The crew over at MyrtleBeachSC.com have not always distinguished themselves when it comes to credible reporting. And David Hucks – the featured author on the website – has what we would describe (charitably) as a curious past.
So when we read articles from him/ them … we take them cum oceanum salis.
Still, there is an expression in the south about “blind hogs finding acorns” – and that expression would appear to apply as it relates to a recent post from Hucks about powerful S.C. Senate judiciary chairman Luke Rankin.
Rankin, readers will recall, survived a closer-than-expected primary challenge from a substantially less-than-credible Republican opponent back in June to win a eighth four-year term representing S.C. Senate District 33 (.pdf).
Democrats did not run a candidate against Rankin because, well … he’s technically still one of them (to the extent you can tell the difference anymore these days in Columbia, S.C.).
The most liberal “Republican” in the most liberal “Republican” legislature in America – Rankin has been linked (financially anyway) by Hucks to a member of the embattled board of directors at Santee Cooper, the Palmetto State’s debt-addled, truth-averse, government run power company.
Why does this matter? Because Rankin is the most influential apologist for Santee Cooper in the S.C. General Assembly. He was also one of the key architects of its ignominious NukeGate fiasco – in which the utility racked up billions of dollars of public debt as it undertook the botched construction of a pair of since-abandoned nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, S.C.
(To read our latest on the fallout from that debacle, click here).
Rankin’s history of advocating for Santee Cooper is no secret – and has been given extensive treatment on our pages. But what has not been reported – not until earlier this week, anyway – is that he and Santee Cooper board member David Singleton are partners in a Myrtle Beach, S.C. real estate firm called Columbus Farms Realty Holdings LLC. In fact, Rankin is a 50 percent owner in this firm – which lists Singleton as its registered agent on filings with the office of S.C. Secretary of State Mark Hammond.
Singleton’s ownership share of the company is not known – however he has described himself on Santee Cooper promotional materials as its “managing member” dating back to its founding in 2006.
It is not yet known exactly when Rankin obtained his ownership stake in the firm, or what he paid for it – or what it is worth. Those details were conveniently omitted from his most recent statement of economic interest, which is on file with the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC).
Of course such non-disclosure is par for the course for state lawmakers, who are supposed to provide the public with details of all their financial dealings so that they can be held accountable for the manner in which they wield their influence.
Hucks’ interest in Rankin’s real estate partnership involves a parcel of land in North Carolina that is owned by Columbus Farms. He claims the parcel in question (below) is linked to the planned expansion of S.C. Highway 31 – one of many notorious infrastructure boondoggles in the Grand Strand region of the Palmetto State.
(Click to view)
As we reported last spring, this project’s third phase is massively over-budget and behind schedule.
Hucks’ article focuses on a proposed northern extension of this road into North Carolina, where it would be renamed Interstate 74 prior to connecting with U.S. Highway 17. Officials released plans for nine potential “corridors” for this road last November, prompting outcry from area farmers who expressed concern that the thoroughfare would do irreparable damage to the local agricultural economy.
A final decision regarding the route of the highway will be made in early 2021, assuming North Carolina is able to come up with sufficient funding for the project. South Carolina taxpayers have already committed to funding at least $185 million of the nineteen-mile road.
No word yet on whether Rankin exerted his influence on behalf of that expenditure.
Needless to say, this news outlet is exceedingly curious to determine whether a company with ties to Rankin stands to profit from this particular project. If so, that would be very troubling.
As it stands now, Rankin’s financial dealings with a member of the Santee Cooper board are distinctly troubling given the extent to which he has done the utility’s bidding at the S.C. State House for decades.
Santee Cooper board members are not appointed by lawmakers – as Hucks erroneously claimed in his report – but the Senate does exercise and advice and consent role over its appointments, which are made by governor Henry McMaster. And as we have noted, Rankin wields more authority over Santee Cooper-related matters than any other member of the S.C. General Assembly.
Stay tuned … there is clearly a lot to unpack here.
And yes, props to Hucks and his outlet for uncovering these connections and getting the ball rolling on this story.
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