Editorial: Howard Rich’s losing SC investment strategy

01/30/2013 12:00 AM

01/29/2013 6:06 PM

THE LESSON that S.C. voters need to take from the latest campaign-finance reports is that Howard Rich, the megalomaniacal millionaire from New York, is not going to stop trying to buy himself a friendly little Legislature in South Carolina.

If he succeeds, we know his minions will start by throwing public money at private schools, stealing funding and public support from the public schools that we own and are responsible for.

And eventually, who knows? They’ll probably try to fulfill the perverted dream of Mr. Rich’s fellow traveler Grover Norquist to cut government in half and then in half again and again and again until it’s small enough to drown in a bathtub.

And Mr. Rich won’t give up his efforts unless or until South Carolinians so thoroughly reject his tactics as to convince him that trying to buy our Legislature is a bad investment strategy.

What our legislators need to take away from the reports is this: Yes, Mr. Rich will come after you if you dare to oppose his carpetbagging plan for our state. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose.

The State’s Jamie Self counted $153,000 in donations Mr. Rich made to House and Senate candidates in last year’s primary and general elections.

That’s apparently down from the quarter million dollars he invested in House candidates alone in the 2010 primaries, but Mr. Rich uses such a convoluted network of limited liability corporations to get around our campaign-donation limits that it’s impossible to say for sure that last year’s count is complete — or any year’s, for that matter.

But here’s what we know for sure: Last year, three state senators lost their re-election bids. Mr. Rich had targeted one of them four years earlier, but there’s no evidence that he put any money into last year’s race. The other two defeated senators — David Thomas and Mike Rose — were among the largest recipients of Mr. Rich’s largesse. Mr. Thomas received $11,000 in Rich donations, Mr. Rose $10,000.

Three House members were defeated last year (two by fellow incumbents), but there’s no evidence that Mr. Rich was involved in any of those races.

So if anything, it looks like being a Howie Rich puppet is bad for your re-election efforts.

This isn’t new. Two years ago, eight Rich-backed legislative candidates won their primaries, and 12 lost. Four of his losers were incumbents, who rarely lose; only one of his winners was a challenger, and that was a former House member running for an open seat.

And yet, too many of our legislators run scared at the thought of Mr. Rich coming after them, succumbing to his will in order to avoid that danger.

That’s where the citizens of South Carolina come in. We need to support those legislators who oppose Mr. Rich’s private school “choice” proposals, and let them know we’ll be there for them if they hang tough.

And we need to let his minions know that we’ll be there to support them if they disavow his plan to defund the public schools, and start working for South Carolina again.

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