Friday, July 13, 2007

Voucher Week, pt. V: The One-Man Voucher Lobby

So far this week, we’ve seen how a handful of libertarians from around the country have bankrolled candidates for our legislature. But just candidates. That’s an important word because, of the tens of thousands of dollars poured into the Palmetto State in support of the voucher agenda, not one red cent has had any influence on our legislature. Right?

Not exactly.

Turns out, assembling a State House that will pass a voucher bill happens just a few seats at a time.

There’s Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who got 49% of his campaign funds in 2006 from out-of-state, including $18,000 from the voucher enthusiasts. Mulvaney’s out-of-state money exceeded his November opponent’s total contributions, and Mulvaney won a seat in our State House by 209 votes (51% to 49%).

There’s Rep. Kit Spires, who got 52% of his campaign funds in 2006 from these guys. Spires’ out-of-state voucher money also exceeded his GOP primary opponent’s total contributions, and Spires won that race by 267 votes.

And last, but certainly not least, there’s Rep. Curtis Brantley, who puts the other two to shame. Brantley got nearly 84% of his campaign funds in 2006 from the out-of-state voucher lobby, and captured a seat in the June Primary by only 170 votes.

Could they have done it without New York libertarian Howard Rich, and the grotesque amount of funding that comes with supporting his vouchers? Would they be legislators if not for this out of state mega-donor who scoffs at SC’s $1000 contribution limit? I don’t know for sure, but I think not.

Because Howard Rich is indeed a “one-man voucher lobby.”

I’ll wrap up voucher week by exposing a fact that the voucher groups, with all their grass roots, Palmetto Tree masquerading, don’t want you to know. It’s a fact that’s buried in numerous campaign disclosures and hidden behind countless LLC’s, but it’s a fact all the same. And this is it:

New York voucher advocate Howard Rich is the single biggest contributor to political campaigns in South Carolina.

Let that sink in for a second. Does that sound right?

Here are the top contributing entities (excluding the candidates who self-financed) to SC political candidates in 2006, according to the National Institute for Money in State Politics:

1. SC Trucking Association: $111,750
2. SC Automobile Dealers Association: $89,741
3. SC Optometric Association: $83,550
4. Senate Republican Caucus: $83,211
5. Palmetto Leadership Council: $80,500
6. BellSouth: $72,900
7. Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina: $67,500
As you can see, Rich ain’t on the list. They’re all, as you would expect, South Carolina entities (or, in BellSouth’s case, southeastern entity) with a legitimate business interest in the Palmetto State.

But Rich’s name isn’t missing from the list because he’s stingy. Quite the contrary. It’s missing because the Institute didn’t go through the intense bother of adding up all the contributions from Rich’s myriad shell companies last year. Gervais, however, did:

Bradford Management of NY: $26,000
405 49 Associates: $23,500
Ashborough Investors: $19,000
Ashborough LLC: $1,000
123 LaSalle, Inc: $16,000
123 LaSalle Associates: $5,000
123 LaSalle Avenue: $1,000
Spinksville LLC: $15,000
Howard Rich/Spinksville LLC: $3,000
West 14 & 18 LLC: $12,500
14-18 West LLC: $1,000
Spooner LLC: $12,500
538-14 Realty LLC: $12,500
Silver & Silver Properties, LLC: $10,500
Bayrich LLC: $5,500
Howard Rich/Bayrich LLC: $1,000
Dayrich LLC: $1,000

Unless my calculator fails me, that’s a total of $166,000. Howard Rich is #1 by far - head and shoulders above any other contributor. In other words, no one is trying to exert as much influence on South Carolina’s government as Howard Rich.

Make of that what you will, folks. That’s it for Voucher Week.


Swamp Fox said...


After all the huffing and puffing, I agree with you that something is broken with the disclosure laws when Rich gives this much money to legislators and doesn't show up on the list of top political contributors.

I have no problem with people giving a lot of money to politicians, whether it's people I agree with or not. But sunshine is always the best disinfectant in politics. I agree with you on that.

Rich may be a one man voucher lobby, but he is not the only voucher advocate in South Carolina. There are many people from South Carolina, like you and me, that are very concerned that a world class, publicly funded education system is essential to the future of our state.

None of us who have been successful have done it alone. All of us have built on the legacy of people that came before us. Had we been born in Bangladesh, we would not have been as successful as we have been by winning life's lottery and being born in the United States at the end of the 20th Century.

Because we built on the legacy of others, we have an obligation as citizens to give back. And one of the places where that obligation is the greatest is ensuring that every child that comes along in South Carolina has access to a world class education so they can realize their full potential as a human being.

The only place you and I seem to differ, Gervais, is how to get there. I think the system of public education we have is fundamentally broken. I have a daughter who is a sophomore at Clemson, and a son that is a junior at Riverside High School. My kids have been through public schools that are among the best in the state. I don't think the best schools are preparing our kids with skills they will need to be globally competitive, and I know lots of college professors and business leaders who feel the same way. If this is my experience, I can only imagine how dreadful it is in the Corridor of Shame.

After 22 years of cumulative experience with the existing system, I have come to the conclusion that the system will not change without a significant pressure from the outside that forces it to change. That is always the case in any large organization, so there is nothing inherently bad about people in public education, it is the broken culture of the system that frustrates the best educators from doing what needs to be done to radically improve the system.

We need to reinvent a new public education system in South Carolina that can be among the best in the world. And to do that we are going to need to tap into the incredible creativity and passion some of the best educators in the state. For entrepreneurial educators to do their thing, we need the equivalent of a venture capital industry for education, so that these teachers who have the most out of the box ideas for reaching students not well served today, can attract resources from outside the existing system.

Otherwise, I believe there is little hope for the quantum leap in improvement that we need for all children in South Carolina to have the world class education they deserve.

Education Week has been fun and thought provoking. Thanks for doing it.

Stop Vouchers Now said...


Great job! You've exposed the money changers and the voucher scam for what they really are. A scam on SC.

Swamp Rat tries to make peace when confronted with the facts of the scam, but he avoids the fact that without SCRG's tainted money the voucher scam would have died a natural death from lack of interest by the voters in SC.

Remember what the SC Supreme Court said is the standard for public education in SC?

"Minimally Adequate!"

For goodness' sakes alive, y'all!

With that pathetic standard and years of racism and poverty it's no wonder we have problems with public education.

Vouchers do nothing to help with the real problems and nothing to help kids who need it the most.

That's why the voucher snake oil salesmen ignore those things.

SCRG and its Rich (pun intended) money changers don't give two hoots in hell for the best interests of all children in SC. They just want to force their agenda down the throats of SC citizens at any cost... bought and paid for politician at a time.

Stop Vouchers Now!
Once And For All!

P.S. Gervais, we're adding a whole hog to the case of Maurices' sauce and the double large order of skins we owe you. Don't worry. We're good for it! ;) See you soon.

Anonymous said...

Ross, I'm disappointed. You're supposed to be in law school and you should know about limited liability companies. From my Internet search Rich is a successful businessman and it seems very probable that each of these LLC's are a different business entity. So they're not "shell companies" setup primarily to facilitate campaign donations; they're his businesses.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney said...

Well, it’s always nice to get up in the morning, tune into my favorite blogs, and find myself libeled in one of them.

I know that most politicians would probably write off today’s hatchet job as an occupational hazard. However, as a strong proponent of new media, and as someone who is interested in seeing it thrive as an alternative source of reliable information, I think it is worthwhile to see how responsive this one is to a rebuttal.

Today’s installment on Vouchers offers the following about my fundraising:

There’s Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who got 49% of his campaign funds in 2006 from these non-Sandlappers. Mulvaney’s out-of-state voucher money exceeded his November opponent’s total contributions, and Mulvaney won a seat in our State House by 209 votes (51% to 49%)(emphasis in the original).

The only true statement in that paragraph is the one regarding the vote margin.

First and foremost, I raised right at $100,000 from outside sources (which is convenient, because it makes the math really easy, even for me.) As best I can tell, I got $19,000 from people and entities that are associated with the voucher movement (You can see more detail, here, if you are interested: Any way you slice it, $19,000 is about 19%, and even less when my own funds are considered. The 49% number is simply and patently false.

Secondly, my opponent raised $45,000 and change. We can leave for another day how much of that came from his fellow trial lawyers, but I think we can all agree that $19,000 is less than $45,000. If we can’t then we clearly have other issues with which to deal.

In fairness, I don’t think the errors are intentional. I think they were just sloppy. I did raise a lot of money from outside South Carolina. Sources included my uncle (Arizona), cousins (Minnesota), roommates from college (Washington & Mississippi), law school pal (Virginia), best friend from high school (China) and even an old girlfriend (address withheld to protect the innocent.) When you grow up in Charlotte, go to school in Washington, Chapel Hill and Boston, and live in a relatively disadvantaged district where a good many of the people work in a neighboring state, it might not be that surprising that a good portion of your financial support for your first political campaign comes from someplace other than SC.

I will leave it to the readers – as I did to the voters --- to determine whether or not money from my out-of-state 5th-grade teacher warps my mind when it comes to vouchers (or anything else, for that matter.)

My guess is that the author simply totaled up my out-of-state contributions, and assumed all of it was voucher related. Lazy, but perhaps understandable, given the typical level of out-of-state funding in an SC House race…but one would think at the very least that the fact that many contributors have the surname “Mulvaney” might have raised a red flag as to that assumption.

Again, perhaps not intentional, but certainly sloppy. And it is sloppiness to such a degree as to raise very real concerns about the credibility of other material in this Voucher series, and of this blog site in general. All the blogger had to do was contact me: I am fairly easy to find, and have actually communicated with other bloggers on other topics as recently as this week (on evolution, with Not Very Bright; on BIPEC scores with Will Folks). If anyone was truly interested in the facts regarding my campaign financing, they would have been easy to ascertain.

But my guess is that the purpose here was not to report facts, but to spin a message, trash my name, and attack the educational reform effort on something other than its merits. Forget the truth, let’s just splash up a photo (even the awful b&w one that not even my mother likes) and some graphics, and that should be enough. Evidently that passes for intellectual dialog in some circles --- and when it comes to vouchers it seems to be a very large circle indeed.

In that, this blog has completely failed to fulfill the potential that the new media has available to it.

One final note: I voted for the voucher amendment this year. I did so based upon a reasoned approach after considerable thought. I didn’t do it because of any political contributions, or because I am a tool of what I have heard described as “the New York Jew” (and I am sure that moniker was intended with only the most sincere of reverence to his faith). You suggest that I would not be in a position to cast that vote if not for the “voucher money.” That is speculation, which is wholly appropriate. Personally, however, in hindsight I think the money probably hurt me, as too many folks simply shut off their minds and pull the “D” lever once the “V” word is invoked. In any event, the author has not shown – because he flatly cannot show --- that the contributions had any impact on how I voted.

What the anti-voucher movement fails to recognize is that there is a growing number of us who are both conservative and innovative, and who do not drag our knuckles when we walk. We intend to win this battle for the future of our educational system by competing in the arena of ideas and thought. Until you move to that level in the debate, and so long as you continue to use defamation and personal attacks, you should rightly expect to be held accountable.

A retraction and an apology would go a long way toward restoring the credibility that was so readily discarded in today’s installment.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney
SC House Dist. 45

Anonymous said...

Dear Rep Mulvaney,

Mick, you expended more time and energy in your rebuttal to Gervais' excellent reporting than SCRG invested in the last 3 failed voucher scam attempts.

With apologies to The Bard of Avon, ‘methinks he doth protest.’

If you are as sincere as you seem, please explain how vouchers will address the real underlying problems facing public education.

Those include poverty, latent racism, lack of fair and reasonable funding for all schools and the shameful "minimally adequate" that our Legislature seems perfectly happy to ignore.

Pleeeaaase don't tell us the "market" will fix everything. No one buys that silly argument.

Read this:

It's from the National School Board Association (not the infamous NEA) and it reports on a Congressionally mandated analysis of the voucher program failure in Washington D.C.

Read the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs about other voucher failures until it sinks in. Vouchers don’t fix anything.

P.S. Gervais' numbers are solid. The voucher money is there. You were just a “cheap date” for them since you have plenty of personal resources and other money contacts.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney said...

I'd be happy to get into the merits of school choice. However, I would prefer to do so in a forum that has shown itself to be a credible purveyor of information. As of right now, this site does not meet that test.

As for your PS, I am not sure how you can still assert that "Gervais’ numbers are solid." They were fairly gelatinous in the only instance that I actually fact-checked (my own). While that by no means automatically condemns his other assertions, it certainly raises the specter of at best, shoddy reporting, and at worse, well --- worse.

Finally, you may be right: my entry this morning probably ran long. Brevity may indeed be the soul of wit, then, but it may not always be the most effective defense against character assassination.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney said...

Sometime today the entry regarding my campaign funding was amended and now reads as follows:

There’s Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who got 49% of his campaign funds in 2006 from out-of-state, including $18,000 from the voucher enthusiasts (sic). Mulvaney’s out-of-state money exceeded his November opponent’s total contributions, and Mulvaney won a seat in our State House by 209 votes (51% to 49%).

Certainly accurate. Far from a retraction or an apology.

Consider me someone who has learned his lesson about this site.

Anonymous said...

Mick, you are a reasonably intelligent man. You know vouchers will not help those who need it most.

Yet you support vouchers anyway. Shame on you. How can you sleep at night?

Even worse! You admit to talking to will folks! How can we trust anyone who feeds rumors to will folks?

Remember some of will's recent false rumors? Like his phony rumor that a Midlands elected official has a Strom problem. And, remember his bonehead FOI request to get the governor's laptop. And more recently there was will's hollow claim that the governor was somehow involved in paying out to the family on the death of a young "black girl." For some reason will felt it was necessary to mention the child's race in this rumor.

Well, at least we now have one Legislator who has admitted to talking to will folks. Only one.

How dare you throw stones at Gervais for his fine reporting when you deal with the likes of sic(k) willie. Opps, we forgot. will takes SCRG money too, doesn’t he.

Mick, you better check the boy's rap sheet and be careful not to make him mad. He does get angry fast. Just ask the governor.

Gervais S. Bridges said...

Rep. Mulvaney,

First, thanks for stopping by and commenting. You're right that the main advantage of the blogosphere is the instantaneous feedback - and in this case, correction - that blogging allows.

As you noticed, I corrected the post, and I'd like to formally apologize for the error. It was certainly an oversight rather than something done out of malice.

I also didn't mean to imply that you or any other legislator has "sold their vote." I certainly realize that it is a candidate's position on vouchers that qualifies him for this out-of-state money, not the other way around.

Hope you have a great weekend ... and if you send me a better photo of yourself, I'll replace the old one.

Stop Vouchers Now said...

Mick! Gervais fixed his oversight and said sorry. That makes his blog a credible forum again.

Certainly more credible than will folks' blog, and you said you talk to will. So, talk to us.

The question is repeated below:

If you are as sincere as you seem, please explain how vouchers will address the real underlying problems facing public education.

Those include poverty, latent racism, lack of fair and reasonable funding for all schools and the shameful "minimally adequate" that our Legislature seems perfectly happy to ignore.

Remember: Pleeeaaase don't tell us the "market" will fix everything. No one buys that silly argument.

The power to fix the problems with education rests in the hands of our Legislature, and it has nothing to do with vouchers.

Get the Legislature to work on fixing those problems. Then we can talk about vouchers.

You and the SCRG snake oil salesmen know good and well that vouchers will only drive the wedge of "separate but equal" into SC.

Is that what you want? Do you care?

Vouchers will no nothing but leave the kids who need help the most further and further behind.

P.S. Thank you for serving S.C. and District 45 as a member of the Legislature.

P.P.S. Gervais, we were checking our tab, and it looks like we owe you a case of Maurice's sauce, a double large order of skins and a whole BBQ hog. Right? :)

Stop Vouchers said...

The following was censored by Will Folks on one of his fitsnews blogs, yet Mick talks to Will:

You know vouchers will do nothing to fix the real problems facing public education. The S.C. education system works where it has a chance to work - it has many excellent schools and school districts.

The Corridor of Shame was not created by the education system. It was created by the funding system put in place by the Legislature. And it is reinforced by the latent racism and poverty you conveniently ignore. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Vouchers will do nothing to fix the real problems such as poverty, latent racism, lack of fair and reasonable funding for all schools and the shameful "minimally adequate" that our Legislature seems perfectly happy to have as the education standard in S.C.

The power to fix the problems with education rests in the hands of our Legislature, and it has nothing to do with vouchers.

Vouchers will only drive the wedge of the failed "separate but equal" strategy back into S.C. and will only leave the children who need help the most farther and farther behind.

You know these things are true, yet you still push the voucher scam for the SCRG scalawags.

Re. Mick Mulvaney said...

I am not quite sure why my response to Gervais did not get posted on Friday afternoon, shortly after he made his last post. I wanted to thank him -- and will do so again here -- for his handling of the original errors regarding my campaign financing.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney

Anonymous said...


You and Gervais have made nice now, so how about answer our question.

How do vouchers help the kids who need it more with the real problems with education such as poverty, racism, inadequate and unbalanced funding by the Legislature and the shameful "minimially adequate" standard?

Can we count on you to introduce a bill next session to raise that stadardn to "superior education?"

Anonymous said...

And, by the way. Will Folks is at it again censoring reasonable, thoughtful and factual posts.

Even worse, he hacked up and changed one of ours that he initially refused to post in an effort to ridicule us. In it he falsely accused us. Here is our reply that he refuses to post:

Now, will. We never called you a “sleazebag slut.” Get your facts straight for a change.

When you hacked up out intelligent, thoughtful and factual post to ridicule us, you got your adjectives wrong. We called you an “ignorant slut.” There is a difference.

And we have never called anyone a “racist bastard.” Where did you dream that up? And your “his people” line reminds us of the boneheaded comment Ross Perot made when he was speaking to an NAACP audience and referred to them as “you people.”

Our comment was taken from a line in a classic Saturday Night Live parody that was aired over a major public TV network. The line was a parody then, and it was a parody when we used it to reference you. You should understand: “parody.”

Will, you have no reservations about using foul language or hurling vile insults from your blog at people you often don’t even know as you ridicule their positions on issues.

Yet, when the tables are turned you suddenly turn wholesome and cry foul. Your adoring public is watching for two faced behavior. If you dish it out, please be ready to take it.

Now, with that said we sincerely apologize for calling you an “ignorant slut.”

P.S. Let’s do lunch again soon, you sleazebag. Oh, and nice try with another “grass roots” organization. Ask Gilda and other key black leaders in private what they think about those organizations.

Rob W. said...

Gervais- well done.

Anon- stop trolling and get your own damn blog.