Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More on "Conservatives in Action"

So yesterday I casually mentioned that South Carolina's "Conservatives in Action," which consists of a website and spokesman Taft Matney, is a Howard Rich front-group.

It really wasn't fair of Gervais to make such a conclusory statement like that without presenting both sides of the issue, so today I thought I'd rectify the situation.

CIA, you may recall, funded attack mail and television advertisements against Don Beatty (now a South Carolina Supreme Court justice) last year during his election to the state's top court by the legislature. Beatty apparently wasn't CIA's preferred candidate.

There were accusations that CIA was funded by outside interests, that the attacks were "big money hijacking the judicial process," to use the words of one lawmaker.

These allegations of out-of-state interests were generally met by "aw, that's crazy" denials.

So as a public service, Gervais decided to find out for myself whether "Conservatives in Action" was set up as a front-group for New York millionaire Howard Rich. I used my patented two-step process:

1. Listen carefully to what the group’s spokesman says about the origin of its funding.
2. Remember that the group spokesman is probably a liar, and find out the truth on my own.

Here’s Step One:

From The State, 9/17/07:

Taft Matney, a spokesman for Conservatives in Action ... declined to reveal the membership of his organization.

"They want to be involved in the political process," he said, "but they don't want to be interviewed on TV."
From The Post and Courier, 5/24/07:
When asked about how the group financed the television ads and whether out-of-state money was used, Matney said, "There are South Carolinians who have a vested interest in their government, and allegations like this and others against the CIA serve to pull away from the real subjects that the CIA has tried to highlight."
And from The Greenville News, 5/26/07:
Matney and officials with two other groups who e-mailed supporters about the race denied their groups had been involved with using out-of-state money or had spent anything like what Beatty said.

Matney called the allegation of any group attempting to buy a judgeship "ludicrous."
And here’s Step Two:

As you can see (click image to enlarge), Conservatives in Action had a little trouble scrounging up a South Carolina phone number on its IRS tax filing, available in full here.

No worries, though. They gave a phone number.

It’s the phone number for Howard Rich’s “US Term Limits.” And Howard Rich’s “Americans for Limited Government.” And Howard Rich’s “Legislative Education Action Drive.” And – well, you get the idea.

CIA's tax forms were also prepared by the same Illinois accounting firm that counts beans for all of Rich's front groups.

John Grisham writes books about this kind of stuff, people.


Anonymous said...

I say ole chap, you a modern day Sherlock Holmes. Keep up the good work, you are saving our state one blog post at a time.

Now, when you get a moment, why don't you start looking into why the Trial Lawyers, pharma companies, trucking companies, etc. spend so much money on the Legislature? I guess you don't care as long as the money goes to fund the status quo.

Anonymous said...

The trial lawyers and the trucking companies etc are SC born and bred.

Gervais said...

I wish I had a buck for every time an anonymous commenter suggests I write about something else.

John Vierdsen said...

Anony No. 1 – check out the disclosure reports for some of these so-called "anti-status quo" people. Plenty of them receive money from Big Pharma, trial lawyers and the trucking industry. Lee Bright and Nikki Haley are just two, off the top of John's head.

Anonymous said...

What really needs investigation is what is happpening to all the Medicaid dollars HHS is paying out. LAC audit of DDSN (SC Dept. Disabilities and Special Needs) released in 2008 shows that there are tens of millions that can't be accounted for. This missing money was paid by HHS to DDSN. Then DDSN helped the Charles Lea Center, a private corporation, purchase a Superfund site from Tyco, spending more than $2 million for purchase, clean up and rennovations.

Then we learned that federal investigator say that $5 million was embezzled by finance director of DSS, but he says he only took $1.2 million. But this money came from HHS too. HHS insists that the money was "appropriately paid" - huh? DSS says that no one did without services because of this embezzlement. Does that mean that DSS had an extra $5 million lying around? What was this money supposed to be used for? Now we learn that 5 children died because of the lack of oversight by DSS and several years after the fact, DSS says that they will punish the guys at the lowest level. Could they have done their jobs in this money had been provided to give them the manpower they needed?

Then last month a LAC audit of HHS confirmed what Curtis Loftis and Lt. Gov. office said several years ago - that HHS improperly awarded contracts to out of state companies to provide Medicaid transportation services. HHS reportedly increased reimbursement rate by 305 after other bidders were away from the table, but there was NO provision in the contract to increase the rate. Over 5 years, more than $240 million will go to out of state companies to provide these services. Hmmm. Why didn't HHS consider the fact that both of these companies have a history of problems - one was sued in DC because of reports of service delivery that sounded remarkably similar to that described in SC Senate and Lt. Gov. hearings in 2007. Wasn't the other company booted out of its own state and maybe two others? Gosh, why would HHS award these companies contracts which had previously been awarded to SC providers?

Then we have the privatization of Medicaid services - with HHS paying buckets of money to Maximus and private managed care companies. A recent study showed that these services actually cost MORE than a successful program which was operated by SC physicians, keeping the middle men out and providing income tax benefits to SC.

There seems to be a pattern here - money goes out of SC and poor people get fewer services so that the appetite of these out of state companies can be fed. Let them eat barbecue.