I have been a good government activist for many years and am well-known in Lexington County, South Carolina for my views. My goal all along has been simple: Hold elected officials accountable to ethical behavior and good governance. I hold these views for those working in and out of government – and our political parties, too (much as Will Folks does).
In the past few months, rumors have been flying about the bad shape the Lexington County GOP is in, especially when it comes to its finances. I have been told that our chairman, Craig Caldwell – while telling folks how much money is in our bank account – has refused to provide bank statements or a treasurer’s report for months. Then a party whistleblower aware of some shady transactions involving Caldwell has done contacted me. I believe it is my duty to inform people of the decisions Caldwell has made about our Party money without any involvement or ability for members to vote on these issues.
Last December, the Party incurred a nearly $2,000 catering fee for its annual Christmas party. This makes no sense because in the years past, Robin Hudson was kind enough to let us use the event space at Hudson’s BBQ in Lexington for free. Members paid for their own dinner and renewed their membership dues. We also tried to use this event as a recruitment drive for new members. Throw in some money from sponsors, and we always made a bit of money on the event.
No big deal right?
Well last year, Caldwell refused to host the event at Hudson’s and insisted on doing it at Stone River in West Columbia, over the objections of some fellow party members. This meant zero chance of the Party making any money and being forced to use expensive catering. But why was Caldwell insisting to use Stone River?
It was none other than Will Folks who broke the story about Stone River being co-owned by State Rep. Rick Quinn. You can check out Will’s previous report here. What is not that well known in our Party is that Caldwell is a close associate of the Quinn and his father, embattled consultant Richard Quinn. Here’s what else is not known: The cost to use the rental space at Stone River was $2,300. That was in addition to the $2,000 catering expense – meaning Caldwell put the Party on the hook to the tune of $4,300 for an event that we’ve hosted for free in the past, and used as a fundraiser.
So why would we go from a free place to one charging us so much money? In my opinion, it appears as though Caldwell was trying to ingratiate himself with the Quinns and – clearly approved this spending on his own. He also did not inform the officers or anyone else about this decision. In fact, it appears that he lied to them, telling people in the Party that the event space was free. In fact, I have proof from Stone River in an email showing the cost of the event space alone was $2,300 and on top of the $2,000 food costs – take a look at this email:
(Click to view)
Caldwell has refused to provide the contact list for our membership to others in the Party. He rarely returns any phone calls or emails, even from fellow Officers attempting to conduct party business. He makes spending decisions on his own with no input from anyone else. He has, apparently, hired a private person to be the county party’ Treasurer. Seems no one is aware of the identity of this secret person. And now, it appears that he’s tied our Party to a lawmaker charged in the statehouse corruption probe. All in the name of advancing Caldwell’s own agenda and helping his contacts, and not looking out for what’s best for our Party.
I can’t imagine there’ll be many members who will renew after this year. Who would want to give their money to Caldwell just so he can use backroom schemes to give Party money to his own special interests?
People in Lexington County are sick and tired of the self-serving politicians (remember Danny Frazier and Jimmy Metts) who make money and funnel money to friends and family. They are tired of unethical people acting in their own interests and not the greater good.
Here’s the moral of the story: If you ever see a Party chairman who refuses to provide bank statements or a treasurer’s report, it’s too late to ask questions. Your money is already gone. The lesson learned is that all Party members need to speak up, demand accountability each month for how our Party funds are spent. This money should go towards GOTV efforts and supporting good conservative candidates for town council, county council, school board, or state and federal level offices, who will look after our wallets and purses, not to corrupt politicians who are already rich – but want to get richer.
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