Coastal Kickback Probe: Still Kicking
It takes a lot to surprise us, but a bit of news coming out of notoriously corrupt Horry County, S.C. this week has done the trick ….
According to reporter David Wren of The (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Sun News, a three-year-old federal investigation into the infamous “Coastal Kickback” campaign finance scandal is still underway. In fact one of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents conducting the probe reportedly contacted the newspaper seeking documents.
“This is the first time that a person directly involved in the investigation has confirmed its existence,” Wren notes.
What was the “Coastal Kickback?” A brazen pay-to-play scam in which hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash was funneled through a fabricated network of corporations to select politicians in exchange for their support of a local tax hike. The entity accused of orchestrating the scam? The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce – which controls the revenue from the tax hike (an estimated $20 million a year).
In addition to setting up its shadowy contributor network, the chamber has also been accused of steering proceeds from the tax hike to businesses that supported it - without any transparency or competitive bidding process.
Among the still-serving lawmakers who received political contributions in connection with this scam were S.C. Sen. Ray Cleary (RINO-Murrells Inlet), S.C. Rep. Alan Clemmons (RINO-Horry), S.C. Rep. Liston Barfield (RINO-Aynor) and S.C. Rep. Nelson Hardwick (RINO-Horry). Former S.C. Reps. Thad Viers and George Hearn also received checks – as did former U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett.
Meanwhile current U.S. Rep. Tom Rice has also been linked to the scandal.
In the spring of 2010, the scandal appeared on the verge of being swept under the rug – but local activists kept making noise and blogs like FITS kept applying pressure. Eventually the local mainstream media picked up the scent – and the feds launched their investigation in June of 2010.
Of course for the better part of the last two years there has been very little news related to the probe – leading many to believe the story was dead.
Apparently not …
This is good news. The “Coastal Kickback” is quite possibly the biggest campaign finance scandal in South Carolina history – and the individuals who perpetrated it (and profited from it) deserve to be held accountable for their actions.