The Buzz: ‘Out of mouths of babes,’ S.C. high-rollers, and calling Mitt, Koch and Fritz

January 18, 2014 

SC State House


— Jamie Self

How do you gain an edge in the ongoing and ever-divisive debate about what South Carolina’s children should learn about sex?

Call in the source.

That’s what state Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Dorchester, did last week, inviting a group of ninth-graders from the S.C. Early College High School in Horry County to share their ideas on how to prevent teen pregnancy.

As part of a program called Project Citizen, a curriculum offered through the S.C. Bar’s Law Related Education, the students settled on teen pregnancy as their issue to evaluate in their civics class, looking at current public policy and recommending changes.

The students picked the topic after hearing that Horry County would get part of a $1.5 million grant to combat teen pregnancy because of its high teen-birth rate. Horry County ranked 33rd in South Carolina with a teen birth rate of 35 percent, higher than the national rate of 29.4 percent.

One student said they learned about abstinence as a way to prevent pregnancy. But, the student added, “Teaching abstinence alone is not enough nowadays.”

The students surveyed students and adults about how much they talk about teenage dating.

“The adults were saying that they did talk to their students about it,” one student told lawmakers. “The students were saying, ‘We didn’t have this conversation.’”

On Thursday at a press conference about the state’s dropping teen-pregnancy rate – still 11th highest in the nation – Horne said she feels certain that a push to update the state’s health education law to include medically accurate information about preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases should gain momentum now that cries for change are coming “out of mouths of babes.”

High-rollers on the state payroll

Might be hard to believe but University of South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier was not – technically – the highest-paid state employee before he got a new contract last week.

He was tied for eighth.

Spurrier earned $3.3 million in total compensation last year – $350,000 in public pay and nearly $3 million in proceeds from university athletics contracts.

The state’s salary database includes only money from the public. (That also means foundation supplements, used to enhance the earnings of university administrators, are not counted.)

However, with the $700,000 raise in his base pay approved Thursday, Spurrier’s public salary now is rising to a state-high $1 million a year. (He’ll earn $4 million overall.)

Spurrier supplanted his boss, USC athletics director Ray Tanner, atop the state salary list.

Meanwhile, USC defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward’s state salary jumped into the top 10 when his base pay was increased to $400,000 with a new contract Thursday.

After the new USC contracts, here is the list of the 10 highest salaries paid with public money, according to the state Budget and Control Board:

1. Spurrier, USC football coach: $1.05 million

2. Tanner, USC athletics director: $525,000

3. Lisa Montgomery, MUSC finance vice president: $405,313

4. Jay Moskowitz, USC professor: $402,999

5T. Frederick Wojcik, College of Charleston basketball coach: $400,000

5T. Ward, USC defensive coordinator: $400,000

7. Martin Morad, USC professor: $384,911

8. James Bottum, Clemson University vice provost: $373,035

9. Prakash Nagarkatti, USC research vice president: $357,980

10. Dawn Staley, USC women’s basketball coach: $350,000

Calling Mitt, Koch and Fritz

Gov. Nikki Haley and her likely Democratic challenger, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, a Camden attorney, have friends in high places. Notable contributors on their 2013 fourth-quarter fundraising included:

For Haley

•  Mitt Romney, occupation “retired” (and the 2012 GOP presidential nominee whom Haley endorsed) – $3,500

•  Charles Koch, the industrialist who, with his brother, is deeply involved in national Republican politics – $3,500

Chase Koch, Charles’ son – $3,500.

•  Texans for Rick Perry, the Texas governor’s campaign – $3,500. (Perry visited the Palmetto state last year, likely testing the waters for a possible 2016 White House run.)

•  Lesa France Kennedy, chief executive of International Speedway Corp., owner of Darlington Raceway and the parent company of NASCAR – $3,500

For Sheheen

•  Former U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings – $1,000.

•  Former USC president John Palms – $1,000.

•  Robert Royall, former U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania and S.C. secretary of commerce – $3,500.

•  Alex Sanders, former chief justice of S.C. Court of Appeals and College of Charleston president – $1,000

•  Mack Whittle, USC trustee and retired chief executive of First Carolina bank, now owned by TD Bank – $1,000

Winning the money game in S.C.? Haley

Despite South Carolina pitching in more than 90 percent of Sheheen’s contributions to Haley’s 52 percent, Haley still is besting Sheheen in shaking dollars from the Palmetto tree.

From October to December, Haley raised $445,822 in South Carolina to Sheheen’s $397,012. Thus far, in her re-election bid, Haley has raised $2.6 million in the state to Sheheen’s $1.1 million. Haley’s overall cash raised is about $5 million to Sheheen’s $1.6 million.

Buzz bite

Municipal Association lobbyist Melissa Carter needed a moment to recover last week after she introduced new association staff member Tiger Wells as “Tiger Woods” to a House legislative subcommittee. “My, how far you have fallen,” state Rep. Jim Merrill, the House’s designated jokester, quipped to Wells.

Staff writers Adam Beam and Andrew Shain contributed. Reach Self at (803)771-8658

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