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Capital City Watch: Steve Benjamin Has An Executive Branch Problem, Too

Outgoing mayor’s misadventures in lobbying continue …

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Not too long ago, I addressed the escalating issues faced by outgoing Columbia, South Carolina mayor Steve Benjamin as he embarks on his new career as a lobbyist before the S.C. General Assembly.

It seems the über-liberal municipal leader never got the memo about building bridges with lawmakers rather than burning them down (see here, here and here).

I never got that memo, either (obviously). In fact, my modus operandi when it comes to legislative interaction can be summed up by watching the final five minutes of the 1957 classic The Bridge On The River Kwai.

(Spoiler alert: The bridge explodes).

Of course, my livelihood does not depend on sucking up to lawmakers … rather it depends on the extent to which I aggressively hold them accountable for the results they are producing. Or rather not producing.

Benjamin, though, needs lawmakers to take his calls if he is to advocate effectively on behalf of his clients … which is why it is curious he continues to alienate himself from so many of them.

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Anyway, Benjamin’s eroding position within the S.C. General Assembly is widely known … but one of his calling cards has always been his proximity to former clients of veteran “Republican” political strategist Richard Quinn, several of whom occupy positions of influence within the executive branch of government.

Regular readers of this news outlet will recall Quinn’s empire came crumbling down during the ProbeGate public corruption investigation (which remains ongoing nearly seven years after this news outlet first reported on it). But most of Quinn’s high-profile former clients – including governor Henry McMaster and U.S. senator Lindsey Graham – managed to emerge unscathed from this influence-peddling scandal.

Benjamin’s status as a member of this inner circle – referred to as the “Quinndom” – has long afforded him some measure of insulation from critics in the S.C. General Assembly.

Does he still have those relationships, though?

Not long ago, I was shown a string of text messages from Trey Walker – McMaster’s combative chief of staff. These messages were sent to a confidant in the aftermath of Benjamin’s failed bid to impose a mask mandate for K-12 schools within the city limits.

(Click to view)

(Via: Facebook)

While I was not permitted to post the content of the messages, the language used by Walker (above) made it abundantly clear there is no love lost between Benjamin and the governor’s office. Like, none. Whatsoever.

In fairness to Benjamin, the time stamp on the messages would seem to indicate they were sent during one of Walker’s regular evening voyages “in the cups.” So perhaps the “shadow governor” has recomposed himself in the intervening days.

I doubt it, though …

Once his indignation is sufficiently aroused, Walker is known to hold grudges for a lifetime.

Yet another bridge burned, right?

And for what, exactly? Benjamin lost his mask case before the S.C. supreme court, and has since backed down from his threat to take his mask mandate battle to the U.S. supreme court.

What exactly did he hope to accomplish?

My guess is his lobbying clients are asking themselves the same question right about now … while scouring the fine print of their contracts with Benjamin to determine if there is any applicable “exit clause.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: FITSNews)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that Los Angeles Dodgers’ lid pictured above).

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