With the election just 17 days away, it’s a good time to assess the TV war of words between Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and her Democratic rival Vincent Sheheen.
The Buzz analyzed the 15 television from the Haley and Sheheen campaigns for errors and exaggerations. One major misstep equals a Buzzer. A small slip earned one-half of a Buzzer.
The Buzz’s tally is a tie, though the governor has aired more ads. Haley’s nine ads earned 5 Buzzers, while Sheheen’s six commercials also collected 5 Buzzers.
Haley received:• Half-Buzzers for two ads in which she mentioned moving 20,000 South Carolinians from welfare to work. Social Services has not yet fulfilled a media request for how many of those former welfare recipients earned so little or worked so few hours in their new jobs that they still qualified for food stamps.
• 1 1/2 Buzzers for her ad involving the National Labor Relation Board’s lawsuit over Boeing’s opening of its North Charleston airplane plant.
The narrators in the September ad said, “When labor union bosses and Washington bureaucrats tried to stop Boeing from bringing thousands of jobs to South Carolina, Nikki Haley fought for us and won.”
While Haley fought the suit, the conflict ended when Boeing agreed to give unions representing its workers in Washington state more money and production work.
The narrators later say, “The big labor unions have donated thousands of dollars to liberal Vince Sheheen.” That sounds like a lot of dough. But Sheheen, who has collected more than $2.7 million, has received four donations, totaling $6,000, from two union groups. That earned a half-Buzzer.• A Buzzer for saying in an ad this month that South Carolina has “one of the fastest-growing economies on the East Coast.”
That’s year-old data that changed in June when new economic data was released. South Carolina had the 35th fastest-growing state economy in the nation last year, according to federal statistics.• A trio of half-Buzzers in her only ad that attacks Sheheen from the start. One small markdown for another “backed-by-big-labor-unions” claim.
The second half-Buzzer came for saying, “Sheheen is a trial lawyer who’s made big bucks defending violent criminals and suing our state.”
The words “big bucks” are the issue.
Sure, Sheheen’s Camden firm has earned some money from worker’s compensation lawsuits, but he represented only a handful of defendants charged with assault and domestic abuse. Sheheen has said the bulk of his practice is civil cases.
The final half-Buzzer was awarded for saying, “(A)nd his plans call for hundreds of millions in new spending” without any specifics raised on this issue in the campaign.
Sheheen received:• A half-Buzzer for an May ad featuring Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott about the Department of Social Services crisis in which he says: “Instead of demanding accountability, Nikki Haley is covering up her administration’s failures.”
This is about word choice.
A legislative audit found inaccurate numbers from the agency but made no allegations of a cover-up by the governor. Haley has said she did not know the depth of Social Services’ problems until recently.• Three Buzzers for a pair of ads on the massive hacking of taxpayer records from the S.C. Department of Revenue. Haley “hid” and “covered up” the theft for more than two weeks, both ads say. One ad says, “She refuses to release the official report on what happened.”
The governor said she was following direction of law enforcement in not revealing the breach for 16 days. Haley’s administration and SLED chief Mark Keel also have said the report was not released out of security concerns. Sheheen’s camp counters the public’s right to protect themselves outweighs other concerns.• A Buzzer for a September ad saying Haley vetoed 4-year-old kindergarten. The governor did not. She vetoed reauthorizing two years of funding for a program that aids private 4Ks. Since the Legislature overrode that veto, the program still received money in the budget.
• A half-Buzzer for saying in an October ad that said Haley was “denying health care to seniors and children” by refusing to accept Medicaid expansion under the new federal health care law pushed by President Barack Obama.
An estimated 340,000 South Carolinians could have received health insurance under the expansion. But the ad defined “seniors” as those ages 55 to 64. And the Haley administration has worked to register more children in existing Medicaid programs. A half-Buzzer is awarded for this bit of hyperbole.
More air time for Haley
Haley, who holds the fundraising advantage, has outspent Sheheen in TV ads so far, according to the latest data collected by the Center for Public Integrity.
The governor had spent $2.2 million in ads through last Wednesday versus Sheheen’s $1.5 million. Petition candidate Tom Ervin, who has mostly self-funded his campaign, has outspent the Democrat on TV with $1.9 million in ads, according to center data.
Haley shelled out more than Sheheen for ads in the past week — $225,00 to $143,000.
New campaign fundraising numbers on Monday could show whether Sheheen has the cash for a late blitz.
Not waving the flag
At the candidates’ debate Tuesday, Haley said she "has not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag" on the State House grounds.
So the Buzz tried to see if that was the case.
And guess what? Many businesses don’t want to talk about the controversial flag.
Of a dozen businesses involved in some of the bigger economic development announcements during Haley’s first term, just two firms answered questions about whether they have spoken to state officials about the flag and their company policy about displaying it.
Neither tire makers Continental nor Bridgestone said they have spoken with anyone in S.C. government about the flag.
On its position about having the flag on the State House grounds, Bridgestone said: “As a member of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, we support their position on the compromise.” That compromise moved the flag from atop the State House dome to the Confederate memorial in front of the State House.
As for displaying the flag at work, Bridgestone said it does not have any specific policies but added that “as a company we endeavor to maintain a culture of inclusiveness, respect and understanding among the teammates in each location where we do business.”
Continental did not share an opinion about having the flag on the State House grounds. On company policies about displaying it, “the topic of the Confederate flag is not one that we have had any issues with internally,” Continental said.
TD Bank and AmerisourceBergen declined comment.
The Buzz also reached out to BMW, Michelin, Allstate, Shutterfly, Colgate Palmolive, LPL Financial and Benefitfocus but did not get an answer.
Boeing offered only this: “(W)e’re going to keep our focus on building and delivering high-quality airplanes for our customers and meeting the expectations of our shareholders. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished here. We’ll leave campaign debates and discussions to the political campaigns.”
Buzz Bites• Sheheen was not seen publicly with Joe Biden when the vice president came to town on Tuesday. But Dick Harpootlian, the former state Democratic Party chairman who held a party fundraiser at his home with Biden, said the Buzz shouldn’t read too much into the absence of photo ops between the veep and would-be governor. “There are perceived negatives about Barack Obama (in South Carolina) but not with Joe Biden,” Harpo said. Sheheen visited a breakfast with Biden on Tuesday but scheduling conflicts prevented the Camden state senator from attending any other events, his folks said.
• 2016 in S.C.: Former Republican Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is scheduled to attend a fundraiser for Haley Thursday at Columbia’s Capital City Club. It is Bush’s first trip to South Carolina in the early part of the presidential cycle. Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will headline a S.C. GOP party fundraiser on Wednesday at Senate’s End in Columbia.
• More than 20 S.C. pastors are scheduled to visit Poland and England next month with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, another 2016 Republican White House prospect. They will join pastors from Iowa, another early presidential primary state, in the trip organized by David Lane of the American Renewal Project. Lane has brought Huckabee and another presidential hopeful, Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, to South Carolina in the past year.