Tag: Russell Fry

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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Richardson Listens to Voters on I-73 Issue

As a new push begins for local funding of the Interstate 73 project, Horry County School Board Chairman and 7th Congressional District candidate Ken Richardson has taken a novel approach on the I-73 issue.
Over the past several days, local media has highlighted I-73 propaganda statements by local politicians who, along with the special interests who fund their campaigns, search for $250 million in local government revenue to pledge to the I-73 project.
Interstate 73 has always had a top-down sales approach to voters. Special interests and their PACs, who believe they will gain financially in some way from the construction of I-73, fund the campaign chests of local politicians who then become spokespersons trying to convince voters that I-73 is actually for their (the voters) benefit.
Richardson has taken a different approach. As he travels around Horry County and the other seven counties that make up the 7th Congressional District, Richardson asks voters whether they support the construction of I-73.
“I have given over 50 speeches to groups as small as 6 to as large as 120 since I announced my challenge to Tom Rice for the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District,” Richardson said. “During every speech, I ask for a show of hands from those in attendance who support I-73. So far, in all those events, only one hand has been raised.”
Richardson spoke of one woman at an event in Florence. “She said to me, ‘we always hear how interstates will bring new jobs. Well, we already have two interstates in Florence and we haven’t seen 300 new jobs in the last 10 years.’”
Richardson said a common theme he hears is that local governments and the state government should fix the roads and bridges they already have in place rather than building a new road that won’t be maintained either.
The I-73 project has been a subject of discussion by special interests and the politicians they donate to for at least 30 years. It ramped up nearly 20 years ago when Brad Dean took over the reins of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Horry County has already spent over one-half billion dollars of locally generated hospitality fee (tax) revenues building SC-22. The last approximately 22 miles of I-73 will be on SC-22 from near the 319 exit to the terminus in the Briarcliffe Acres area. SC-22 will need some upgrading on the shoulders to meet interstate highway standards.

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Fry and Other 7th Congressional Candidates Looking to Score Political Gain from Afghan Suicide Bombing

By Paul Gable
Having spent 10 years on active duty in the U. S. Navy, I find the loss of life in the line of duty by any servicemember to be a time of tragedy and sorrow not something you try to use for personal gain.
Therefore, when 13 servicemembers lost their lives to a suicide bomber at the Kabul airport last week, I was appalled at how quickly four of the candidates for the South Carolina 7th Congressional District Republican nomination tried to score political points from these deaths.
Two, incumbent representative Tom Rice, who is still trying to get back into the good graces of Republican voters after voting to impeach former President Donald Trump, and Graham Allen, who lives across the state from the 7th Congressional District and remains a total unknown to most of the Republican voters in the district, called for President Joe Biden to immediately resign.
Political newcomer Jeanette Spurlock called for the immediate impeachment of Biden.
And state representative Russell Fry, who is trying mightily to gain the endorsement of Trump by any means possible called for Biden to appoint Trump as a special envoy to Afghanistan to oversee the continuing withdrawal of American servicemembers and civilians still in the country at the time.
All of these called for actions are outrageous in that none of them are going to happen. And these candidates know they won’t happen.
Why do it?
Because Allen and Spurlock, two of the outsiders in the race, hope their statements will resonate and gain them some traction and name recognition with the many pro-Trump voters in the 7th Congressional District.
Rice, after drawing continuing criticism from Republican voters for his vote to impeach Trump, is grasping for any available lifeline in an attempt to keep his chances for a sixth term in Congress viable.
Fry’s special envoy proposal is more calculated. After failing to criticize Rice for six months for Rice’s vote to impeach Trump, Fry decided to enter the race and contest the GOP primary election for the nomination for the 7th Congressional District.

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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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School Mask Mandates – Who are the True Conservatives?

This week’s controversy about whether to require students, teachers and staff to wear masks in public schools gave us another chance to see who are the real conservative political leaders and who are the politicians that only give voice to conservatism to get elected.
Put another way, who truly promotes individual liberty and limiting government overreach and who doesn’t?
The longest serving legislative member in Horry County, Sen. Luke Rankin, joined forces with Democrats throughout the state and Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman to call for the repeal of a state budget proviso that currently makes it illegal for local school boards to require masks to be worn in schools.
What makes this extremely absurd is it’s only two months since the proviso became law with the passing of the state budget and both passing the proviso and repealing it are examples of government overreach by the state legislature.
Government overreach by the state legislature is almost a requirement in a General Assembly filled with mostly pseudo-conservative politicians who enjoy exercising power over others. And many in the Horry County legislative delegation excel at government overreach by dictating to local governments and citizens.
At the very most, decisions on whether students should be required to wear masks in school should be left to the local governing school board, but one which should be exercised only in extreme circumstances. The decision on whether a child wears a mask to school or not should be left to the parents of the child as a normal course of action. Otherwise, what does individual liberty mean?
The controversy over masks quickly entered the political discussion in the 7th Congressional District race.
School Board Chairman Ken Richardson has said repeatedly in media reports that state law currently forbids school boards from legislating masking requirements and that he believes it is a decision that should be left to the parents.
Former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride took Rankin to task in a video rebuttal to Rankin’s call for a mask mandate. In that rebuttal, McBride said he believes the decision to wear a mask to school or not should be left to the parents.
State Rep. Russell Fry, who launched his campaign declaring he was a true conservative Republican, has been strangely quiet on the issue.
However, Fry has not been timid about being in the middle of government overreach by the General Assembly on other issues.

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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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Fry Kicks Off Campaign

House District 106 representative Russell Fry officially kicked off his campaign for the SC 7th Congressional District Republican nomination at an event last night.
Fry has finally criticized incumbent representative Tom Rice for voting to impeach President Donald Trump in January. It only took Fry seven months to finally take this stand and after eight other candidates, none of whom were afraid to criticize Rice immediately after his vote to impeach, already entered the race.
His announcement of the campaign event included the phrase, “That’s why I’m announcing my campaign for Congress on Thursday, August 5—to guard the faith, families, and freedom of our fellow citizens.”
That statement is nothing but political rhetoric and sounds like a sound bite paraphrasing Superman fighting for ‘truth, justice and the American way’ in the old 1950’s television show of the same name.
The announcement also stated, “Your Congressman should do more than simply use his vote to look out for our interests here at home.”
I submit the voters want a Congressman whose primary goal is to use his vote to look out for the interests of the citizens here at home instead of special interests and those same voters are not interested in sound bites but rather in solid pledges from a candidate.
One pledge Fry did make was about I-73 and seemed to be aimed at those special interests who have had their way in Horry County for too long.
Fry was quoted as saying, “I think it’s a meritorious project for families in and around here,” he said. “It is a public safety issue. It is a jobs and economy issue. It’s a connectivity issue. There are a lot of benefits that come from interstate access that would that would be great not only for the Grand Strand, but the entire Pee Dee region.”
That statement is standard phrasing about I-73 that we have been subjected to since a 2005 study of the “economic impact” of the project was first completed. It is a necessary ingredient to any campaign that hopes to attract support from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and its associated PACs as well as the special interests who expect to gain financially from any construction of I-73 within the county.

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Is Fry Sandbagging Rice’s Reelection Effort Because of Special Interests?

(Above picture L-R: Tom Rice, Heather Crawford, Seth McKinney, Brenda Bethune, Mark Lazarus, Cam Crawford and Russell Fry)
Ever since Tom Rice cast his vote to impeach President Donald Trump last January, political talk around Horry County has been about whether Rice could survive a challenge to reelection next year.
Almost immediately nine challengers announced they would challenge Rice in next year’s June Republican Primary for the nomination for the SC 7th Congressional District seat. Eight of the original nine remain to date.
Tomorrow night, another challenger, Russell Fry, long expected to throw his hat in the ring, will hold his campaign kickoff event.
Fry’s entry into the race is probably a signal that at least some of Rice’s past supporters no longer believe he is electable.
Both Rice and Fry have drawn from the same base of support in the county during past elections – the Chamber crowd and associated PACs (the special interest crowd), local business owners and the ‘old guard’ members of the HCGOP.
A number of the names listed as sponsors for Rice’s September 14, 2021 Campaign Kickoff event at the Dunes Club also show up as donors to past Fry campaigns, according to filings with the South Carolina Ethics Commission.
The close ties between past Rice and Fry campaigns are best demonstrated by two of Fry’s initial donors in his first special election for the SC House District 106 seat in 2015. One of those donors is none other than Wrenzie Rice, wife of Tom Rice. The other is Doug Wendel, the man probably most responsible for Rice first running for the new 7th Congressional District seat in 2012.
Both Rice and Fry have been strong supporters of Chamber’s number one goal the Interstate 73 project, although neither has been able to bring any significant funds, federal or state respectively, to the project. Both attempted to pressure Horry County Council to provide funding from local hospitality fee collections to completely fund construction of the road to the county line (approximately $500 million additional funding).

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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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