being reported in media as closer to $180 million.

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Chamber and Governor Mull Press Conference to Announce I-73 Funding with No Funding Approved

The latest effort by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to make construction of Interstate 73 a viable project in the minds of the voters of Horry County took several bizarre twists yesterday.
A brief recap:
In recent weeks, the Chamber has promoted the idea that a mysterious poll of voters in South Carolina (405 in all) showed 82% of those responding favored construction of I-73. The actual questions and responses have never been revealed, just questionable results.
The poll announcement was followed by news that Chamber President and CEO Karen Riordan, state Rep. Case Brittain, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and Horry County Council member Dennis DiSabato were working on a $750 million funding package for the I-73 project that included $250 in funding from local governments and $500 million from the state. It was announced that the governments of Horry County, the City of Myrtle Beach and the City of North Myrtle Beach would approve their respective portions of the $250 million funding package by the end of this month.
Monday it was announced that the Horry County Administration Committee would vote the next day on a resolution to dedicate $4.2 million per year, for up to 30 years, to the I-73 project from county hospitality fee revenue. That vote, however, was postponed until at least October 26 after a short executive session by committee members on Tuesday.
Tuesday evening Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner was informed that Gov. Henry McMaster would hold a press conference Monday October 4, 2021, at the Myrtle Beach Chamber offices to announce the state was committing $300 million to I-73 construction. (There was no explanation of why alleged state funding was reduced from the $500 million announced by Brittain to the $300 million over a two-week span.)
Now the bizarre:
According to a number of sources familiar with events, word began to spread from Riordan to local politicians yesterday that the governor would be coming to Myrtle Beach on Monday to make an announcement about I-73 funding.
Unless the state government receives specifically earmarked funds for I-73 from the federal government, the governor cannot order any state agency to spend money on the project. Appropriations must receive voting approval from the General Assembly.
State legislators, from around the state, contacted by Grand Strand Daily, said the news that Gov. McMaster was going to announce funding from the state for I-73 was a surprise since the General Assembly had not approved nor even considered any such appropriation.

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