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FITSNews Exclusive – Hugh & Yancey’s “European Vacation” September 19, 2007

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STATE SENATORS, WIVES TAKE “ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT” MISSION TO EUROPE

FITSNews – September 19, 2007 – State Senators Hugh Leatherman and Yancey McGill accompanied their wives on a European vacation earlier this month under the auspices of an “economic development” mission – touring castles and cathedrals, taking ferry boat rides, visiting art museums, attending wine tastings and even participating in a “meditation service,” according to a copy of the trip’s itinerary obtained exclusively by FITSNews.

Only one major economic development meeting appears to have taken place during the weeklong German sightseeing tour (which lasted from Sept. 8-14), and sources in Florence tell FITSNews that the Leathermans and McGills broke from the main delegation to enjoy an unscheduled (or at least undisclosed) stopover in Paris prior to returning to the United States.

Of particular interest to taxpayers, the trip was organized by the regional economic development alliance NESA, one of six regional economic development groups to be allocated $450,000 in the 2007-08 state budget. This money, which did not appear in the House version of the budget, was later inserted by the Senate Finance Committee, which Sen. Leatherman chairs. Additionally, after Gov. Mark Sanford vetoed these funds, it was Leatherman’s travel partner, Sen. McGill, who made the motion to override the governor’s veto.

According to a 2006 audit review of NESA, which Sen. McGill chairs incidentally, the organization is funded equally by public and private sources, although its “private” partners include the state-owned utility Santee Cooper and several regional electric and telephone cooperatives.

NESA’s September trip is mentioned only once on the organization’s website (where it is referred to simply as a “European Mission”), and there is no listing of Sen. and Mrs. Leatherman or Sen. and Mrs. McGill as participants on the “mission.”

Florence Mayor Frank Willis and Horry County Council Chairman Liz Gilland also made the trip.

In his 2007 Chairman’s message for the organization, Sen. McGill writes of the “plethora of economic development opportunities that have yet to be explored” by NESA, yet according to the trip’s itinerary most of the “exploring” was confined to cultural activities more suited for tourists.

For example, the itinerary indicates that the delegation toured the Mainz Cathedral, the Gutenburg Museum, enjoyed a “meditation service” while touring the Chagall Windows, toured Rheinfels Castle, took in the Central Rhine Valley and enjoyed a ride on the St. Goarshausen ferry en route to a wine-tasting in Bacharach, Germany.

An entire day of the trip (September 12) was devoted to hob-nobbing with German politicians, and the only event scheduled for September 14 was a visit to the Konstantin Exhibition, a collection of “impressive marble portraits and sculptures, valuable pieces of jewellery, antique helmets and many treasures” which “provide a comprehensive insight into the Late Antiquity.”

The delegation did manage to squeeze in a brief meeting on September 10 with international pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim, although company officials did not immediately return phone calls from FITSNews requesting information about any potential economic development benefit for the state. Boehringer Ingelheim, which manufactures Flomax and Zantac, has five U.S. locations – none in South Carolina.

The delegation also had an hour-long meeting that same day with officials at Hahn Airport, to discuss “the topic of a direct flight between Frankfurt-Hahn and Myrtle Beach, S.C.”

Stay tuned to FITSNews for more on this developing story.

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Comments»

1. Rob W. - September 19, 2007

Nice work.

2. Doc Smith - September 19, 2007

My question is; do these guys honestly believe that stuff like this is ok? WTF. Hey BIN, instead of throwing mud could you give us an alternate view or maybe some sort of explanation. By the way, thanks for the advice. Loosening my chinstrap made ALL the difference in the world.

3. The Go-Go's - September 19, 2007

Can’t seem to get my mind off of you
Back here at home there’s nothin’ to do
Now that I’m away
I wish I’d stayed
Tomorrow’s a day of mine
That you won’t be in

When you looked at me
I should’ve run
But I thought it was just for fun
I see I was wrong
And I’m not so strong
I should’ve known all along
That time would tell

A week without you
Thought I’d forget
Two weeks without you and I
Still haven’t gotten over you yet

Vacation
All I ever wanted
Vacation
Had to get away
Vacation
Meant to be spent alone

Vacation
All I ever wanted
Vacation
Had to get away
Vacation
Meant to be spent alone

[Instrumental Interlude]

A week without you
Thought I’d forget
Two weeks without you and I
Still haven’t gotten over you yet

Vacation
All I ever wanted
Vacation
Had to get away
Vacation
Meant to be spent alone

Vacation
All I ever wanted
Vacation
Had to get away
Vacation
Meant to be spent alone

Vacation
All I ever wanted
Vacation
Had to get away
Vacation
Meant to be spent alone

4. Elizabeth Moultrie - September 19, 2007

More politics as usual. When are you people going to get it through your heads that you deserve the government you get and you deserve to get it good and hard. If you’re not going to vote these Yahoos out of office, don’t complain. Governor Sanford has done loads to try to steer the state in the right direction — although he has not gone all the way — and you just keep voting the same old “good ol’ boys” back in. Nothing is going to change until the way the people vote changes.

5. Natasha - September 19, 2007

I wish there was more transparency throughout SC government, keep up the good work Will! Must be nice to wine and dine on taxpayer dollars – one week European vacation for one day of work!Where do I sign up?

6. john - September 19, 2007

man i hate i missed that trip!

7. Greerite - September 19, 2007

Failing schools, crummy roads, and poverty everywhere, whilst taxpayers are footing the bill for wealthy state officials (and their spouses) to traipse across Europe on sightseeing junkets. This type of behavior by elected officials is a condescending slap in the face of every South Carolina citizen.

8. politics rocks - September 19, 2007

Boring FITS, this honestly isn’t even close to being newsworthy. By the way, the gamecocks will cover Saturday.

9. Carl - September 19, 2007

It is shameful that these state senators, a mayor, and council woman would take this paid vacation at taxpayer expense. They should all be voted out of office since they obviously care nothing for the taxpayers.
Then again, maybe they know they are safe since most incumbents keep getting reelected until they retire with a nice nest egg. They think they’re much smarter than our governor whom they obviously despise since he isn’t on their spending bandwagon.

Are there any intelligent voters in these politicians’ districts who will vote for someone else?

10. baked - September 19, 2007

This….is why I buy your newspaper.

Let’s hope this kind of crap will be heard by those who cast ballots…unfortunately, I doubt that will be the case as MSM continues to ignore this kind of crap so they can interview an upstate college coed who was accosted in a parking lot for her reaction on this traumatic experience. I can’t speak for the print reporters…but the broadcast reporters (with the exception of a very few) in Columbia couldn’t think their way out of a phone booth without cue cards. And, unfortunately, those who have a brain also think that throwing money at problems makes them go away. Boondoggles like NESA will continue to be funded despite the efforts of the man in the Governor’s Office.

Keep sounding the alarms.

11. Natasha - September 19, 2007

Amen Elizabeth!

12. FITSNews - September 19, 2007

Natasha and Elizabeth,

You gals are making Sic Willie’s day!

-FITSNews

13. GKP - September 19, 2007

Where, oh where, is the “traditional” media on this? Aren’t they supposed to provide us with hard-hitting, investigative reporting? Or have they entirely given up and morphed into a combination of the National Enquirer and MoveOn.org?

Cyndi R-S….I assume this was on your list of things to do….

14. Hank - September 19, 2007

Damn, the guv office is blogging at full speed today! Who was watching over the state today as you guys played on the computer”?

When will we see the itinerary of the Guv’s foreign trips??

15. FITSNews - September 19, 2007

Hank,

Perhaps you’re new to the scene, but we make the gov our beeyatch on a regular basis.

Chiggity-check yoself, fool.

-FITSNews

16. Fits Facts - September 19, 2007

Where was the part where you proved that tax dollars paid for the lawmakers’ trip to Germany?

Could you serve that up?

17. The Watchman - September 19, 2007

CORRECTION: Liz Gilland is the Chairman of Horry County Council, not the Myrtle Beach City Council. John Rhodes is the Myrtle Beach Mayor and Council leader.

18. Carl Dennett Blyth, Sr. - September 19, 2007

The ‘traditional’ media, here in the upstate is the Greenville (so-called) News. It occupies a lovely building on Main Street, but inside the structure most of what goes on depends on the owners who live in Alabama.
It is dashedly hard to see people and activities, opinions and successes when you only have a little telescope (or microscope) to look across the miles to our community. I doubt that they really believe that anyone really lives here.
So the hot-off-the-press news and the heartfelt copy takes a much longer route to get from the typewriter/computer into the approval slot in the Alabama building where all the profits go and a little bit comes back to pay the slaves behind the walls on Main Street!
It has been ten years or more since I discovered that no one cared about Greenville any more at the ‘News’, and since I no longer have a bird and cage, and I have switched to cat litter for my kitten, I have not bothered to subscribe to the Greenville (Alabama) News since then.

19. George - September 19, 2007

The story incorrectly said Liz Gilland is the chairman of Myrtle Beach City Council. Instead, she is the chairman of Horry County Council. Ms. Gilland is rumored to be the choice of Gov. Sanford to challenge for the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Luke Rankin.
If so, this is not a politician who worries about spending taxpayer dollars in the manner described above. The above trip to Germany was the third international trip Gilland made to Europe in the last 12 months with taxpayer dollars. She was also in Germany in the late spring and in England late last fall. Add to that a trip to Japan in early 2006 and you can see the county council chairman is quite the world traveler. Incidentally, Horry County has yet to see any economic benefit from those trips.
In addition to the trips on the taxpayers’ dollar (euro?), Gilland was fined by the S. C. Ethics Commission in 2003 for using her county credit card to charge campaign materials. She said it was a mistake. She made the same type of “mistake”, according to local news reports, in May 2007 when she charged airline tickets for a personal vacation to Seattle, WA on the same county credit card.
It is certainly hoped that Gov. Sanford, in his attempt to reduce the waste of tax dollars by politicians, would not support a candidate who appears to be one of the top violators.

20. Hank - September 19, 2007

I wonder when the governor, in a fit of transparency, will disclose the details of his foreign trips?

21. FITSNews - September 20, 2007

“FITS Facts,”

We never specifically said that the lawmakers’ trip was paid for with public funds. No one from NESA (or their accounting firm) ever returned our phone calls to provide an answer to that – and many other questions.

Accordingly we reported the facts we had, namely that this organization already receives half of its funding from public (taxpayer) resources, and was allocated another $450,000 in state funds in the FY 2007-08 budget – money that was specifically inserted by Sen. Leatherman’s committee.

If NESA ever comes clean about who paid for what, we’ll be sure to let you know all about it, but the fact that this is a taxpayer-supported organization is not in question.

-FITSNews

22. Palmetto Observer - September 20, 2007

FITS thanks for your last post. I was missing the public dollars paying for this, which I doubt they were. Since we are discussing trips….

Why not enlighten us on ever thrifty Governor Sanford’s recent trip to China in which several legislators (Ryberg and Haley) also participated. I also understand that several Sanford staffers went as well, surely they weren’t asked to pay for themselves ? What was the total taxpayer cost there ? And if they did anything other than economic development, such as sightseeing or taking in a sake tasting we want to know ASAP !!! as that would be unaceptable, and also, please let us know what companies they met with and when they will be opening shop in SC.

Thanks for your good work !!

23. Grasping - September 20, 2007

Mr. McDougall (a.k.a. Palmetto Observer):

Governor Sanford’s China trip featured dozens of the world’s top multinational corporations participating in a global economic development summit whereas Hugh & Yancey’s “European Vacation” was nothing but two legislators and their wives on a scenic Rhineland getaway.

You’re onto something there buddy!!!

Sincerely,

Grasping

24. Kaolin Kronicle - September 20, 2007

Ryberg goes to China!!

Interesting. A friend of ours relayed a conservation they had with Senator Ryberg;s wife who offered up her observations about her recent “vacation” to China where she reported that the temperature was so “cool” as compared to what they left behind in Aiken.

Very intetesting.

25. Taxpayer - September 20, 2007

Grasping…

Does your job at the guv’s office not require you to work at all? u seem to be on the itnernet all day long…

A Taxpayer

26. Believe It Not - September 20, 2007

Doc,

Glad you took our advice. Loosening the chin strap helps circulation. Drinking plenty of cool clear water also helps, and you can even sprinkle a little in your hat on the really hot days.

BTY, where in Iraq are you? Let us know when you get home, and we will buy you (and sic(k)will) a beer. Maybe two for you.

Here’s our take on this post: Tripe.

Nothing Newsworthy.

We agree with Politics Rocks: Boring. Boondoggles are common. If sic(k) will had glossy pics of ’em and their wives in the red light district of Amsterdam late at night and if he could prove tax dollars funded the trip – then there might be something to this.

But, they would just reimburse the State (…you know, it was just a family vacation to see granny…), say it was a misunderstanding, point out the cultural aspects of the side trip and move on.

27. Doc Smith - September 21, 2007

BIN,

I heard even drinking that coll water helps. I’ll let you know how that works out. I’m living in the Sadoon neighborhood of Baghdad. I’ve got a spacious loft with a great view. The neighbors can get loud at times though.

You honestly have no problem with the idea of politicians going on these “fact finding”, or whatever you want to call them, missions that are nothing more than taxpayer funded vacations. I’m pretty damned sure total enlightenment is at the bottom of a beer mug but I’m not going to ask the taxpayers to pay for it.

28. The Watchman - September 22, 2007

Just thought you gentlemen would like to know how much I appreciated and enjoyed this posting. I included it in my posting today – http://myrtlebeachinsider.blogspot.com/ – and also added FITSNews.Com to my “Top Sites” roster.

Many thanks, and keep it coming!

29. France » Blog Archives » Coca Cola Launches New Music Discovery Sessions - October 17, 2007

[…] FITSNews For Now: FITSNews Exclusive – Hugh & Yancey’s “European Vacation” Number of comments: 10 […]

30. France » Blog Archives » We won! - October 17, 2007

[…] FITSNews For Now: FITSNews Exclusive – Hugh & Yancey’s “European Vacation” Number of comments: 10 […]


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