Sunday Buzz: Help coming for SC State – finally?

04/12/2014 6:51 PM

04/12/2014 6:52 PM

A deal could be in the works to get S.C. State University the money that it says it needs to avoid interrupting campus services and to win over accreditors.

Gov. Nikki Haley told The Buzz last week that state leaders are working on a solution to help S.C. State University with its $13.6 million cash shortage.

“We are going through options now,” she said. “We need to figure out how to do this, and how to do this quickly.”

S.C. leaders have not given the state’s only historically black public college any additional money since the school revealed the shortfall in late January.

The school’s accreditors are headed to its Orangeburg campus Wednesday for a two-day visit. During the visit, they will review a warning they placed on the university last year. S.C. State’s accreditation is under threat, in part, because of its troubled financial picture. How troubled? Some of its bills have gone unpaid since October.

An assurance that money is coming from the state could help the college win over accreditors, sources told The Buzz.

School trustees have called a special meeting Monday with word that a funding plan is coming to the table.

Haley said she was unsure if the state Budget and Control Board, a group of five state political leaders led by the Republican governor, would offer S.C. State a loan or try to find a way to give the school a cash infusion. Talks were ongoing, she said.

The school is reporting progress on bolstering its sagging enrollment, which has dropped by a third in the past seven years, hurting the college’s coffers. Applications are up 57 percent from a year ago and admissions have doubled.

But S.C. State will have to change its accounting practices to win help from the State House.

A report by the state inspector general, released last week, found the school diverted $6.5 million in state money from a program meant to help poor communities to paper over its deficits over the past seven years.

“They were doing the cup game with the money, and when you start to do the cup game with the money, it eventually catches up with you,” Haley said. “We need to make sure that whatever we do to solve this problem, it does not happen again.”

Going the Santorum way

U.S. Senate hopeful Det Bowers has tapped two top campaign advisers for Republican Rick Santorum’s unsuccessful 2012 White House run.

Mike Biundo and Andrew Boucher were national campaign manager and political director, respectively, for the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, who finished third in South Carolina’s 2012 GOP presidential primary.

Biundo also was national deputy coalition director for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Bowers, a Columbia pastor, is one of six Republicans running in June’s GOP primary against U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca.

“It was difficult finding a general consultant, considering who Sen. Graham is and people not wanting to step on his toes or the NRSC’s [National Republican Senatorial Committee] toes,” said Bowers’ son, Joel Bowers.

Bowers has raised more than $417,000 since entering the race in February, more than any of Graham’s other GOP primary challengers reported raising in any quarter.

Santorum, who is considering a second run at the White House in 2016, starts a three-day visit to South Carolina Sunday, including stops at two private fundraisers in Charleston and Columbia. Bowers currently has no plans to meet with Santorum, his campaign said.

What are friends for?

Democratic gubernatorial challenger Vincent Sheheen got boosts from some friends in his latest quarterly campaign fundraising.

He received $49,500 from the S.C. Democratic Party in March. State parties can give up to $50,000 per election cycle. Haley got $50,000 from the state GOP party in December 2012.

Sheheen, a Camden attorney, also received $35,000 from 10 separate political-action committees tied to the S.C. Association for Justice, a trial-lawyers’ trade group.

He raised a total of $564,248 in the first three months of the year.

Meanwhile, Haley also got help from an old pal.

The Republican incumbent received a $3,500 contribution from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s PAC in March. Palin made a crucial campaign stop and endorsement for Haley in 2010, just before her GOP primary win.

Give Clyburn credit

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn is far from the wealthiest member of Congress, but is he a credit risk? Apparently, his credit rating took a serious hit not long after he won a seat in the U.S. House in the 1990s.

When members of Congress first were given cellphones, the phones were issued in their names but paid for by the federal government. The government, as is its norm, “took its sweet time” to pay the bills, Clyburn said during a lecture at the University of South Carolina last week.

When Clyburn tried to get a loan to buy a new house a year later, he was turned down for the best interest rate. “I got dinged by because over the previous 12 months my cellphone payment had always been late.”

Buzz bites

•  So far 27 S.C. House members have removed their names as a sponsors of a bill that would allow the Legislature to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the state attorney general. More than 80 representatives originally signed onto the bill. But the spat between House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, and Attorney General Alan Wilson, R-Lexington, became a central issue with the bill, leading some lawmakers to flee.
•  Jeff Taillon, Haley’s director of advance work who also worked on her 2010 campaign, has become campaign manager for former state Attorney General Henry McMaster’s bid for lieutenant governor.
•  Quote of the week: “My mama said I had a birth defect, my heart is too close to my eyes,” Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, as he became emotional after Senate passage of a bill to ensure S.C. third-graders can read.

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