#SCStateHouse: More Curious Fundraising In Senate Special Election

GOP candidate spends twice as much as he collects …

Two weeks ago, we reported on a candidate for South Carolina Senate (a frontrunner for his party’s nomination, in fact) who had raised only six cents during the most recent filing period.

That’s right … six cents.

This week, another “Republican” candidate filed some curious paperwork with the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC).  Pastor John Holler of Columbia, S.C. – one of four GOP candidates for S.C. Senate District 20 (map) – belatedly reported raising $4,000 in a pre-election filing for the August 14 special partisan primary.

The only problem?  Holler spent twice that amount – $8,000 – leaving his campaign with a net deficit of $4,000 (assuming our South Carolina math checks out).

How does that work exactly?

Holler has reported receiving no bank loans, and has put none of his own money into this race – at least not as of July 25, the cutoff date for the pre-election filing.  In other words, his only source of campaign funding has been the $4,000 in individual contributions he has received.

So how has he spent $8,000? 

That’s a good question …

Where did the money come from?  How did his check clear? 

And perhaps more importantly … isn’t this guy running as a member of the so-called “fiscally conservative” party?

Oh … right.  We forgot what state we were in …

Anyway, we’ve been covering campaign finance reports for more than a decade and we honestly cannot remember the last time an account was running a deficit during an election.  Campaigns often finish in the red – and have to hold events to retire their debt – but that’s usually to pay back bank loans, not make up actual deficits.

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In other GOP filing news, attorney Benjamin Dunn reported having $9,000 in his campaign account (most of it his own money) while attorney Christian Stegmaier reported having nearly $13,500 to spend (his campaign has taken out a $10,000 loan).

Like Holler, both of these candidates filed their reports late.

As noted in a prior article, the two frontrunners for their party’s nominations – “Republican” insurance executive Bill Turbeville  and influential attorney/ two-time S.C. Democratic Party (SCDP) chairman Dick Harpootlian – filed their reports on time earlier this week.

Harpootlian – who is facing only token opposition in his primary – has more than $207,000 in his campaign account as of July 25.  Of that amount, roughly $141,000 came in the form of individual contributions from donors.  Another $100,000 came in the form of a bank loan.

Harpootlian has spent just under $34,000 on his campaign thus far.

Turbeville reported receiving individual contributions of $19,625.  He threw in $16,000 of his own money to go with a $20,000 bank loan.  After spending around $16,000, the insurance agent had roughly $40,000 in his campaign account as of July 25.

Earlier this week, Harpootlian received the endorsement of former U.S. vice president Joe Biden in his bid to fill the seat vacated in early June by John Courson – the latest casualty of the GOP’s ongoing #ProbeGate scandal.  Courson – a fiscally liberal “Republican” – had represented the heavily gerrymandered district for more than three decades prior to being suspended from office last March.

State representative Nathan Ballentine was the GOP’s candidate of choice to replace him, but Harpootlian’s early momentum (and the increasingly bluish-purple tint of the district) appears to have scared him out of the race.  Turbeville is now viewed as the “Republican” frontrunner, but his candidacy has been dogged by residency questions (namely his decision to move into the district just days after Courson resigned).

Stay tuned … partisan primary races are now just eleven days away with the winners facing off on November 6 (the same day as the general election).



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