Tag: Heather Crawford

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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Politicians for Sale?

Attempting to keep political decisions free from outside influence has been a problem virtually since the beginning of the American Republic.
During a recent county council meeting, a woman told council members she was involved in a group that was studying campaign donors and votes on projects the donors were involved with in order to see if any council members were apparently giving preferential treatment to their donors.
But the question of influence is not restricted to campaign donations.
SC Code 8-13-700 states:
(A) No public official, public member, or public employee may knowingly use his official office, membership, or employment to obtain an economic interest for himself, a family member, an individual with whom he is associated, or a business with which he is associated.
(B) No public official, public member, or public employee may make, participate in making, or in any way attempt to use his office, membership, or employment to influence a governmental decision in which he, a family member, an individual with whom he is associated, or a business with which he is associated has an economic interest.
A politician who is a principal in a political consulting business that accepts consulting fees from a candidate then endorses or arranges endorsements from other politicians can appear to be using their official office to help the election of a candidate from whom they are accepting fees.
This is the case of Crescent Communications, in which Russell Fry, Heather Crawford and Cam Crawford all participate as campaign consultants. In both 2016 and 2018, Crescent Communications ran the campaigns of local politicians who were later endorsed by one or more of the Crescent Communications crew. Two attorneys I spoke with believe this violates SC Code section 8-13-700 stated above.
Now Fry is running for Congress. Instead of using his associates in Crescent Communications, he has hired Ivory Tusk Consulting, in which fellow SC House member R. J. May is associated. It will be interesting to see what endorsements, if any, Fry obtains in this race and from whom they come.
Influence can be more subtle than money.
As a member of the SC House, Alan Clemmons not only endorsed, but also heavily campaigned for the election of Stephen Goldfinch as senator, the election of Case Brittain as a representative and the reelection of Sen. Luke Rankin.
Clemmons hired Heather Crawford before she was elected to the SC House to do consulting and constituent services for him. Clemmons’ campaign account filings show he paid Crawford $150,000 over the course of five years for these services but failed to replace her when Crawford was elected to be a representative.

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Russell Fry – Political Strategist or Political Opportunist

The political metamorphosis of Russell Fry in the last several weeks has been eye opening as Fry has gone from silence for six months on incumbent Rep. Tom Rice’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump to now attempting to be the biggest Rice critic and Trump supporter in the race for the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District seat.
As Fry has attempted to build his Trump message, he has styled himself as a strong conservative, small government, individual liberty candidate. However, during his political career to this point, Fry has been known as one of the “Chamber crowd” of politicians pushing the Interstate 73 message on voters.
Fry was one of the co-sponsors of a bill introduced into the legislature in 2019, which would have forced Horry County Government to donate all revenue from a countywide hospitality fee to the construction of an interstate highway rather than allowing county government to return the revenue collected within city limits to the cities and to spend the revenue collected in the unincorporated areas on other infrastructure and public safety needs to support the locals and tourists who pay the fee.
Sponsoring such a bill is hardly the action of a small government conservative.
Fry apparently got his start in local politics while a student in 2008 working as a consultant and providing other unspecified campaign services to former state Rep. Thad Viers. He again was paid for unspecified campaign services to Viers during the 2010 election cycle. Viers resigned his statehouse seat in 2012 and ultimately spent 18 months in federal prison for a money laundering conviction.
Shortly after graduating from law school and passing the bar, Fry formed the political consulting firm Crescent Communications, in early 2013, just in time to run the campaign of Mark Lazarus to fill the unexpired term of Tom Rice who resigned as Horry County Council chairman to enter Congress.
Lazarus won the special election, reelection in 2014 to a full term, then, lost in 2018. Fry and the other two members of the Crescent Communications team, Heather and Cam Crawford, ran all three campaigns for Lazarus, according to state ethics records.
Heather Crawford was already in the SC House of Representatives having won a special election to fill the unexpired term of Viers in 2012 and reelection in the 2012 general election for House District 68. Cam Crawford would soon win a special election for Horry County Council District 6 to fill the unexpired term of Bob Grabowski.
In 2015, Fry made it a trifecta of elected positions for the Crescent Communications team by winning a special election to fill the unexpired term of Nelson Hardwick in House District 106. All three received liberal donations from Chamber members, Chamber associated PACs and other special interests whose prime goal is the construction of I-73.

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State Records Increase Suspicions About Clemmons Resignation and Judgeship Application

Earlier this week Grand Strand Daily published a story detailing questions about Alan Clemmons and his resignation from the SC House and subsequent application for Horry County Master in Equity appointment.
New information extracted from state government archives increase suspicions about the truth behind the Clemmons resignation subsequent application.
Clemmons won the Republican Primary for House District 107 on June 9, 2020 for nomination to what would have been his 10th consecutive term as a representative.
However, just one month later, at least as early as July 12, 2020, it became public knowledge that Clemmons was seriously considering resigning from his House seat immediately. Five days later, Clemmons notified House Speaker Jay Lucas of his resignation from office and sent an affidavit to the SC Election Commission, withdrawing from the nomination, stating he needed to spend more time with his family and his law firm had recently acquired new clients who would demand considerable time and work.
Clemmons had to swear to the Election Commission his resignation and withdrawal was for “non-political reasons” in order for the state Republican Party to schedule a special primary election to choose a new nominee.
According to the SC Senate Journal of March 5, 2015, Gov. Nikki Haley transmitted to the Senate the reappointment of Cynthia Ward Howe to a new six-year term as Horry County Master in Equity “with the term to commence July 31, 2015, and to expire July 31, 2021.”
On June 22, 2020, the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) issued a media release announcing the commission was accepting applications for the Judicial offices listed in the release. Included in that release was the following, “A vacancy will exist in the office currently held by the Honorable Cynthia Graham Howe, Master in Equity, Horry County. The successor will serve a new term of that office, which will expire December 31, 2027.”
(Master in Equity judges are appointed to six-year terms. There was no explanation why a five-month gap existed between the end of Howe’s term and the apparent beginning of a new six-year term on December 31, 2021 to end December 31, 2027.)
Four days later, on June 26, 2020, the JMSC issued a “Media Release Amended” in which the only change was removal of the advertisement for applications for the Horry County Master in Equity position. The chairman of the JMSC for 2020 was Horry County Sen. Luke Rankin.

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Questions for Clemmons Judicial Screening – The Public Has a Right to Know

If we have learned anything about the political arena since 2016, it is that American voters are sick and tired of the back room, secret deals that serve the self-interests of politicians, often at the expense of the public, and the accompanying political spin used to justify them.
Next month, Alan Clemmons will appear before the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) to begin the official process in his hope for appointment as the new Master in Equity Judge for Horry County.
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. The cost of the special primary election was approximately 40,000 taxpayer dollars.
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? According to state law, the burden of proof for justifying “non-political reasons” lies solely with the resigning candidate.
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.
If Clemmons is certified as being qualified for the Master in Equity job by the JMSC, the next step in the process is for the Horry County legislative delegation to vote to recommend a candidate for the job to Gov. Henry McMaster.
After a background check, the governor then decides whether or not to submit nomination of the candidate to the full General Assembly for approval. The entire judicial selection process has been criticized by various organizations in the state as giving an unfair advantage to former state legislators.
According to sources, each legislative delegation member has a weighted percentage vote based on voters in the county represented and time in office. A candidate needs to secure over 50% of those percentage votes to be recommended. The highest individual weighted percentage sits with Sen. Luke Rankin.

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Time for Horry County Republicans to Get Their Act Together Behind True Conservatives

Responses to several recent articles in Grand Strand Daily about candidates for the Republican nomination in next June’s SC 7th Congressional District primary highlight the cry among local Republicans for the type of candidate they are likely to support.
That type is a candidate who stands for low taxes, limited government, respect for personal liberties and no special favors for special interests.
Candidates are no longer going to be able to get away with claiming to be low tax, limited government conservatives, their actions and records are going to have to prove they are.
The cry does not apply just to 7th Congressional District candidates. It is going to be applied to General Assembly candidates and candidates for local council offices. Republicans today want real conservatives.
This does not bode well for Russell Fry’s candidacy for Congress nor for his political consulting business associate Heather Crawford being reelected.
Both voted for the massive gas tax increase in the General Assembly several years ago as well as the state’s establishment of data warehouses and both have strongly supported the Interstate 73 boondoggle.
The gas tax increase, which has built up considerable excess revenue for the state while state roads and bridges remain in disrepair and the I-73 project which would benefit special interest coffers do not fit into the categories of low tax or denying favors to special interests, the data warehouses may be the most egregious with their possible intrusions on public liberties.
Writing about the data warehouses on thenerve.org website several years ago, Ashley Landess, President of the S. C. Policy Council said in part:
“The Legislature has, in stages, created a sort of “information central,” passing laws that create two data warehouses to pull in information from agencies for health care and social services, education and workforce.
“The goals of this system are nebulous, the privacy protections flimsy, and the possibilities literally limitless as to what could be collected and how it could be used by government officials and politicians.
“It’s bad enough that so much sensitive data will be in one place. Our state has a poor track record of protecting personal information. But the greatest cause for alarm are the underlying motives for creating this system, and the broad range of government bureaucrats and politicians who would have access to your data.”

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Clemmons Application for Master in Equity – Déjà vu

(pictured above Alan Clemmons and Heather Crawford)

Recently local media and TheNerve.org ran stories that former state representative Alan Clemmons is seeking appointment to the Horry County Master in Equity judgeship.
The Nerve postured a question whether Clemmons’ resignation from his House seat one year ago and his application for the Master in Equity position was a coincidence. When contacted by The Nerve for comment, Clemmons is quoted in its story, “I really have no comments on my application for Master in Equity for Horry County.”
Clemmons resignation from the House came just after current Master in Equity Cynthia Graham Howe announced she would not seek another six-year term after finishing her current term in July 2021. State law requires a member of the General Assembly to be out of office for one year before they can be appointed as a judge or act as a lobbyist.
This seems to be a case of ‘déjà vu all over again’, as Yogi Berra would say.
One year ago, in a story about the special election to replace Clemmons on the November general election ballot, I wrote:
“Only two months ago, Alan Clemmons won the regular Republican primary for nomination to what would have been his tenth term as representative for District 107.
“Five weeks later, Clemmons resigned from the House and sent an affidavit to the SC Election Commission citing the necessity of concentrating on his family and law practice as reasons for removing himself as the Republican candidate.
“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”, a requirement for the party to conduct a special election to nominate a replacement candidate for the general election.
“Nowhere in Clemmons’ statement did it mention the widely circulated story that Clemmons expects to be selected as the Master in Equity judge for Horry County when the position becomes vacant next July. South Carolina law requires a member of the General Assembly to be out of office for a minimum of one year before they can become a judge or a lobbyist. The Master in Equity position currently pays approximately $180,000 per year. State funded pensions are based on a person’s highest three years of salary.

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Where are State Legislators in District 7 Congressional Race?

One of the most interesting aspects of the challengers to Tom Rice for next year’s Republican primary nomination for the S.C. 7th Congressional District is the lack of state legislators currently in the contest.
Statehouse legislative experience is often used as a stepping stone to the U. S. Congress. For example, John Jenrette, Mark Sanford, Lindsey Graham and Henry Brown all served in the S. C. General Assembly before winning a seat in Congress. Rice served two years as county council chairman before winning election to the newly created 7th Congressional District in 2012.
Rep. William Bailey formed a committee in January 2021 to explore whether he should challenge incumbent Tom Rice in next year’s primary. Last week, Bailey announced he would seek reelection to his S. C. House seat rather than run in the primary for the U. S. House of Representatives, preferring to concentrate on his efforts to improve and widen SC 9 all the way to Interstate 81 to provide access from three interstates to the Grand Strand.
According to several sources in Columbia, three other members of the local legislative delegation are considering entering the race. They are Rep. Russell Fry, Rep. Heather Crawford and Sen. Stephen Goldfinch.
Rice’s vote to impeach then President Donald Trump on January 13, 2021 has encouraged at least 10 challengers to his reelection at this writing. All 10, in one form or another, have criticized Rice’s vote to impeach Trump. To date, not Fry, nor Crawford nor Goldfinch has criticized Rice’s vote to impeach.
A campaign for federal office brings a level of scrutiny much deeper into a candidate’s background, voting record and associations than is normal for local elections. What baggage might be holding back any of these three from entering the primary against Rice?
All three aligned themselves in the past with what can be called the good ole boy Republicans who are now out of favor in Horry County.
The new leadership at the Horry County GOP is currently conducting a forensic audit into the past four years of that organization’s finances, the period before the new leadership took office. In addition, a recent media report disclosed the HCGOP is under scrutiny by the S. C. Ethics Commission for failure to file quarterly disclosure reports since 2017.
The new president of the HCGOP was quoted in the story as saying right now the HCGOP couldn’t file disclosure reports because of a lack of good financial data for that period.

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Rice, Fry and Crawford’s Interstate 73 on Life Support

Since the City of Myrtle Beach killed a funding source for Interstate 73 with the hospitality fee lawsuit against Horry County, the cabal that stands to benefit from construction of the road has been attempting to keep the project alive.
In the last two years of his tenure as county chairman, Mark Lazarus led council to remove the sunset provision in the county’s hospitality fee ordinance. Then, Lazarus convinced council to approve a financial participation agreement with the S. C. Department of Transportation to provide dedicated funding for the interstate project.
Lazarus’ entire scheme to provide county funding for construction of I-73 blew up with the hospitality fee lawsuit and recent settlement.
Congressman Tom Rice, and state Reps. Heather Crawford and Russell Fry and former Rep. Alan Clemmons didn’t even get as far as Lazarus in securing funding for construction of Interstate 73 despite constantly proclaiming the project a major priority.
The most successful representative in obtaining funds for I-73 was former SC 1st Congressional District Rep. Henry Brown in the days when Horry County was part of that district. During his 10 years in Washington, Brown managed to secure approximately $83 million total for the road. Brown served in Congress from Jan. 2001 to Jan. 2011.
According to sources familiar with the project, SCDOT is currently spending the last of the Brown secured funding to purchase rights of way in the Mullins area.
Rice has demonstrated no ability to secure federal funding to move the I-73 project forward. Neither have Fry, Crawford and previously Clemmons at the state level.
Grand Strand Daily has learned that a recent private meeting was held after Gov. Henry McMaster made an address to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. The meeting included McMaster, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune, North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley and Horry County Council member Dennis DiSabato. The meeting reportedly discussed providing some state funding, with local matching funds, to keep the project alive.
It is interesting that McMaster chose to meet with Bethune and Hatley, the two mayors who played the largest part in eliminating I-73 funding from hospitality fee revenue, as well as DiSabato who will struggle to get seven votes among council members for the proposal. One wonders, where was Horry County Council member Johnny Vaught when this meeting occurred. Vaught was attached at the hip to Lazarus with attempting to provide dedicated annual funding for I-73 from hospitality fee revenue.
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Old Guard Out at HCGOP

A new day dawned Saturday for the Horry County Republican Party when the ‘Old Guard’, ‘establishment’ or whatever you want to call it was swept out of power at the party’s biennial convention.
The three top offices in the HCGOP were won by relative newcomers to the local party – Roger Slagle-Chairman, Jeremy Halpin-Vice Chairman and Tracy Beanz Diaz-State Executive Committee member (pictured above).
The feeling that change was needed in the local party has been building for a while, but accelerated over the last month. Two years ago, there were approximately 206 voting delegates at the convention. This year that number increased to approximately 370.
The increased surge in participation can be at least partially linked to two events this week at which approximately 400 people attended each time. Both events were hosted by local Republican Patriot activist Chad Caton. Caton has battled with members of the ‘Old Guard’ for the past two years about how the local party was being run.
Wednesday night saw an event in Aynor to introduce Tracy Beanz Diaz to delegates and the general public. The highlight of the night for many of the attendees was a speech given by former President Donald Trump’s first National Security Adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, in support of his friend Diaz. Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones also spoke in support of Diaz’ candidacy and additionally worked hard at helping to organize the event.
Friday night saw an event in Myrtle Beach where Slagle, Halpin and Diaz all spoke to the crowd about their vision for a new Republican Party in Horry County. The main speaker, however, was Lin Wood, attorney for President Trump and a candidate for the South Carolina Republican Party Chairman post at next month’s state party convention. Wood also mingled with the crowd at the Aynor event talking and taking photos with the attendees.
Change is building in the state. Many people who have become active Republicans in the last five years are disgusted with the ‘good ole boy’ system that has run Republican Party politics in the state since the party became a majority among South Carolina voters.
State party Chairman Drew McKissick is running for reelection to his post. However, if Horry County and other recent county conventions are any indicator, Lin Wood could well oust McKissick from office.
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