Politics & Government

S.C. Politics Roundup

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"We've got to start over. There's nothing left but ugly shards of a pathetic bureaucracy."

- Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, on restructuring the S.C. Employment Security Commission. A bill in the General Assembly would put the agency under control of the governor.

D.C. WATCH

Reports on the S.C. delegation in Washington, D.C.

Report: Wilson lobbied for stimulus

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson publicly opposed the federal stimulus bill but quietly asked the Department of Agriculture to steer money toward his district, according to a Washington Times investigation published Tuesday.

Wilson was one of a handful of GOP lawmakers cited in the story who voted against the $787 billion bill designed to pump money into the economy, and then later asked for a slice of the funds.

"We know their endeavor will provide jobs and investment in one of the poorer sections of the Congressional District," Wilson wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in an August 2009 letter excerpted by the Times.

Wilson's spokeswoman told the Times that like many S.C. Republicans, once Congress approved the bill, the state would have to repay the money and should seek its portion.

"Congressman Wilson's position on the stimulus bill is consistent," said Pepper Pennington. She said Wilson opposed the stimulus as a "misguided spending bill," but once it passed, he wanted to make sure S.C. residents "receive their share of the pie."

Wilson has become a target for national Democrats after he shouted "You lie!" at President Barack Obama during a September speech. He and presumed Democratic opponent Rob Miller have raised millions following the outburst, and the race could be the most expensive in state history.

- John O'Connor

DeMint adds D.C. journalist to his staff

Amanda Carpenter, a correspondent and political columnist with The Washington Times, has joined U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint's staff, according to the newspaper.

Carpenter will serve as a senior communications adviser and speechwriter for DeMint.

"Amanda is an exceptionally talented writer, and I'm proud to welcome her to our team," DeMint said in a news release. "She has spent years reporting on the failures of out-of-control government, and she is committed to advancing solutions that increase freedom and opportunity for all Americans."

- Staff Reports

CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Notes from election 2010.

Howard seeks Lexington House seat

Former Lexington County Council chairman Jerry Howard announced Monday that he will run for House District 87.

The seat is currently held by Rep. Nikki Haley, who is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Howard, 69, last served on County Council 18 years ago. He was on the council when Michelin and Pirelli announced they would open plants in the county. Howard is an engineer with Central Electric Power Cooperative and served 28 years in the U.S. Army Reserve.

"I believe my engineering background can be a major asset at the State House," Howard said. "Standing up for taxpayers means re-engineering state government to ensure that it runs as efficiently as possible; protecting our quality of life by developing solutions to problems like overdevelopment, congestion and traffic; and targeting resources to our schools to guarantee all children a top-level education."

Howard will officially kick off his campaign Feb. 15 at Hudson's Smokehouse in Lexington.

- John O'Connor

Former Gov. Beasley on Ken Ard's team

Former Gov. David Beasley will serve as campaign chairman for Ken Ard, a Florence attorney who is seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.

Ard, like Beasley, is from Florence.

"I am thrilled to spearhead Ken Ard's campaign for lieutenant governor because Ken is not only a man of character, he is a man with consistent and proven results for bringing jobs to those he represents," Beasley said in a release from the Ard campaign.

Ard is seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor along with Bill Connor, an Orangeburg attorney and former Army officer.

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer is running for governor, and will vacate his post as lieutenant governor after serving two terms.

CAPITOL CONNECTION

Lawmakers: ESC should review director

South Carolina's problem-plagued Employment Security Commission is among a handful of agencies that don't require annual performance reviews for their chief executive or director - and critics of the agency say it's another sign the ESC needs an overhaul.

State law requires that most workers and at least 61 agency heads have performance appraisals. Some others that aren't covered by that law put their chiefs through appraisals anyway.

The Employment Security Commission's three members have no formal procedure to evaluate the day-to-day leadership of the director they hired for a job that paid $134,000. They took a simpler view.

"Well, I think we have a daily assessment when he works at the pleasure of the commissioners," commission chairman Billy McLeod said last week after another scathing assessment of problems at the agency was released.

"So I don't think it's necessary that you have an annual evaluation or anything. . . . If he does a good job, I reckon that's an evaluation that you keep him. And if you let him go, I reckon that'd be an evaluation that he didn't meet your standards," McLeod said.

That "speaks volumes to the problems that they have," Democratic state Sen. Joel Lourie of Columbia said Tuesday. "That fact that we've had an executive director that doesn't have an annual review like any other employee in any agency is one of the reasons why we need to turn that agency around."

Gov. Mark Sanford has been arguing for an overhaul of the agency for more than a year. He is seeing that effort propelled by revelation after revelation about the agency's problems.

- The Associated Press

HOUSE ON FURLOUGH

The S.C. House is not meeting this week, one of three furloughs the General Assembly's junior body has agreed to take as a cost-saving measure. The House is taking three weeks of unpaid leave, which will save the state $150,000.

- Staff Reports

RESERVES BILL ADVANCES

Faced with gaping budget shortfalls and declining incoming revenue this year, state lawmakers moved closer Tuesday to hanging on to more of the state's future tax collections.

The Senate approved second reading of a bill that increases the amount of revenue the state retains in the General Reserve Fund each year from 3 percent to 5 percent of the previous year's general fiscal intake.

The bill passed the House last year, and heads to a final reading in the Senate later.

- Roddie Burris

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