The S.C. National Guard Association is facing criticism after holding a weekend retreat at the luxurious Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C.
What’s wrong with that, you may ask?
“Our state’s (tourism economy) needs dollars generated by annual meetings like this and these guys who we all have much respect for are meeting in North Carolina,” one frustrated South Carolinian told FITS.
The S.C. National Guard Association is a special interest group that lobbies the S.C. General Assembly on behalf of the Guard. In fact, the group paid a pair of Columbia lobbyists – Lynn Stokes-Murray and Shannon Brunning – nearly $18,000 in 2010.
Annual dues for the organization are $14.
According to its website, the S.C. National Guard Association was formed “for the purpose of promoting the welfare of National Guard personnel; promoting and supporting national security; fostering and improving the National Guard of South Carolina and the National Guard of the United States as a component of the Armed forces of the United States; and preserving and perpetuating the history and traditions of the National Guard of South Carolina.”
S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley and her husband, Michael, both attended the retreat – in fact Haley gave the event’s keynote address at a banquet on Saturday. Michael Haley is a civilian “diversity officer” with the Guard, although there has been considerable speculation about how he got this $55,000-a-year taxpayer-funded position.
As for the governor, her appearance at this event has exposed her to yet another charge of hypocrisy.
Last month at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Travel in Charleston, S.C., Haley said that luring retreats and conferences to the Palmetto state would be one of her top priorities as governor.
“I’m going to market South Carolina like you have never seen,” Haley said. “I’m going to brag about this state because I love it.”
Perhaps a good start would be keeping events like this one at home …
Retired Colonel Keith Dunn, the executive director of the Guard, told FITS that decisions regarding conference locations were “based on the advice and desires of our members.”
“We don’t go one place repeatedly,” Col. Dunn added, noting that the association held its event on Hilton Head Island last year.