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Powerful SC Senate Leader Games System … And No One Cares




Fiscally liberal “Republican” politicians in South Carolina love to live off the land (a.k.a. the labors of the taxpayers) … in fact they’ve been doing it for decades.  And they keep getting away with it (at our expense) for a variety of reasons.

First, South Carolina’s anti-corruption laws are a joke.  Second, there is absolutely zero enforcement of those laws (unless it involves the advancement of someone’s political agendas).  Third, there is very little accountability provided by state’s mainstream media in terms of exposing the state’s rampant corruption.

Just prior to the Christmas holiday we saw another example of this sad dynamic at work …

On December 21, reporter Ron Aiken of The Nerve – a Columbia, S.C.-based internet site – ran an exclusive story about powerful S.C. Senate leader Hugh Leatherman taking advantage of a “disadvantaged business enterprise” designation. This designation is intended to steer government contracts toward businesses owned by women and minorities.

So … how is it that an 84-year-old white man is profiting from such a designation?  Easy: He put a woman in “charge” of one of his companies.

Do we support such female/ minority designations?  Hell no.   Nor do we support the vast majority of federal contracts flowing through them.  It’s textbook waste and inefficiency.

But rich politicians exploiting these female/ minority designations for personal gain?  That’s nothing short of diabolical.

According to Aiken’s report, over the last three years Leatherman’s company – Florence Concrete – has received $1.9 million in contracts “that otherwise would have gone to minority businesses more fully meeting the spirit, not just the letter” of the disadvantaged business standard.

Interesting …

Even more interesting?  Not a single mainstream media outlet in the state picked up Aiken’s report.

Two-and-a-half years ago this website exposed a direct link between Leatherman and millions of dollars in state transportation contracts.  None of that income was disclosed by Leatherman on his required financial disclosure documents.

Nothing happened in the aftermath of our reporting, either … (well, except for Leatherman becoming even more powerful by virtue of his 2014 election as Senate president).

Oh, and Leatherman has spent the intervening years pushing for additional increases in transportation funding in the Palmetto State via a tax hike on gasoline – even though the S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT)’s base recurring budget has nearly doubled in the last seven years.  And even though Palmetto State residents pay more of their income on fuel than residents of any other state save Mississippi or West Virginia.

Again … politicians living off the land.

Leatherman’s actions are perfectly legal under the state’s lax income disclosure requirements – and even if they weren’t, no one in state government is going to challenge the guy who controls state government.  Especially not with the mainstream media pressing the “mute” button on this particular outrage.

So the beat goes on …

Pic: Travis Bell Photography