Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Be careful what you ask for

Many of you have not been aware of the war going on in the SC Republican party. Below are web addresses of blogs which have been at the forefront - take time to look them over to help you decide. Below the addresses is an article from The State newspaper that briefly describes some of the issue.

By CINDI ROSS SCOPPE - Associate Editor
CHAD WALDORF loves to remind me, particularly after I write disparagingly about all the little groups that have sprouted up to support parts of Gov. Mark Sanford’s agenda, that his S.C. Club for Growth frequently highlights my columns, and that it’s one of the few organizations pushing the agenda most near and dear to my heart government restructuring.

So when he sent me a note calling my attention to a “reform agenda” that our pal Tom Davis had put together and gotten 20 of his fellow Senate candidates to sign on to, I was intrigued.

Sure enough, the “Common Sense Contract for Change” is full of smart ideas. It calls for taxing and spending reforms with a heavy emphasis on comprehensive tax reform and sensible approaches to the way budgeting is done structural reforms to give the governor more control over the executive branch, ethics reform, kicking the Legislature out of city and county decision-making, making the judiciary more independent. In fact, all but three and a half of the 15 items on the agenda could have come straight out of my columns as some of the language apparently did.

There isn’t even an implicit reference to the very worst idea promoted by Mr. Sanford and his friends vouchers and tax credits for private schools.

Unfortunately, the thread running through all of these fine ideas is the same one that permeates all of Mr. Sanford’s proposals the idea that our government is too big, our taxes too high. I agree that we don’t get what we pay for, but that doesn’t mean we’re paying too much; it means the Legislature isn’t allocating our money well. Allocate it correctly, and chances are good we still wouldn’t have all the prison guards and troopers and top-class teachers we need, couldn’t afford the bridge and road improvements we need, and on and on.

But as maddening as it is to see that misleading idea repeated, that’s not what made me most uncomfortable about the agenda.

By happenstance, a colleague had dropped a copy of the infamous “hit list” memo on my desk earlier that same day. It’s the one that created a stir at the State House earlier this year, allegedly written by former Sanford spokesman Will Folks, which lists the lawmakers who should be taken out in order to create “a more conservative Republican majority” to implement Mr. Sanford’s ideas, along with the strategy for accomplishing that. On a hunch, I picked it up and started thumbing through it.

It’s so filled with over-the-top, cloak-and-dagger nonsense that if I didn’t know better, I’d think it was parody, composed by a clever writer who planned to let it “leak,” and then sit back and laugh at all the gullible media types and lawmakers who took it seriously. But I knew it wasn’t parody, because I had just seen it being implemented.

Central to the strategy, the memo said, was to “create a unifying platform” for favored challengers to sign “Call it a ‘Contract With South Carolina,’ a “South Carolina Contract for Competitiveness,’ call it whatever”. It would include “a spending cap, an overhaul of the tax code and government restructuring.”

The memo suggests the creation of a “Core Council” that would coordinate the campaign (working in secret so nobody knew it was coordinated, and thus subject to those pesky campaign disclosure laws that Mr. Sanford championed but his best allies have no intention of obeying). The “overlord” was to be Mr. Waldorf. Mr. Davis, who was Mr. Sanford’s chief of staff until he resigned to run for Senate in Beaufort County, was to handle “research, Contract for SC development.”

The memo doesn’t say who’s bankrolling the hit campaign, but we know who has been pouring money into the Sanford agenda: the anti-government folks from New York and other parts outside our state whose first goal is to undermine public support for the most expensive thing state government does, by paying parents to abandon the public schools.

And so here we have the Mark Sanford dilemma.
My colleagues and I have been pushing him for years to put some political muscle into government restructuring, rather than reserving it all for income tax cuts and vouchers. Now, it appears that he’s doing just that. And I so want to believe that he is. But can anybody trust him and his support groups, particularly given who’s writing the checks?

Consider their past and their present.
We’re now in the middle of the third Republican primary cycle that is marked by big-bucks campaigns aimed at defeating legislators who oppose private-school vouchers and tax credits. Each time, you were hard-pressed to find any mention of vouchers or tax credits in the reams of attack post cards and radio spots. Simple reason: The voucher backers know they’re not popular in South Carolina not even in Republican primaries.

So they attack on other grounds, usually making misleading charges and occasionally even fabricating them. They say their targets want to raise the gas tax based on a survey they filled out a decade ago, claim they voted for spending bills that they actually opposed, focus on state judicial elections that they hope voters will confuse with the liberal-conservative fights in Washington that haven’t occurred here.

In short, SCRG and Conservatives in Action and other pro-Sanford groups whose funding has been traced back to New York libertarian Howie Rich ( have a record of building their campaigns around populist Trojan horses to hide their real agenda and suck in ordinary voters who don’t live and breathe this stuff.

I believe Tom Davis really is motivated by the good-government side of Mr. Sanford’s agenda; he really does want to empower the executive and get the Legislature out of local government. But he also supports vouchers. And it would be hard to believe that he would be following the hit-list playbook so precisely if he weren’t ... following the hit-list playbook so precisely.

Ms. Scoppe can be reached at or at (803) 771-8571.

No comments:

Blog Archive


Subscribe Now: Feed Icon