Thursday, July 12, 2007

Voucher Week, pt. IV: 10% Inspiration, 99% Out of State Fund-ation

I know what you’re thinking: “It can’t get any worse.”

First, an SCRG-backed candidate in House District 7 gets 87% of his funding from out-of-state. Then, an SCRG-backed candidate in House District 79 gets 56% of her funding from the same handful of folks. Then, just a couple months later, an SCRG-backed candidate in the same House District gets 96% of his funds from out-of-state…

I mean, even the most bogus of grass roots groups has to say “enough is enough” eventually, right?

I’ll give everyone a head’s up: if you want to suppose that it can’t get any worse than 96%, read no further. If you still want to imagine that these SC outfits are a homespun effort, not controlled from out-of-state, scroll no more. Hit “Ctrl-Alt-Del,” pour your Frappucino into your hard drive, throw your new iPhone in the nearest creek – whatever it takes not to read another word.

But for those of you who choose to remain waist deep in Voucher Week, let’s take a trip back in time… to just over a year ago, in "SC's Golden Corner": Oconee County. There, in the House District 1 GOP primary, SCRG-backed candidate Brad Cain is losing his race against a retired educator, Rep. Bill Whitmire, by about 600 votes. A sound margin, considering Cain was able to solicit $22,250 in this bid for the State House.

Of that $22,250, how much was from Sandlappers?

Not even enough to replace that iPhone. According to the National Institute for Money in State Politics, an unbelievable 99.2% ($22,000) was from out-of-state.

From whose wallets did these legislative campaign funds originate?

Howard Rich of NY
Ashborough Investors: $1,000
Spinksville LLC: $1,000
West 14 & 18 LLC: $1,000

Alex Cranberg of CO
Walnut Software, LLC: $1,000
Azimuth Energy, LLC: $1,000
Aspect Energy, LLC: $1,000

Other Voucher Enthusiasts
Eric Brooks (PA): $1,000
Donna Brooks (PA): $1,000
Jeff Yass (PA): $1,000
Joe Stilwell (NY): $1,000
Arthur Dantchik (PA): $1,000
Joseph Rich (NY): $1,000

And a few others. Just imagine if someone found this financial disclosure lying on the ground in, say, Omaha, Nebraska. Do you think they’d know what state it came from?

But as disconcerting as 99.2% is, it gets even worse.

Across the state, in House District 117 (Chas. and Berkeley Cos.) SCRG backed a legislative candidate named Rosalie “Roz” Mir. Ms. Mir raised a total of $13,021 in her bid for the seat of Republican Tom Dantzler in the same June GOP primary.

Who funded this campaign, in the lowcountry of South Carolina?

Howard Rich of NY
Ashborough Investors: $1,000
Spinksville LLC: $1,000
West 14 & 18 LLC: $1,000
538-14 Realty LLC: $1000

Other Voucher Enthusiasts

Eric Brooks (PA): $1,000
Jeff Yass (PA): $1,000
Joe Stilwell (NY): $1,000
Arthur Dantchik (PA): $1,000
Joseph Rich (NY): $1,000

And four other $1,000 checks from outside SC. It's getting kinda repetitive, isn't it? $13,000 of Mir’s $13,021 was from out-of-state, while $21 came from her own pocketbook.

That’s – let’s see, carry the two – 99.8% out-of-state funding. (Rep. Dantzler won the race, although several confused Russian cosmonauts turned out to vote for Mir.)

Now, if you grew up in the age of chicken-bog, pancake-breakfast, people-driven politics, this sort of thing might make you want to take a shower. I enthusiastically endorse this impulse. But when you do, please note that the Ivory Soap you’re using isn’t as pure (only 99.44%) as Ms. Mir’s out-of-state school voucher funding.

Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems to me that all the candidates we’ve looked at this week, and the others we’ve passed over, are being bankrolled by the same guy: one-man voucher lobby Howard Rich -- and a dozen or so of his libertarian comrades around the country.

But then again, “one man voucher lobby” sounds like more hyperbole, the kind Gervais is known to use so recklessly. Perhaps I exaggerate the extent of Mr. Rich’s involvement in SC politics. Surely his financial contributions to candidates don’t rival that of actual, big-time lobbyists like Blue Cross Blue Shield or BellSouth, companies that have a considerable business interests in the Palmetto State.


Don’t bet your “Alliance for the Separation of School and State” membership card on it, my friend. Come back tomorrow, when Voucher Week concludes at the same place the South Carolina voucher campaign began… 73 Spring Street, NY, NY. (Go to Part Five)


AnyIdiot said...

Great reporting! The SCRG folks can't seem to accept the fact that SC voters (and campaign donors, apparently) don't want vouchers. We want to fix the public school system and let the private school system do their own thing.

If the voucher crowd read their history, they'd know that the pre-public school laissez-faire private school system was an abject failure, at least in terms of educating the working class and the poor. The public school system didn't arise as a communist plot but because the SCRG's beloved business community needed workers who could read and count.

BTW, I heard about your Voucher Week over at NotVeryBright.

Swamp Fox said...


Two more that Rich feller almost bagged.

Ever heard of the fable of the young boy that yelled "Shark!" too often.

"The age of chicken-bog, pancake-breakfast, people-driven politics." Now we're getting to the meat of the issue here. Don't worry Gervais, that Rich feller ain't going to take your chicken-bog. Why, where he's from, they don't even like chicken-bog.

Jay said...

Swamp Fox - To continue with the metaphor, I typically hope that the lifeguard lets me know when he sees a bunch of big fins in the water. He's not quite as effective if he waits until someone gets bitten to sound the alarm.

Anonymous said...

Gervais 4 SCRG Scalawags 0

Looks like a shutout for the good guys. The lead is getting wider. The scalawags are cheating by playing with corked bats, and they still can't get a hit.

Hey, Swamp Rat. Brace yourself.

There's one more day left in Voucher Week, and if we know Gervais like we think we know Gervais - well, the best is probably yet to come.

Maybe Gervais will continue it into Voucher Month. Looks like he's got plenty of "bought and paid" for politicians to expose.

Gervais, we're adding a double large order of skins to the case of Maurice's sauce that we owe you!

You're a great American hero.

Anonymous said...

Great reporting but how about a week offering solutions to the problems in our public schools? For those of us actually stuck in a district with failing schools - what are our options while the politicians try and "fix" our public schools? It is easy to sit in a great/good school district and be against vouchers. For those of us who actually have our kids educational future in jeapodary it is a little harder. No Child Left behind helps but it won't be long before the failing schools learn how to work the system. Then I am stuck fighting the school board for a transfer or paying $8,000 - $13,000 a year for private schools - after I pay my taxes for public schools I can't use.

GKP said...

Here is my question: SO WHAT?

Cain was going to vote FOR vouchers, even without one penny of SCRG money; Whitmire was going to vote AGAINST vouchers, and no amount of SCRG money would have ever changed that.

Your research is solid, but it fails to make the critical last step: establishing a correlation between the campaign contributions and a CHANGE in the way somebody would have voted otherwise.

I say again (see yesterday's post): $50,000 (or here, $20,000) doesn't buy votes. IF IT DID, EVERYBODY WOULD PAY THE PRICE AND GET THE VOTE THEY WANTED.

The undercurrent here is that the Voucher Folks are buying votes, or buying politicians, and there is absolutely zero evidence of that. You want your readers to assume that, because the money comes from out of state, the cause MUST be tainted, but that is a fallacious argument. The merits (for or against) on vouchers must stand on their own --- and they aren't altered by where the money is coming from.

Again, good work...but where is the connection? Maybe Pt. V. will show us.

Swamp Fox said...


I'm witg gkp.

First we need substance to the argument. As gkp said, we have to know that the votes of a legislator were changed by the money. But even more important, no one has made a credible argument that what Rich wants is even bad. Gervais is just huffing and puffing that Rich is from out of state. Could be he's from out of state and right.

Then, if we make the case that there really is a danger, then we can hire the lifeguards. Otherwise we're just yelling "Shark!" and making people get all dried off for nothing. And Gervais hasn't even cracked out the cold beer.

Jay said...

Swamp Fox, I thought that you were a South Carolinian. All we SC-ers need to know is that someone hundreds of miles away is trying to tell us how to do things here. The last time that happened we started lobbing shells at Fort Sumter. If we want a voucher system in South Carolina, we residents of SC will put one in place ourselves rather than voting for Jim Rex.

Rob W. said...

I'm on the edge of my seat for tomorrow, although topping a campaign that raises zero dollars from anyone in the state other than the candidate will be difficult.

Anonymous said...


I'm a South Carolinian; I like a lot of what I hear about vouchers.

If you accept Rex v. Floyd as a litmus test on vouchers, then EXACTLY one-half of the state supports it, and the other half does not.

Vouchers failed in the House this year by a margin of a handful of votes.

By any measure, it seems that this is a real close call. It seems absurd to suggest that, just because money is coming in from out of state, this must be an "us v. them" argument.