POWERFUL HOUSE BUDGET WRITER BOWS OUT OF RACE FOR SPEAKER
Brian White – the man initially viewed as the top prospect to replace embattled S.C. Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell – has committed to support the candidacy of current Speaker Pro Tempore Jay Lucas, multiple sources tell FITS.
“White has told major supporters he will back Lucas while retaining ways and means,” one source said, referring to White’s chairmanship of the influential S.C. House ways and means committee.
White – who followed Harrell into the House’s top budget-writing position in 2005 – seemed a shoo-in to follow him as Speaker, too.
Sources tell FITS House members had concern over White’s previous ethical issues – which were glossed over in 2011 but could have easily come back to bite him (hard) in the wake of Harrell’s incident last week on public corruption charges.
What did White do? According to reporter Corey Hutchins, he spent thousands of dollars of his campaign money on personal expenses – including $10,000 at Sears on “office” expenses. White was never publicly investigated by his colleagues on the S.C. House ethics committee, though, which isn’t surprising seeing as this is the same corrupt cover-up panel that whitewashed Gov. Nikki Haley’s public corruption charges.
In addition to his campaign finance issues, lawmakers also expressed concern about White’s proximity to a central figure from the 1990 Operation Lost Trust probe – in which twenty-seven people (including seventeen state lawmakers) were convicted on corruption charges.
Details of that connection are forthcoming, we’re told … but one lawmaker told FITS the connection between White and the lobbyist was a “deal breaker.”
“I don’t know how he was ever the frontrunner,” one lawmaker told FITS. “He’s joined at the hip with a Lost Trust lobbyist and has his own campaign finance troubles. It’s just crazy. And making him Speaker would’ve been crazy.”
Lucas – the House’s Speaker Pro Tempore – is serving as interim Speaker while the charges against Harrell are sorted out.
And while he still faces a challenge from a pair of former “majority” leaders – Kenny Bingham of Lexington and Jimmy Merrill of Charleston – it was White who was considered to be his primary competition for the post.
Stay tuned … we suspect the dominos will start falling very soon in this drama.