The Buzz

August 2, 2014

Buzz: Candidates for SC governor earned a little extra from real estate

The Buzz has learned how the major-party candidates in the governor’s race made a little money on the side last year.

The Buzz

A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to thebuzz@thestate.com.

The Buzz has learned how the major-party candidates in the governor’s race made a little money on the side last year.

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and her husband, Michael, earned $70,506 from loans to the governor’s parents and a California doctor. Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen and his wife, Amy, have a company that owns three properties in Richland and Kershaw counties that generated $75,090 in rent last year.

The Haleys loaned $1.1 million at an interest rate of 9.5 percent last year to Dr. Jerome Rubin of Monterey, Calif., the governor’s campaign says. The deal, secured with an office building Rubin owns, earned $57,332 for the Haleys, according to the campaign and income tax records. Their profit was $25,538 after paying $31,793 in interest, the campaign said.

The governor does not know Rubin, her campaign said. The Haleys’ financial adviser, Neil Shah of Salinas, Calif., introduced the first couple to the investment, which was a short-term construction loan to renovate a 26,000-square-foot Southern California building for a new rental tenant, the campaign said. The loan with Pacific Valley Bank of Salinas, Calif., ended in last August.

Rubin has not donated to Haley’s campaign, but Shah has contributed to $2,500 and a company registered in California to Louis Cosentino, an organizer of Pacific Valley Bank, gave $250, according to state records.

The Haleys other loan was issued in 2012 to the governor’s parents, Ajit and Raj Randhawa. That loan is secured with the Randhawas’ Lexington home, the site of their closed Lexington clothing store, an Orangeburg land tract and a Columbia office building off Sparkleberry Road, according to the governor’s campaign and property records.

The Haleys earned $13,174 from that loan in 2013 after earning $3,833 the year before, according to their income-tax returns. The loan remains active.

The Sheheens formed a company three years ago that received $75,090 in rent in 2013 from two commercial properties and a home. They made $33,372 in profit after expenses, according to their tax return.

In 2011, the couple’s AVS LLC bought a home for $108,000 in the Pine Brook development in northeast Columbia, according to the campaign and land records.

AVS also owns commercial properties in Lugoff, purchased for $170,000 last year, and southeast Columbia, bought for $285,000 in 2012, according to the Sheheen campaign and county property records.

The prices paid for both commercial properties were about $40,000 below their tax values, county assessment records show.

All three of AVS’ properties were bought from Camden-based First Palmetto Bank, according to property records.

Sheheen has no official ties to the bank in his hometown, his campaign said. First Palmetto president Samuel Small gave Sheheen’s campaign $1,000 in March, state records show.

Tax-free too gimmicky?

Many S.C. residents are taking advantage of getting new sneakers, pencils, book bags and other back-to-school items this weekend, when consumers don’t have to pay sales tax.

But the sales-tax-free weekend is a bad idea, according to the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and and Economic Policy. It says tax holidays “are no substitute for real tax reform and fail to deliver on their grand promises.”

The organization’s arguments include that higher-income households benefit the most from the weekend because those families are able to shift their budgets around to take advantage of the holiday. But the organization also notes that states lose revenue on the tax-free weekends.

South Carolina lost about $3 million last year because of the weekend, according to state Revenue Department spokesman Bonnie Swingle.

That’s not much when compared to the state’s $7 billion general fund budget. But it could have paid for approximately 95 more state troopers or 60 teachers or about 35 school buses.

‘He should be embarrassed’

Three days after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Virginia’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, the Democratic candidate for governor state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden said South Carolina “should pause” its defense of the state’s gay marriage ban until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue.

Less than shockingly, the S.C. Democratic Party supported Sheheen’s comments. Also less than shockingly, the S.C. GOP did not.

“Vincent Sheheen is saying that as governor, he will not defend the laws that South Carolinians overwhelmingly passed,” said Matt Moore, chairman of the S.C. Republican Party. “He should be embarrassed.”

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