FITSNews Exclusive – Hugh & Yancey’s “European Vacation” September 19, 2007Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.
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.”
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.