MO’ MONEY, MO’ PROBLEMS …
Reporter Ron Aiken of The Nerve – a Columbia, S.C.-based news website – has sunk his teeth into the mushrooming scandal surrounding the Richland County, S.C. “penny tax.”
And good for him …
This $1.2 billion heist – “approved” via a rigged election in 2012 – needs to be back in the headlines. And stay there. Only then can we expose this scandal for what it really is – an elaborate plot to steal an election.
Anyway, Aiken’s latest report delves deeper into the incestuous network of connected insiders profiting from the scam. Specifically, he exposes the “triple-dipping” of prominent Columbia, S.C. lobbyist Darrell Campbell – who is being paid in multiple, conflicted ways out of the profits of the “penny tax.”
In addition to his own firm receiving a $1.5 million “public relations” contract to promote projects associated with this tax hike, Campbell is also a one-third owner of Brownstone Construction Group – one of the construction companies that’s receiving business from the tax hike. He’s also a subcontractor for BANCO Bannister Co. – another firm that’s been retained for “public relations” and “consulting” associated with tax hike projects.
Campbell is “triple-dipping,” in other words … all from a tax hike he was paid to promote.
Payments to Campbell’s firm – and to BANCO – were highlighted by S.C. Department of Revenue (SCDOR) director Rick Reames in a letter last month exposing a host of improper disbursements related to the tax hike.
Specifically, Reames’ investigation found “questions of potential public corruption and fraud” as well as “multiple instances of illegal activity by individuals and/ or companies associated.”
“In effect, the penny tax is paying $50,000 per month, $600,000 per year, and $3 million over five years (before reimbursements) for the equivalent of two full-time employees – when an entire public information office already exists within Richland County government and other (penny tax project) members also provide public relations services,” Reames wrote.
All of those payments run afoul of the law – which requires that tax hike revenues actually go toward construction projects.
Two officials – including sitting Richland County councilman Kelvin Washington – have already turned themselves in to authorities on tax charges stemming from Reames’ investigation.
Will Campbell be next?
In addition to the “triple-dipping” exposed by The Nerve article, Campbell is also linked to the penny tax via his association with the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority – a.k.a. “The Comet.” This is the Columbia, S.C.-area bus system that was ostensibly rescued from financial insolvency by the “penny tax” hike.
“The Comet” is set to receive an estimated $300 million in revenue from the tax hike – and Campbell’s firm is reportedly in line to be paid out of this pot of money as well.
Which would make him a “quadruple-dipper …”
As we’ve said all along, the real scandal here isn’t the millions of dollars in improper penny tax payments … it’s the penny tax itself.
“The voters of Richland County deserve better than this,” we wrote last week. “They rejected this tax hike in 2010, and they would have done so again in 2012 had there not been a vast, multi-layered conspiracy to suppress their votes. Yet more than three years later, law enforcement has not only failed to hold the perpetrators of this suppression accountable – it’s taken a completely unrelated probe just to get them to acknowledge their stalled inquiries into the matter.”
That’s the justice we’re seeking as we continue to follow this scandal.