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coastal campaign finance scandal

By FITSNews || Several of the “companies” involved in a major coastal campaign finance scandal are facing foreclosure lawsuits, raising fresh questions for IRS and FBI agents currently probing the scam.  A total of five foreclosure suits have been filed against companies with ties to the growing mess, according to a report published Thursday by the Carolina Forest Chronicle.

Federal agents are currently investigating allegations of money laundering, tax fraud and criminal conspiracy in connection with political contributions made by these (and several other) coastal companies.  Critics say the contributions – which totaled nearly $350,000 – were kickbacks to politicians who helped pass a local tax hike.

The alleged scam started last May when the Horry County (S.C.) legislative delegation pushed through a one cent sales tax hike on local residents – the proceeds of which were routed to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.  Shortly thereafter, five members of the delegation – State Sen. Ray Cleary and S.C. Reps. Thad Viers, Nelson Hardwick, George Hearn and Alan Clemmons – accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bundled cashier’s checks from a network of corporations with ties to a former Chamber executive, Shep Guyton. Contributions were also given to local officials who supported the tax hike, and to U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett – then a leading candidate for governor.  One of the firms facing a foreclosure suit also gave money to House Speaker Bobby Harrell in 2008.

Only one state lawmaker, S.C. Rep. Tracy Edge, returned the contributions.  Edge has since confirmed being questioned about the scandal by federal investigators.

‘They specifically asked why I gave the contributions back,” Edge told the Chronicle.

Earlier this year it appeared as though this whole mess would be swept completely under the rug.  Outraged that such a blatant fiasco would go unchallenged, we wrote a story at the time decrying the lack of a legitimate investigation into the matter by state authorities as well as the local media.

Fortunately, pressure from us and from local political activists (notably Tom Herron) kept the heat on and this May the scam started to unravel.  At that point the Chamber – after denying any involvement for months – finally admitted that they had helped dole out the envelopes stuffed with the controversial cashier’s checks.