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Inside Sanford’s Competitive Grant “Scandal” November 15, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.

Sanford Signing


FITSNews – November 15, 2007 – Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of Palmetto politicos’ lives. Seriously, if you thought daytime network TV was dripping with shallow sappiness and petty personal intrigues, Hollywood’s B-listers got nothing on South Carolina’s elected officials and political chattering class. For the past five years, taxpayers have basically funded a redneck version of Days of Our Lives, where itching inferiority complexes, unholy alliances, illicit affairs and a universally-addictive lust for power melt into a teeming cauldron of waste, corruption, inefficiency and non-competitiveness.

We’ve chronicled much of the vicious, vacuous cycle right here on FITSNews, and for our efforts we’ve become about as popular with the “powers that be” here in Columbia, S.C. as the early Nineties anti-narco reporters in Colombia, S.A. became with El Doctor Pablo Escobar himself. Death threats, lawsuit threats, you name ’em, we’ve gotten ’em. Which is one reason we have to remind people from time to time that our lawyers are very, very, very good, and our home office is very, very, very well-protected. Just call it our own little Hacienda Los Nápoles, people.

Anyway, the latest chapter in the ongoing drama that is South Carolina’s backwoods banana republic unfolded this week between Gov. Mark Sanford and State Senator Jake Knotts, who continue to find themselves at opposite ends of the political spectrum when it comes to state government … and apparently buffet tables as well.

In a blistering article penned by Knotts’ consultant Rod Shealy, Sr. in the Lake Murray News (which Shealy owns), Knotts claims to have uncovered a gubernatorial conspiracy to discredit him centering around former Sanford Communications Director Chris Drummond, who has been widely-suspected in the past of leaking sensitive information about the governor’s enemies to members of the media.

According to Shealy’s story, “the 2008 campaign attacks had already secretly begun, and Drummond was being paid to discredit the names on Sanford’s (legislative) ‘hit list.'”

As evidence of this arrangement, Knotts uncovered $27,000 in payments made to Drummond out of funds raised for the 2006 National Governor’s Association Conference, which was held last year in Charleston, S.C.

That discovery, in turn, led to the revelation that of the $1.2 million used to pay for the conference, $150,000 came from South Carolina taxpayers via the controversial S.C. Competitive Grants program, which FITSNews exposed earlier this year as little more than a secret legislative slush fund. The grant was the first to be authorized by the program, and was awarded prior to the leveling of allegations that powerful State Sen. Hugh Leatherman was using the fund to influence his colleagues’ votes.

Earlier this year, sources tell FITSNews that Knotts confronted Drummond in person and asked him whether or not he was receiving money from any group affiliated with the governor, including the NGA conference organization, which was managed by current Sanford staffer Marisa Crawford. Drummond denied receiving any money from Sanford-related entities, and blamed our own Sic Willie for orchestrating the attacks against Knotts and other legislators in the mainstream media.

At this point, Knotts reportedly presented Drummond with copies of the NGA checks.

Having researched the relevant documents, we can say that Knotts’ case against Sanford concerning the competitive grant awarded to the NGA is fairly flimsy. As far as we can tell, the funding request is the only one in the history of the program to follow proper request protocol, to itemize the intended uses for the grant and to return, albeit belatedly, a surplus of funds back to the taxpayers.

Additionally, the NGA conference is estimated to have had a $4.3 million economic impact on the State of South Carolina according to College of Charleston economists, which means the $50,000 the taxpayers ultimately ended up investing in the conference was obviously money well spent.

Bottom line, the event was the poster child for what the competitive grants program should be, but isn’t.

Having said that, Ms. Crawford certainly should have recognized that any surplus funds from the conference ought to be returned immediately to the taxpayers instead of sent to a pro-Sanford lobbying group, which would have saved her boss a short-term headache in the mainstream press.

The case against Drummond could potentially be much stronger, however, depending on the evidence Knotts has collected and promised to share with legislative investigators.

Our research has confirmed that Drummond – a master of “veiling” his leaks – has repeatedly sought to shift the onus for some of his undercover dealings onto other sources. In three separate cases, sources tell FITSNews that information leaked by Drummond was pinned on innocent parties in an effort to shield him from retaliation.

The ultimate impact of all this cat-and-mouse spy-gaming is unclear, although it appears that the primary pro-Sanford vehicle for the 2008 elections, Reform SC, is not connected to any of the shady dealings, despite Shealy’s article repeatedly sprinkling the organization’s name in an effort to imply “guilt by association.”

Stay tuned to FITSNews for more on this ongoing soap opera …



1. JulyKid - November 15, 2007

I agree, as usual, with most of what Your Genius has stated…but I do disagree with a couple of points.

1. The co-mingling of large amounts of money between “charities” that Sanford controls is, in legal terms, a no- no. In doing so he has invited scrutiny, and if there is one press person in all of SC with balls larger than Cindy Ross Scoppes’’, an FOI request will be winging its way to Charleston by mid-morning and then the crapola will hit the fan.

2. Once the general public sees which special interest groups, rich guys and out of state influence peddlers giving to these charities’…and in the LARGE amounts that they give, it will not be a small story anymore.

3. Perhaps the largest mound of crapola will hit the fan when the public sees the expenses…large amounts of money being spent on what Mr. and Mrs .Average South Carolina will deem to be “dream” items. Then the envy factor sets in. I can promise u the average South Carolinian does not have expenses like Mark Sanford and his friends do…and they will not like it.

So, this is going to be interesting. If Sanford and his hobgoblin chum Joel Sawyer can snooker the South Carolina press on this one, then that is a signal to every villain in the land they SC is open for scams, plots and shenanigans on a scale of unimaginable proportions.

As usual, keep up the good work. U make SC politics worth watching.

2. JulyKid - November 15, 2007

PS…why is Sanford sitting at the midget table?

3. Yellow Dawg - November 15, 2007

I think I will wait and see whether Reform SC and other groups are tainted till after the legislative investigation. We are eagerly awaiting the elections of 08 and 10. And don’t blame me, I voted for Hodges.

4. VN - November 16, 2007

Maybe after the legislative investigation he will resign & Andre will become Governor

5. VN - November 16, 2007

Willie would love it is by some miricle after the legislative investigation Rep Annette Young would become LT Governor after Andre becomes Governor.

6. Echo Chamber - Some Love For La Socialista, Etc. « FITSNews For Now - November 25, 2007

[…] Leatherman himself is being asked to lead an investigation into a separate competitive grant “scandal” involving Gov. Mark Sanford, who may be the only person to actually use the program to generate a […]

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