The Sock Puppet Showdown August 15, 2007Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.
OUR NEW REPORTER WAS A NO-SHOW, BUT WE STILL GOT THE SCOOP ON THE “SOCK PUPPET’S” FIRST DAY
FITSNews – August 15, 2007 – Unfortunately, our intrepid new reporter “Socky” got sidetracked (above) on his way to today’s big showdown at the S.C. Budget and Control Board meeting, leaving the staff here at FITSNews short-staffed in covering what amounted to a major coup for the forces of the status quo in our state. With South Carolina’s new legislatively-elected Treasurer Converse “Sock Puppet” Chellis casting the deciding vote, three “Republicans” today handed over the keys of the largest agency in state government to a top aide of former Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges.
Not that it’s really a shock anymore in South Carolina when so-called Republicans appoint Democrats to positions of influence. After all, they’re pretty much all Democrats down here, which is why we’ve seen state spending skyrocket by 41% over the last three years of “Republican rule.”
In case you’re new to South Carolina, the only thing that avalanche of new spending has done is further cement our status as the poorest, dumbest, most ass-backward state in the country.
Our income levels are still among the nation’s lowest, our unemployment rate is still among the nation’s highest, and our education system is still hands-down the worst in Western Civilization.
A big part of the problem is that our state government still “functions” (if you can call it that) under the same Constitution it had back in 1895, a document written after Reconstruction to make sure that South Carolina’s chief executive had absolutely no power in the event its people ever elected an African-American governor. As a result, the executive authority that governors have in forty-nine other states is splintered beyond belief in South Carolina – spread out among thousands of boards and commissions, dozens of wasteful and duplicative state agencies, nine independently-elected State Constitutional officers and this five-headed monster, unique to our state, known as the Budget & Control Board.
Today, that five-headed monster rejected the nomination of Charleston businessman Chad Walldorf – who just wrote a report showing how it could save half a billion dollars – and instead reappointed former Democratic gubernatorial staffer Frank Fusco – the guy who wasted all that money in the first place.
Fusco, who acted as the board’s director from 2001-07, also doubled as “bag man” for a $46 million government slush fund that the board’s two legislative members routinely used to influence members’ votes in their respective chambers.
No doubt that slush fund is back in business again as of today.
As expected, the deciding vote from the “Sock Puppet” was payback to the fund’s two principal architects – House Ways & Means Chairman Dan Cooper and Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman – both of whom coincidentally happened to be Chellis’ most influential legislative supporters.
“He had to deliver (for) the folks who got him elected and he did so today,” Gov. Sanford told reporters after the meeting. “What this ensures is things will be done the way they’ve always been done.”
The vote was contentious, and prolonged, as the governor put up quite a fight in his unsuccessful effort to get the board to appoint Walldorf.
Showing a welcome new aggressiveness, Sanford repeatedly put the “Sock Puppet” on the spot, specifically asking him at one point to identify “one example of change Frank Fusco has made.”
“I’m not prepared to discuss that,” Chellis said. “I don’t have that in front of me.”
Eventually, Sanford relented, but not before he had masterfully portrayed the vote as a straight up or down on either moving South Carolina forward or keeping it stuck in its antiquated, non-competitive ways.
“This is nothing about Frank Fusco and everything about change,” Sanford said. “This is a state agency that desperately needs change.”
“We had to drag it out of him, didn’t we?” Sen. Leatherman said of Sanford’s stubborness immediately following the meeting (and just prior to sharing an embrace with Cooper on the State House grounds).
They did, and the special interest peddlers were overjoyed at the outcome.
Democratic lobbyist Richard Davis – a prime pork procurer who has been in Leatherman’s pocket for decades -was ecstatic immediately following the vote, exchanging a high five with his legislative aide as the two walked to the Senate office building for a conference with Leatherman.
Sanford, who met with reporters after the meeting, stepped up his criticism of the board under Fusco’s leadership, calling it a “predatory agency” that took excess fees from other state agencies and used them to “warehouse political hacks.”
Sanford also rejected the notion that the board would seriously consider the cost-saving recommendations made in Walldorf’s report.
“How many dusted-over reports are there in Columbia, S.C.?” he asked.