A major campaign finance scandal in Horry County, S.C. is expanding once again, this time to include politicians in yet another coastal municipality
According to an exclusive report by Tom O’Dare of The Myrtle Beach Herald, federal investigators are probing campaign contributions received by three politicians in Surfside Beach, S.C. These contributions were doled out by leaders of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, which is neck deep in a “Coastal Kickback” scam involving numerous public officials at the local, state and federal level.
Specifically, the Myrtle Beach Chamber has been accused of orchestrating a massive kickback scheme that routed nearly $350,000 in campaign contributions to Myrtle Beach area politicians (and U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett) in exchange for their support of a tax increase that funneled money directly into the Chamber’s coffers. The funds were doled out in cashier’s checks that were cut from a shadowy network of “corporations” – and delivered to the candidates in stuffed envelopes (in some cases by Chamber leaders).
The checks were all cut at the same bank – on the same day.
Along with Barrett, four S.C. Representatives - Thad Viers, Nelson Hardwick, George Hearn and Alan Clemmons – accepted the bundled contributions. So did State Sen. Ray Cleary.
J. Warren Tompkins, a prominent RINO lobbyist in Columbia, S.C., has also been connected to the scandal through the Chamber’s lobbyist, former state legislator Mark Kelley. Meanwhile, multiple sources have also alleged that former SCGOP Chairman Katon Dawson played a prominent role in the scam.
From the Herald story:
The federal investigations into campaign contributions made to local politicians extend beyond Myrtle Beach.
A former Surfside Beach Town Council member said he has been contacted by the Internal Revenue Service about contributions he received from some of the same sources that provided money to Myrtle Beach City Council members, state legislators and U.S. Congressman Gresham Barrett.
These contributions have been tied to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
After denying their involvement in the scandal for months, Chamber leaders were finally forced to come clean – at least aabout their role in handing out the checks – earlier this year. Of course they continue to deny that the funds in question originated from the Chamber, or that they were doled out as a quid pro quo for supporting the tax hike.
Increasingly, these denials are straining credulity … and in reporting on a conversation between Chamber board chairman Brant Branham and Surfside councilwoman Vicki Blair, Thursday’s Herald report leaves little to the imagination.
“Brant came up to me at our table,” Blair said. “He asked what I thought about the proposed one cent sales tax. I told him we had not discussed it yet.”
“He told me the chamber considered me a good person to have on the Town Council and handed me an envelope. I put it in my pocket and pretty much forgot about it.”
Amazingly, this entire scandal was almost forgotten, too.
In fact, FITS published a story in March that decried the lack of a legitimate investigation into the scandal – while providing an exclusive time line of the alleged kickbacks.
Let’s hope that investigators get to the bottom of this seedy affair, which would by no means be the only example of Palmetto state “Republicans” padding their pockets in exchange for supporting tax increases.
Let’s also hope that coastal GOP voters finally wise up and show Cleary, Clemmons, Hardwick and Hearn the door. All four are unapologetic RINOs who have never met a special interest they didn’t like.
This is clearly a scab that needs to be peeled all the way back …