The Buzz: Keeping up ap-Pearsons

ashain@thestate.comOctober 21, 2012 

Tim Pearson is gone from the governor’s office, but he’s not gone from the governor.

Gov. Nikki Haley’s former chief of staff moved out of the State House last week after re-opening her campaign shop. (Some might ask: Did it ever really close? See details later.)

Pearson is working out of temporary digs at the Womble Carlyle law office – familiar turf since that’s the home of Butch Bowers and Kevin Hall, the lawyers who represented the Republican guv in her ethics case.

Pearson is looking for his own office space with the expectation of no longer working alone at his one-client consulting firm, Salt Box Strategies.

While Pearson’s boss has not formally announced her re-election bid – that should come next summer – that has not kept the two apart.

Pearson is spending the weekend with Haley in Napa, Calif., at the Republican Governors Association’s Statesmen Retreat.

The guv’s office said Haley’s new chief of staff Bryan Stirling did not travel west. The Buzz figures it must be more of a political event.

Well, Tim could bring Bryan back a goodie from a winery.

Or, at least, the airport gift shop.

Michael Roth, eco-devo magnet?

Michael Roth has enjoyed plenty of success in Omaha, Neb., pitching the Gamecocks to two College World Series titles and nearly winning a third this year.

But can Roth bring business to South Carolina?

The state Commerce Department hopes so.

Commerce boss Bobby Hitt went to Omaha last week with the left-hander in tow to the Industrial Asset Management Council conference. The corporate real estate group meets next spring in Charleston and Roth spoke at a state-sponsored dinner at TD Ameritrade Park – home of the College World Series.

“First time at this park in something other than a uniform #Coat & Tie,” the international business grad tweeted.

The Commerce folks told The Buzz the state picked up the tab for Roth’s airfare and hotel but did not pay him for his motivational speech – a side business he is developing while trying to make the big leagues with the Los Angeles Angels.

Perhaps Roth, a starter as pitcher, has found a new career as a (business) closer.

When you poke the guv, she pokes back

Haley had a spat with state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis last week, giving voters a peek at a possible gubernatorial matchup in 2014.

South Carolina’s CEO visited Charleston on Wednesday to celebrate the region being named the best tourist town in the world – seriously? – by Conde Nast.

Stavrinakis, a Charleston Democrat who loves Twitter, sent tweets to Charleston reporters asking them to ask Haley why she is taking credit for Charleston’s success given “her abysmal tourism record” – specifically not supporting events including the Heritage Golf Tournament and the Southeastern Wildlife Exchange with taxpayer money.

The reporters took Stavrinakis up on it. Haley’s answer? “It’s not the job of taxpayers to pay for fun events for legislators to go to.”

Then, she added: “Tell (Stavrinakis), ‘Thank you for the question.’ I appreciate the opportunity to slam him once again.”

“What kind of thing is that for a governor to say?” Stavrinakis said the next day. “Does she ever leave campaign mode?”

The Buzz thinks this is funny, particularly since Stavrinakis loves to slam the guv to anyone who will listen.

But Stavrinakis could find out soon if Haley ever “leaves campaign mode.”

The Democrat told The Buzz he is thinking about running for governor, saying he will decide for sure next summer.

Have governor’s groups reformed?

When Henry McMaster was asked by Haley to co-chair a special commission on ethics reform last week, he did not recall that he’s not always been a fan of this kind of thing.

A decade ago, McMaster was on a task force appointed by Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges to look at campaign finance reform. That task force’s report languished, and some fear that same thing could happen to the report from the new commission.

“We knew that from the beginning. Appointing a task force is an old political trick,” McMaster said in 2001, when he was state GOP chairman. “When you have a problem, you form a study committee.”

Reminded by the Buzz of what he had to say about commissions then, the former S.C. attorney general said circumstances have changed. The ethics reform commission, created by Haley’s executive order, is more formal.

“This is a very serious body,” he said. “This is completely different. That other one was more of a discussion group.”

The Buzz thinks proof will come by the end of the legislative session when it sees how many of the commission’s recommendations make it through the General Assembly.

Nikki’s list of naughty and nice

The guv ain’t saying who she is targeting for holding up her idea of progress in South Carolina. So The Buzz is keeping score on S.C. candidates who have won backing from Haley and the Movement Fund political group that is led by her supporters:

• Senate District 23, Lexington County: Backing Katrina Shealy, a petition candidate who is opposing state Sen. Jake Knotts, a Republican

• Senate District 26, Lexington: Backing Republican Deedee Vaughters against state Sen. Nikki Setzler, a Democrat

• Senate District 28, Horry: Backing Republican Greg Hembree against Democrat Butch Johnson

• Senate District 35, Sumter: Backing Republican Tony Barwick against Democrat Thomas McElveen

Staff writer Adam Beam contributed

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