Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thursday THRASH Award: The "SC" Policy Council

Ever wonder what it would be like if the Palmetto State had a “council” of sorts, that promoted sound policy from the perspective of the actual needs and values of South Carolinians? A “policy council” if you will. But just for South Carolina. A South Carolina policy council.

That would be awesome. Perhaps at one time such an entity existed. But those days are gone.

That’s because ever since around 2004, the SC Policy Council seems to do nothing but (a) shill for vouchers, like here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here; (b) fight early childhood education, like here and here and here; or (c) fight public school choice initiatives, like here and here and here.

So what gives? South Carolina has actual education issues to deal with, like deteriorating school buses and equitable funding, so why is the SC Policy Council parroting the agenda of the out-of-state voucher lobby? Why so hostile to early childhood education and public school choice? Why so hostile towards South Carolina's schools?

Why indeed.

I thought the answer might be found in the group’s tax returns. But all I found there was that the Policy Council, which for years got by on a meager $300,000 a year, suddenly started getting a ton of money. Right around 2004.

But that couldn’t have anything to do with it.

Money talks, you see, but policy councils don’t listen. “Policy councils ain’t for sale,” as they used to say back in the day, unless that was just a dream I had.

Still, Gervais got his janitor’s key and his flashlight and did his darndest to find out where in the Palmetto State this extra money was coming from.

Was is Gilbert? Nope.

Gaffney? Nope.

Greer, Greenville, Goose Creek? Nope, nope, nope.

It wasn’t even Gyrtle Beach.

Like the rest of the folks flapping their traps about private school vouchers in our state, the SCPC is just shillin’ for out-of-state villains. Have a look:

2004
$148,000 from Alliance for School Choice, Inc. (Arizona)
$60,000 from Friedman Foundation (Indiana)
$13,000 from Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (DC)
$25,000 from the Jacueline Hume Foundation (San Francisco)

2005
$120,000 from Alliance for School Choice, Inc. (Arizona)
$70,000 from Friedman Foundation (Indiana)
$20,000 from the JM (Jeremiah Milbank) Foundation (NYC)
$2,000 from Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (DC)
$25,000 from the Jaqueline Hume Foundation (San Francisco)
$5,000 from Claude R. Lamb Foundation (Kansas)

2006
$90,000 from CATO Institute (DC)
$10,000 from the Heartland Institute (Chicago)
$50,000 from Friedman Foundation (Indidana)
$30,000 from State Policy Network (California)
$30,000 from the JM Foundation (NYC)
$25,000 from the Jaqueline Hume Foundation (San Francisco)
$150,000 from Walton Foundation (Arkansas)

That’s just the money I found. I’m sure there’s more. And it’s probably no coincidence that the Godfather of the South Carolina voucher farce, New York millionaire Howard Rich, sits on the board of the Friedman Foundation and the CATO Institute.

Hoo boy. Ain’t that something? An actual “South Carolina” policy council pimping itself out to narrow, out-of-state interests, and churning out tons of voucher lobby talking points under a Palmetto Tree letterhead.

Gervais says, congratulations, SC Policy Council. You may have lost your credibility as a representation of real Sandlapper values, but in the end you’re a winner ... of a Thursday THRASH Award.

The Howard Rich Advocacy & Shilling for Hire (THRASH) awards were created to honor South Carolina political advocacy groups that are controlled by, funded by, or specifically created by out of state interests under the guise of representing the actual interests and values of actual South Carolinians.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Having been involved with the Policy Council for years, I can tell you a fact: You don’t know the half of it. The Council is “owned” by outside money, and everyone is on the gravy train. Very expensive trips, presents, sly expenses account accounting, etc are the order of the day.

The board hides any problems that arise as they are concerned about reputation and the flow of money and goods.

Sanford and Company have corrupted this state with it’s out of state money. The MSM will never print the whole story, so I hope you do.
PS: What ever happened to Ed McMullen?

I live here... said...

...and I am a member of both the Friedman Foundation and the CATO Institute. And I know for a fact that I am not the only one.

So, where does that leave us? Does my money magically become tainted by leaving the state temporarily?

Seriously, you have done a great job of exposing the sources of funds, but, just as seriously, done a lousy job of ever showing a causal link between money and votes.

It is easy to just say that money buys votes. But it is also intellectually lazy. The next step is the key. The money is being spent. Fine. We all grant you that (and give you credit for staying on top of it). But what is it buying, and where is the proof?

Show us someone who voted one way for years, then changed when they started getting money from these groups. Now THAT would be news.

Anonymous said...

I can't talk about this is a public forum, but believe me. I am on the "inside" and I can tell u that this money is corrupting on so many levels.

The most significant fact is that most of this money is not required to be reported to the state. And the money is HUGE. Far larger than most people think.

I live here... said...

Wow, that is some really damning evidence.

"I can't tell you who I am, what I do, what I know or what I know it, but money buys votes. It really, really does. Promise. You have to trust me -- an anonymous blogger -- on this one."

Now that is great work.

Seriously, is that what passes for dialogue here? I might as well go look at some pictures of Kim Kardashian over at FITS.

The Blue South said...

i live here: the contention that "money buys votes" is pretty well accepted in politics. Is should come as no surprise that politicians are beholden to their major contributors. The problem with showing a causal connection between contributions and votes is threefold: (1) politician try to hide the fact that they are influenced by donations; (2) many of the candidates that have received money from out of state interests, particularly out of state money in support of private school vouchers, have lost their respective elections; and (3) the issue of private school vouchers has been co-opted by Republicans as another plank in their "small government" stance, therefore any vote in support of such vouchers can just as easily be characterized as towing the party line as it can be characterized as the fruits of campaign donations. As a member of the CATO Institute, I assume that you are a thinking person, and I am sure that at one time or another you have experienced the difficulties with truly proving causation for even the simplest of issues.

I live here... said...

Blue:

Well-said, but what you leave us with is essentially this: "We can't prove it, but we know it exists."

I just don't buy that just because "something is pretty well accepted" means that it is right. That sort of thinking on global warming is giving us food riots in the third world.

I can offer a more plausible causality: politicians have opinions, just like anybody else. Folks who share those opinions give money to those politicians because those other folks have real jobs and real lives, and don't want to slog through the muck that is American politics.

That applies, by the way, to both the pro-and anti-voucher movement. In fact, it would apply to either side of any issue. Guns and abortion come to mind.

I say again: if the allegation is that these voucher folks (or the NRA, or NARAL or the League of Conservation Voters) are buying votes, can anyone find the obvious evidence: a change in voting patterns?

Without that, this is just mindless complaining about something you don't like.

Gervais said...

i live here,

It's pretty easy to see that this post has nothing to do with votes or even lawmakers.

It has to do with the "South Carolina" Policy Council getting out-of-state money to shill for a narrow out-of-state voucher agenda.

Last Thursday was about the "South Carolina" Association of Taxpayers getting out-of-state money to shill for a narrow out-of-state tobacco industry agenda.

The Thursday before that was about was about "Carolinians" for Reform being bankrolled from Texas...

You get the idea. Call it "mindless complaining," "intellectual laziness," or whatever you want to. (Except "incessant gobbledygook," which I would find highly offensive.)

Gervais calls it exposing the $$$ behind the groups that try to dupe us into thinking they represent real SC interests. And I like it that it bothers you.

I live here... said...

I get it. I get it. (And I enjoy it, don't get me wrong.) But there are still two points:

1) Is it really out-of-state money? My money is in there, and I live here. Is NRA money tainted? Is NARAL money? The Club for Growth $$$ is like 98% in-state...does that make their money OK?

2) Even if it is "out-of-state money", if it isn't affecting voting, who should care? If a bunch of tourists spent a lot of money on a "Kill (South of Zee Border) Pedro" campaign, what difference would it make if it didn't inspire anyone to go whack the dude?

To sum up: if you can't show that it is having an impact, wouldn't you be better off girl-watching at Maurice's?

Anonymous said...

He won't be happy till he sees video of Gov Sanford on his knees, begging Howie Rich for another check.

Sanford has raised 6 million bucks that he has stashed in the nonprofits he controls, mostly from out of state fat cats.

So...you think any politician might be tempted for that kind of money? Hell...I have seen them go wild over a free round of golf!