Politics & Government

The Buzz: SC GOP flees debt, an “Obama judge”

The S.C. Republican Party withdrew last week from a federal lawsuit aimed at closing the state’s political primaries so that only party-faithful can vote – but not because the GOP thinks the state should keep its political primaries open to all comers.

The reason, in part, is money.

“The S.C. GOP simply moved to withdraw itself as a party to the lawsuit and let the Greenville GOP take the lead in litigation,” Alex Stroman, the party’s executive director, said in an email to The Buzz. Doubling the lawyers and legal fees didn’t “make fiscal sense,” he said.

The exit, orchestrated on Chad Connelly’s watch before he resigned as party chairman last weekend for a gig with the Republican National Committee, leaves the Greenville County GOP alone in fighting the party’s dilution by “Democrats, communists, independents” and others who now can vote in GOP primaries, said Stephen Brown, a Greenville GOP activist and attorney on the case.

Brown said the state GOP’s exit may be Connelly’s last dig at him and Samuel Harms, another attorney on the case, for running against Connelly for the party’s chairmanship. Connelly’s resignation came about a month after he won election to another two-year term, beating Brown and Harms.

“Absurd,” Connelly responded. The lawsuit has poor chances of winning against an “Obama judge,” Connelly said, and only would have added to the party’s legal debt of more than $300,000, money owed from lawsuits that followed the ouster of more than 200 mostly GOP candidates from the ballot last year.

“I beat Stephen twice and Sam once so bad,” Connelly said. “There’s a saying in politics: ‘There’s winners, there’s losers, and sometimes there’s sore losers.’”

The case goes to trial in August.

Attention: The CAFR is out!

It’s about six months late, but you likely didn’t notice – because you don’t know what it is.

Asked if anyone in state government had inquired about the state’s delayed publication of its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report – published Thursday online – the state’s chief accountant, Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, responded, “Not a one.”

The document details what the state actually spent, actually made, owned and owed in the budget year starting July 2011 and ending June 30, 2012. When the report didn’t appear on time, one outside group that uses it did call, Eckstrom recalled.

Truth in Accounting, an Illinois-based government spending watchdog group, was waiting on the mammoth document so it could figure out whether South Carolina’s fiscal house is in order and how the state compares to others.

“It’s important for citizens to know not only where we plan to spend the money, but where it was spent,” said Jeff Wysong, a Truth in Accounting research analyst. “It’s kind of sad that so many people don’t pay attention to it.”

The Buzz thinks so, too, especially as lawmakers work to adopt spending plans for the state’s next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

A couple of legislators – state Rep. Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington, and House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston – said a few weeks ago it was concerning the report had not been published. But it clearly wasn’t a burning issue for many. That’s likely because the state’s “decision makers have all the information they need,” Eckstrom said.

The report, a summary of the state’s financial accounting, was late because accountants had to work out kinks in automated reports coming from a new accounting system, Eckstrom said. Staffing cuts and turnover also contributed to the delay, he added.

“Do we expect the same delays this year? Not on your life, we don’t.”

‘A dream in time gone by’

The voice of the state Department of Education, Jay W. Ragley, may have had a different Plan A in mind. But his feet got in the way.

Ragley revealed that plan Sunday during the 2013 Tony Awards when he tweeted: “True story: if I could dance, I’d want to be on Broadway.”

A member of his high school show choir in Ohio, Ragley was unapologetically proud of his love for show tunes and The Theater when The Buzz called.

But he’s no “Gleek,” Ragley said. (That’s the name given to the geeks who watch Glee, which is, for all you cool people, the Fox show depicting an Ohio high school show choir.)

If it isn’t “live-action singing, it’s just kind of fake,” he said.

The show choir allowed him to “go into another world and live in that world for three hours and not have to worry about an outcome,” Ragley said. “It is who I am.”

Buzz bites

• A new Senate president pro tempore named Courson was declared at the State House Friday as Senate President Pro Tempore

John Courson

, R-Richland, stood at the well with his son,

Harris Courson

, a rising senior at Dreher High School, who the Palmetto Boys State just had elected to the leadership role. “I’m glad Harris and so many others are choosing to be civically engaged at such a young age,” the elder Courson said. “They’re all to be congratulated, but I’m particularly partial to their new president pro tempore!”

• The shiny green apples on lawmakers’ lapels that will be on display in this week’s special session are the mark of the growing Green School Caucus, which is planning community projects to raise awareness about how to save energy in schools, said state Sen.

Ray Cleary

, R-Georgetown, chairman of the caucus. About half the Senate has joined the caucus, with the House coming along more slowly. That makes sense, Cleary said: “Senators are ... much more progressive.”

• State Sen.

Harvey Peeler

, R-Cherokee, never gets tired of accusing the 843 area code of taking all the state’s road money. On Wednesday, the debate emerged again in a twitter debate with state Rep.

Leon Stavrinakis

, D-Charleston, who tweeted, “I would be happy to devise a DOT funding formula based on fairness. I doubt you would like it though.” Peeler replied, “Probably not. Because your definition of ‘Fair’ is my definition of ‘Carnival.’” Added Peeler later, “864 & 803 makes it and 843 spends it.”