It doesn’t happen often, but editorial writer Cindi Ross Scoppe at The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper got something right this week – picking up where we left off on the corruption and fiscally irresponsibility of the S.C. Department of Transportation (DOT).
For those of you who haven’t been following this story, our state’s transportation leaders are blowing most of their borrowing capacity on several non-priority projects – including a costly interchange for a road that may never be built.
Worse still? This wastefulness is part of a behind-the-scenes vote buying scam in which DOT chairman Danny Isaac basically bribed his fellow commissioners with projects in their districts in order to gain their support for a costly I-73 interchange.
“Chairman Isaac wanted money for a $200 million interchange for Interstate 73 – but the only way he could get this money was to have each Commissioner include a project for their districts in the bond offering,” DOT Commissioner Sarah Nuckles wrote last month in a guest column on FITS. “Prior to hatching this plan, Isaac did not have the four Commission votes he needed to get funding for the Interstate 73 exit approved.”
Anyway, Scoppe has weighed in on the controversy, describing the scam as “the triumph of pure vote-counting politics over an objective analysis of our state’s needs.”
“This is a direct result of the political bankruptcy of the Legislative State, through which the General Assembly tries to micromanage an increasingly complex government and accomplishes little other than elevating provincialism over a statewide approach to policymaking and the allocation of resources,” Scoppe wrote in her latest column.
She’s verbose – but correct. Four years ago, lawmakers made a big deal about “reforming” this agency – something they clearly failed to do so. Frankly, this is why it’s so vital that lawmakers not accept watered down reforms as they continue to debate government restructuring.
Either fix the problem or don’t fix the problem – but stop passing “reforms in name only.”
HALEY NOT AS POPULAR AS SHE THINKS?
The Raleigh, N.C.-based Public Policy Polling group – which released its latest 2012 SCGOP presidential poll on Tuesday – will be publishing new polling numbers for S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley this week.
“We will be releasing her approval numbers (on Thursday),” PPP’s Tom Jensen tells FITS, adding that “they are quite different from her internal ones.”
Sources familiar with the poll tell FITS that the numbers will show Palmetto state voters are basically split on Haley – which is obviously not what her pollster wants state lawmakers to believe at this critical juncture of her administration.
According to data released last week by Haley’s Maryland-based pollster, Jon Lerner, the first-term governor enjoys a 57.5 percent approval rating among all voters and a 74 percent approval rating among Republicans.
Those are solid numbers – assuming they’re accurate (a big “if” given the governor’s numerous early stumbles). Haley won election in 2010 with 51.3 percent of the vote – the second-lowest total of any Republican on the ticket. Also, her margin of victory over Democrat Vincent Sheheen was the smallest of any Republican running statewide.
JAKIE KNOTTS CENSURED
S.C. Sen. Jakie Knotts (RINO-Lexington) was censured this week by his country Republican party – again. What did Knotts do this time? Believe it or not, Lexington County Republicans are just now getting around to addressing a campaign finance scandal involving the rotund “Republican” from last September.
According to a Senate Ethics Committee report, Knotts accepted $23,850 in contributions that were in excess of statutory limits during his 2008 primary election – in which he defeated Republican Katrina Shealy. Knotts also failed to report $26,650 in contributions that were received between March 2007 and January 2009, as well as three loans totaling $41,000 from October 2008 to April 2009. He also failed to report more than $16,000 in interest earned on his campaign accounts.
Knotts received a slap on the wrist from his colleagues as a result of these violations, a punishment the Lexington censure resolution called “grossly inadequate.”
“Senator Knotts should have been expelled from the Senate,” the resolution opines.
Knotts was previously censured by Lexington Republicans last summer for calling then-gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley a “rag head.” To read a copy of the latest resolution, click here.
ELEANOR KITZMAN RESIGNATION RUMBLINGS
Insurance industry insiders are abuzz over rumors that S.C. Budget and Control director (and gubernatorial confidante) Eleanor Kitzman will be leaving her $174,000-a-year post in the very near future.
According to reports we’ve received, Kitzman is reportedly considering stepping down to take a position in her home state of Texas.
Details are hazy – and Kitzman isn’t returning text messages and cell phone calls – but several sources close to the former S.C. Insurance Commissioner tell FITS that she may be in the running for a similar position in the Lone Star State.
“Director Kitzman has not accepted a position in Texas,” B&CB spokeswoman Lindsey Kremlick told FITS on Wednesday.
Asked to elaborate on whether that meant Kitzman has “been approached, expressed interest in, or entertained the possibility” of taking a position in Texas, Kremlick declined to share any specific information.
“Director Kitzman said that if and when she decides to make a career change, she will make an appropriate announcement,”she said.
Kitzman was a compromise candidate to lead the B&CB after Haley’s first choice – former gubernatorial chief of Staff Scott English – was reportedly rejected by a majority of board members. She has had a stormy five-month tenure at the agency – including this infamous exchange with S.C. House Ways and Means Chairman Danny Cooper.
For those of you unfamiliar with the way government works (or rather, doesn’t work) in South Carolina, the B&CB is the quasi-executive, quasi-legislative agency that administers the majority of South Carolina’s executive branch functions. Obviously, Kitzman’s status is of particular interest given the ongoing debate in the S.C. General Assembly over whether (and how) to abolish the board.