One day after he was elected chairman of the powerful S.C. House Ways and Means committee, S.C. Rep. Brian White (RINO-Anderson) became the latest high-profile Republican to be ensnared by a campaign finance scandal.
White – who beat out S.C. Majority Leader Kenny Bingham (RINO-Lexington) for the post last month (with help from Democratic lawmakers) – was the subject of a report in The (Columbia, S.C.) Free Times exposing tens of thousands of dollars worth of questionable “campaign” expenditures.
In fact, the report was filed by Corey Hutchins – who busted S.C. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard for similar behavior earlier this year.
From Hutchins’ report:
… White, elected May 3 as chairman of the powerful budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee, has spent tens of thousands of dollars out of his campaign coffers at places like Costco and Sam’s Club, and also used campaign funds to pay high-priced phone bills, according to his disclosure reports. He has spent around $10,000 at Sears alone for what is listed on his reports as “office.”
The large expenditures are not itemized on White’s reports.
Making things even more interesting? White ran unopposed in both the 2010 Republican primary and general election – and filing for the 2012 elections is still several months away. That means there’s absolutely no need for him to be spending money like this – at least not on “campaigning.”
White claims he spent the money on office supplies – and that he’s actually doing taxpayers a favor by not spending their money on such items. Of course there’s no way to prove that because none of his campaign expenses are itemized.
Now, here’s where this story gets really interesting …
Unlike Ard, who is facing over a hundred ethics violations for his conduct, White cannot be investigated by the State Ethics Commission. Any potential whitewash … err, investigation … into his behavior would be reserved for the House Ethics Committee – whose chairman is White’s new subordinate on the Ways and Means committee.
Not surprisingly, Rep Roland Smith (RINO-Aiken) is in no hurry whatsoever to investigate the man who now holds tremendous power over the state’s purse strings (and who sits on the S.C. Budget and Control Board, a quasi-legislative, quasi-executive entity that runs most of the state’s administrative functions).
Again, quoting Hutchins’ report:
Smith says the Ethics Committee doesn’t comment on any investigations or about whether or not it is even conducting them. He says the committee would have to look at any House member’s campaign spending to determine whether it was improper, and it would take someone filing a complaint to do so.
Smith says House members are allowed to spend campaign cash on things related to their office, including cell phone bills.
Asked about thousands of dollars spent at department stores, Smith says he’d have to see how exactly the money was spent in order to comment.
Translation? Move along, folks. Nothing to see here …
Obviously this arrangement is infinitely corrupt, but until legislation is passed that holds all elected officials to the same standard – and imposes stronger penalties when they break the law – we shouldn’t expect anything to change.
So where does this story go from here?
That depends … obviously South Carolina’s RINO leadership is going to do everything it can to sweep White’s scandal under the rug, which they will likely succeed in doing barring any new developments. In fact, they appear to have already swept one major scandal under the rug – the flagrant vote-buying that took place behind the scenes in advance of White’s ascension to his powerful new post.
Sadly, a bunch of fiscally-liberal Republicans trading favors and covering up scandals for each other in order to keep the taxpayer-funded gravy train flowing is nothing new in this state. In fact, that’s how lawmakers “get things done” at the State House.
The only question is whether the citizens and taxpayers of this state will ever truly figure out how costly and corrupt their government is …