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For those of you new to FITS, we got our first big break in 2007 when we exposed a secret legislative slush fund that was being used by “Republican” leaders in the S.C. General Assembly to effectively bribe their colleagues.

Under the auspices of local “economic development” grants, legislative leaders like Sen. Hugh Leatherman (RINO-Florence) and former Rep. Danny Cooper (RINO-Anderson) were accused of using the fund as leverage for key budget votes.

This “competitive grants” scandal quickly blew up in the mainstream media, and public outcry resulted in the elimination of the $46 million fund.

Nonetheless, this pork-laden “favor factory” – as former Gov. Mark Sanford called it – paid out millions of tax dollars for local parades and festivals. It also funded Elvis impersonators, deep fryers and all sorts of non-essential spending (all in the name of “economic development”).

Joining Sanford in his crusade against the fund was S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom – the governor’s longtime ally on the S.C. Budget and Control Board.

Now, however, Eckstrom appears to have changed his tune on local festivals.

“Events like this play an important role in a community’s quality of life,” Eckstrom wrote in an opinion editorial published in The Columbia (S.C.) Star, which we’re told is a real newspaper.

“I’ve always had a fondness for local festivals,” the comptroller continued, adding that such events “draw communities closer, help neighbors keep up with one another, and boost the local economy. They bring people together— which is especially important during tough times such as these as the economy creates anxiety over the direction of our country and our personal financial well-being.”

Oh, and striking a contrasting chord with his recent anti-Mormon rhetoric, Eckstrom noted that local festivals “demonstrate our many differences pale in comparison to our many common bonds.”

Sheesh …

We’re all for local festivals … so long as they don’t spend taxpayer money. That’s the problem, though. These local festivals are funded almost exclusively with taxpayer money.

Seriously – is Eckstrom really prepared to classify the Rock Around the Clock Festival, the Irmo Okra Strut, the Chapin Labor Day Parade, the Gilbert Peach Festival, the Summerville Flowertown Festival, the Little Mountain Reunion in Newberry County, the Williamston Spring Water Festival, the Saluda Tractor Festival, the Pickens Azalea Festival, the Batesburg- Leesville Poultry Festival, the Florence Pecan Festival, the Beaufort Water Festival (all events he claims to have attended in recent weeks) as core functions of government?

We think not …

After all, this is the same guy who keeps lecturing state leaders about spending too much money (even as he votes with S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley on bailouts for her cabinet agencies).

We hate to rain on anybody’s parade, but if communities want to put on these festivals then they should find a way to do so using community funds – not taxpayer funds.

Oh, and while Eckstrom may have discovered a newfound love of festivals, it’s painfully obvious that they don’t love him back …