SC Politics

South Carolina Chamber Of Commerce Facing Intense Backlash At State House

Enemies, ultimatums, intrigue …

The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce was staring down difficult times at the S.C. State House this year after investing heavily in a losing effort to defeat powerful Senate judiciary chairman Luke Rankin. With Rankin emerging victorious in his bid for an eighth term in office last month, the crony capitalist organization must now contend with an influential enemy in the “upper” chamber of the S.C. General Assembly.

That apparently isn’t the extent of the organization’s legislative problems, though …

According to our sources, multiple chamber board members were recently subjected to a browbeating by legislative leaders in the S.C. House of Representatives – with some of these sources going so far as to say an ultimatum was issued regarding the ongoing tenure of chamber president and chief executive officer Ted Pitts and several members of his staff.

The ultimatum? Fire Pitts and the offending staffers … or don’t bother trying to get a meeting with House leaders (let alone trying to get anything through the “lower” chamber of the legislature).

“(Board members) were told to get rid of staff as they were no longer welcome,” a source familiar with the gathering told us.

A pro-chamber source confirmed lawmakers have indicated they “aren’t going to take meetings” with certain chamber staffers any longer.

One board member reportedly on the receiving end of the dressing down – Lou Kennedy of Nephron Pharmaceuticals – is said to have indicated she and her colleagues would comply with the ultimatum, which was issued by S.C. speaker of the House Jay Lucas.

“I wouldn’t call it an ultimatum,” one House leader who attended the meeting argued, indicating the dispute was based on “matters of fact.”

“If you represent yourself as a professional organization, then be one,” the leader told us.

In addition to Pitts, House leaders reportedly discussed issues with the chamber’s executive vice president for public policy Swati Patel and its director of government relations Sarah Cohen.

Along with Pitts – a former state lawmaker – Patel and Cohen are the group’s two most visible representatives at the State House. At times, the conversation related to Patel and Cohen turned “deeply personal,” according to one legislative source who participated in the discussion.

Sources supportive of the chamber agreed …

“There was apparently some discussion about how chamber staff related to the House – both members and staff,” a source close to the organization told us.

While the legislative complaints were “mostly middle school bullsh*t,” according to our pro-chamber source, there were reportedly “some substantive” issues raised by House leaders.

Bottom line? Petty or substantive, the chamber finds itself in an untenable position … which is just fine with us. As this news outlet has frequently documented, this crony capitalist entity has “never met a spending increase or tax hike it didn’t like” – and remains an arch-defender of the Palmetto State’s chronically ineffective, demonstrably dishonest crony capitalist establishment.

Not to mention a key enabler of fiscally liberal, anti-free market lawmakers …

This latest drama – which appears to be confined to the staff level – seems unlikely to alter this paradigm one iota. It may change some of the names and faces advocating on behalf of the organization, but in the long run “The Song Remains The Same.”

Which means South Carolina will remain non-competitive …

Anyway, count on this news outlet to stay on top of this story as the chamber is one of several pro-business organizations currently pushing liability reform amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Not to mention its usual regressive tax shifts …




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