Allegations of a major pay-to-play scandal are brewing along the S.C. Coast, one involving hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions which appear to have been funneled to various politicians through a maze of “shell” corporations – all as a reward for pushing through an $18 million tax hike.
That $18 million is being poured directly into the coffers of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce – which critics allege is orchestrating the whole scheme.
At last count, over $300,000 in campaign contributions have been identified as coming from a group of two dozen different “corporations” – although at least one of those corporations is defunct and several of them used cashier’s checks to make their contributions, making it difficult to trace their true origin.
Also, the majority of these “corporations” list a former Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce board chairman, Shep Guyton, as their registered agent – prompting critics to allege that the corporations are merely “shells” being manipulated by the Chamber to reward the state and local politicians who helped them approve the tax hike.
The Chamber is hotly disputing that allegation through its attorneys, however, going so far as to file a cease and desist order a week ago against a group that is criticizing the contributions. That group, which calls itself BOOST (Business Owners Organized to Support Tourism), responded by threatening to sue the Chamber and accusing it of violating federal anti-racketeering law.
In addition to four Myrtle Beach City Council members, S.C. Reps. Thad Viers, Nelson Hardwick, George Hearn, Alan Clemmons, Tracy Edge and Liston Barfield all received $1,000 checks from all or some of the twenty-four corporations, as has State Senator Ray Cleary – a frequent proponent of tax hikes.
U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett – who is running for governor in 2010 – has also received multiple contributions from several of the alleged “shell” corporations.
All of the state lawmakers alleged to have benefited from the scam are “Republicans.”
Earlier this spring, Horry County’s state legislative delegation pushed through a state law enabling the City Council to approve a new “ad tax” hike in May. The proceeds from that tax hike began accruing to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce on August 1 of this year.
In an effort to get to the bottom of all this, FITS has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Chamber, which the organization should comply with seeing as it is now the beneficiary of a dedicated stream of taxpayer revenue.
In fact, the Chamber’s attorneys have previously argued for a strict interpretation of what constitutes a public body in the past.
You can read more on this brewing scandal in The Sun News by clicking here …