SC politics: Pro-Haley group begins running TV ads

March 24, 2014 

State of State

RAINIER EHRHARDT — AP

Pro-Haley group begins running TV ads

A pro-Gov. Nikki Haley political group will begin airing television ads statewide Wednesday urging state senators to back the first-term Republican’s education plan.

The House included about $60 million for reading teachers and technology money that were part of Haley’s $160 million proposal introduced before the legislative session. The Senate now is weighing the $24 billion budget.

The ad also comes as Haley of Lexington prepares for another run against Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden in November. Democrats have said Haley co-opted plans they have recommended for years.

“In too many of our poorer communities education levels aren’t what they should be,” the ad from The Movement Fund says. “Nikki Haley has a plan to fix it, more funding for poor districts, improved technology in rural classrooms, intensive reading focus – so every child can read by the end of third grade.”

The ad includes Windy Cordovano, a third-grade teacher at New Providence Elementary School in Lexington, who says: “Our teachers’ group met with Gov. Haley and she really listened. Her plan will have a huge impact in our classrooms.”

Tim Pearson, an adviser to both the political group and Haley’s re-election campaign, declined to put an exact price tag on the ad except to say it is “well into six figures.”

The fund spent about $300,000 to air television spots last year questioning Sheheen’s support of nationwide health care reform.

The group had about $173,000 on hand at the end of 2013. That goes along with $3.7 million that Haley had on hand in her 2014 re-election coffers.

The Movement Fund’s ads are just the latest sign of the governor’s race heating up.

The Republican Governors Association aired two television ads this month aiming at Sheheen’s support of the Affordable Care Act. Sheheen has said he supports South Carolina taking the first three years of the Medicaid expansion, fully paid for by the federal government.

Final order dismisses Eckstrom ethics charges

Ethics charges officially have been dropped against state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, according to an order issued by the state Ethics Commission.

“After carefully considering argument of counsel and reviewing the written submissions, the Commission concludes that the facts alleged in the Complaint do not constitute a violation of the South Carolina Ethics Act,” commission chairman Phillip Florence wrote in the order issued Friday.

Last week, the commission held a hearing over allegations that Eckstrom, in his third term as the state’s chief accountant, broke ethics law when he used $1,642 in campaign money for gasoline, food and a hotel stay during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., at which his girlfriend was an alternate delegate.

Eckstrom previously had attended several GOP conventions in an official capacity, subsequently reimbursing himself from campaign money, as is permitted under state law. On Wednesday, his attorney argued the 2012 trip was no different, saying Eckstrom – though not an elected delegate – still was conducting political business, both as an official of South Carolina and a likely Republican candidate for future political office.

“He attended all of the events,” Mitch Willoughby told the panel. “He didn’t travel to Florida to go to Disney World.”

The commissioners ultimately agreed, voting 4-2 to dismiss charges. Commission attorney Cathy Hazelwood had argued that since Eckstrom played no official role at the convention or any of its associated events, his trip was tantamount to nothing more than a vacation.

It marked the second time allegations of ethical misconduct have been dropped against Eckstrom. During the 2006 campaign, he used a state minivan and paid for fuel with a state-issued gas card on a 2004 family vacation to his native Minnesota, which he called a “mistake in judgment.” He reimbursed the state $669, and the state Ethics Commission investigated and found no wrongdoing.

Eckstrom has until Sunday to file for re-election to a fourth term as comptroller general.

Monday’s primary filings in Richland, Lexington counties

Filing ends Sunday for the June 10 primary election. Previous filings at www.thestate.com/politics

Richland County auditor: Paul Brawley* (D)

Richland County treasurer: David Adams* (D)

* Denotes incumbent

Governor’s schedule and activities

Gov. Nikki Haley’s publicly announced schedule for this week, released Monday by her staff, is:

Thursday, 1 p.m.: Address the Rotary Club of Pawleys Island

Thursday, 2:15 p.m.: Tour Coastal Montessori Charter School, Pawleys Island

Friday, 8:55 a.m.: Address chief human resource officers as Talent Architect Conference, Columbia

Friday, 1 p.m.: Attend economic-development announcement, BMW Manufacturing Co., Greer

According to her office, Haley’s activities last week included:

7 – Economic-development activities, five meetings, attending part of the S.C. Power Team’s economic-development review conference at Hilton Head Island and a visit to Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters

3 – Speeches to in-state groups, the Greenville Chamber of Commerce’s public policy lunch series, the Simpsonville Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual membership banquet and the S.C. Specialty Foods Association’s annual membership meeting in West Columbia

2 each – Out-of-state speeches to Republican groups, the San Francisco GOP’s Lincoln Reagan Dinner and the Lincoln Club of Northern California; meetings or visits to state agencies, including the state Department of Motor Vehicles in Blythewood; meetings with religious groups, praying with members of the S.C. Baptist Convention at the State House and taking part in the 54th annual S.C. state prayer breakfast in Columbia

1 each – Meeting with a constituent; State House press conference, to urge the federal government not to shelve the MOX plant at the SRS site; also, meetings concerning state policy the legislative session

Busiest day – Tuesday, with nine activities

Slowest day – Friday, with one activity, the Google tour

Of note – Haley was in California at least three days; her California schedule included a Saturday activity, a political speech

Andrew Shain, The Associated Press, staff and Dawn Hinshaw contributed

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