Columbia City Paper analyzes SCRG

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We have to admit – we dont read the Columbia City Paper all that much.  We should however because every time we pick it up we find something interesting.

We were sitting at Groucho’s this afternoon when this week’s edition popped out at with the title “Buying an election.”

We couldn’t link to the article, so we have brought it to you here on The Chaser.

Columbia City Paper

Buying an election
1/4/06

What is the definition of a Yankee?

It’s a quickie you do by yourself. Or so goes the old joke— but many S.C. voters wouldn’t be laughing if they
knew who the man paving the yellow brick road with gold
was for the Republican candidates of the 2006 S.C.

General Election. But this isn’t Oz— it’s South Carolina.
And though the man behind the curtain was indeed a
squirrelly bald man, he had a real name and a real profession
outside of the money-green tinted glasses worn
by this year’s Republican campaign consultants of
Emerald City. His name is Howard Rich and he is a
Libertarian real estate investor from Manhattan who
some believe is single-handedly hijacking the SCGOP
and turning the Palmetto State into his own personal
guinea pig lab.

Sitting high in his Manhattan apartment though,
Howard Rich is not a household name in the state where
friendliness flows and if there’s anyone Rich wants to
keep his name clear from the mind of besides the average
voter or local reporter in South Carolina it appears to
be the State Ethics Commission.

According to state law, a single person or company
is only allowed to donate a maximum of $3,500 to a political
candidate during an election cycle. So how does a
person donate up to $73,000 to just one candidate like

Rich did for Gov. Mark Sanford alone?

One way, says S.C. political commentator and blogger
Ross Shealy, is to set up a number of different “shell
groups” in order to bypass the law.

“Rich makes the maximum legal contribution of
$3,500 to a candidate under the name of Bradford
Management. Then he makes another contribution to the
same candidate as Spinksville LLC. And then he makes
another as Ashborough Investors and another as 405 49
Associates— you get the idea,” he says. “And there are
more: Spooner LLC. Bayrich LLC, Dayrich LLC, 538-14
Realty LLC, West 14 & 18 LLC, 123 LaSalle Associates,
just to name a few. Some of these shell companies list
Howard Rich’s Big Apple apartment as their primary
address. Others purport to be located at an alternate
address but have a “principal” address at his New York
residence.”

It was Rich’s use of the different shell groups, or his
playing of “the shell game,” in order to bypass the state
campaign contribution limit laws that prompted The State
newspaper to publish a Dec. 8 editorial urging the State
Ethics Commission to enforce the state’s campaign disclosure
law after U.S. District Judge Mathew Perry dismissed
a lawsuit filed by South Carolinians For
Responsible Government (SCRG) against the SEC. Why
did they file a suit? Because the SEC simply asked SCRG
to file a report detailing its spending for political ads that
ran in the June primaries. After SCRG filed the suite, the
SEC stonewalled and seemed to drop their inquiries into
the entire matter. SCRG is a group financed by Howard
Rich— who often sets up and bankrolls groups with
“down home state-sounding” names as a way to play
puppeteer without having to get his own hands tangled in
the strings. Another one in South Carolina reportedly
financed by Rich is South Carolina Club For Growth. We’ll
get into that one later.

PSSSST…follow the money.

Though SCRG has repeatedly refused to say
whether or not they are financed by Howard Rich, the
dots can be connected the old fashioned Bob
Woodward/Carl Bernstein way. But deep-throated parking
garage freaks need not apply; a simple “follow the
money”— or in this case “follow the chummies”— will do.

In November, Sanford’s 2006 re-election campaign
manager, Jason Miller, told The State that he had not
seen Rich in years and could not say when he last spoke
with the man. For two years in the late ‘90s Miller worked
for a group called U.S. Term Limits. Howard Rich is the
president of U.S. Term Limits and their goal is to cap the
times a House member can run for re-election. While he
was a member of the S.C. House, Gov. Mark Sanford
also worked with U.S. Term Limits and, last year, during
an Oct. 30 ETV gubernatorial debate, Sanford called
Howard Rich a “good friend.”

The governor was such a good friend of Rich’s that
he reportedly received around $50,000 in campaign contributions
for re-election from Rich’s shell groups alone—
over 10 times the legal limit. Those of course are the only
groups so far found to be related to the New York
financer. (In 1997, S.C. Republican Bob Inglis disagreed
with U.S. Term Limits and was told, “If you get in our way,
we will mow you down,” according to CNN’s All Politics.
Inglis did not necessarily disagree with term limits, he
said, — only the number of terms.)

Meanwhile, while Time magazine was calling
Sanford the worst governor in the country, a group called
The Cato Institute listed him as one of their highest-scoring
governors. Howard Rich is on The Cato Institute’s
board of directors. Reporter John Stossel once broadcast
a story on ABC’s 20/20 called “Stupid in America” in which
Sanford bashed the current running of the S.C. public
school system on national television. Stossel also has
ties to the institute (he has written for The Cato Institute
and delivered the keynote address at their 25th anniversary
dinner).

The program 20/20 is on ABC and ABC is owned by
the Walt Disney Company. A man named George Mitchell
is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Walt
Disney Company and Mitchell is also a member of the
Leadership Council of a group called the National Club
For Growth (so is Howard Rich). An offshoot of that group
is the political action committee, South Carolina Club For
Growth. A woman named Karen Iocavelli is on the board
of directors for the S.C. Club For Growth. Who did Gov.

Sanford appoint to the state’s Education Oversight
Commission? Former member of United New Yorkers for
Choice in Education… Karen Iocavelli. (Iocavelli also personally
contributed $2,500 to Republican Candidate for
Superintendent of Education Karen Floyd’s campaign.)

Meanwhile, a man named Joshua Gross, who
moved here from California last year, happens to be the
executive director of the S.C. Club For Growth and
Gross’s Web log, The Body Politic
(www.schotline.blogspot.com), is the opinion voice of one
of South Carolina’s most popular statewide political news
gathering Web sites, Schotline.com. In effect, one blogger
complained in an open letter to the SCGOP in
November, “Mr. Rich has successfully positioned his S.C.
mouthpiece, Joshua Gross, as
the gatekeeper of political news
and ideas in [South Carolina].”

Interestingly enough, while
both SCRG and the S.C. Club For
Growth are backed by an out-ofstate
Libertarian and tend to push
his agendas, both groups paid for
a negative TV spot to run in
November that accused The
State newspaper of being an outof-
state-owned company that
pushed that company’s
(McClatchy’s) “liberal” agenda. The ad was so off the wall
that WIS-TV General Manager Mel Stibbens reportedly
refused even to let it air on his station.
Could all this be just political paranoia by Web log
junkies, or could Howard Rich really be a nefarious puppet
master with dollar sign eyes and the state of South
Carolina in his direct line of vision?

During his campaign for governor, 2006
Democratic Nominee Tommy Moore published Howard
Rich/Gov. Sanford/Karen Iocavelli/Josh Gross connections
on his campaign Web site calling it the “Endless
Circle” and he repeatedly pressed Sanford about the governor’s
ties to Rich in televised pre-election gubernatorial
debates in October. But aside from a few Web sites and
scattered opinion columns aimed with laser focus at political
insiders, Howard Rich still remains under the radar of
South Carolina’s voting public.

For his part, and understandably so, Rich seems to
stay as far out of the press as he can. And while even the
Wall Street Journal could not get a direct comment from
him about his interest in financing local campaigns across
the country, the High Country News did quote him once
saying “I made a few bucks in business, so I am able to
do this stuff.”

Making his money in real estate in the ‘60s, Rich,
now 66, became active in the Libertarian party in the early
‘80s but has reportedly since left the party and is now a
Republican. Though he left the party, Rich and his wife
Andrea took over the Libertarian Review Foundation,
renaming it The Center for Independent Thought and
have also helped fund the Libertarian magazine Reason,
according to the Public Broadcast System. Since then he
has immersed himself in the workings of politics, getting
himself involved in races from Oregon to Nevada, Arizona
to South Carolina. Last year alone, Rich spent a reported
$7.3 million on initiative campaigns and bankrolling
groups with native-sounding names like “Oklahomans For
Good Government,” “Missourians In Charge,” and
“Montanans in Action.”

So can someone actually buy an election?

That’s exactly what Rep. Bill Cotty (R-Richland)
wanted to know when he found out Howard Rich was the
one paying for negative direct mail pieces painting Cotty
in poor light to members of his own constituency.
Speaking about it recently to City Paper, Cotty recalled
the ordeal as the “election from hell.”

“They [the negative direct mail literature] weren’t
coming out every week, it was every day,” he said about
the Rich-funded efforts to unseat him, also calling many
of the claims out-right lies. “[Rich] spent a quarter of a million
dollars on my election alone.”

Cotty also said the picture that
unregulated groups funded by people
like Howard Rich paint is that South
Carolina may have the potential to be
“for sale.” Cotty’s wife, he said, had just
undergone two knee surgeries. When
he asked her if it was painful she said
“Yes, but not as painful as the election
we just went through.” What Cotty
wants to know about the elected officials
who all took Rich’s money: “Is that
going to influence their vote on an issue
down the road?”

So now we wait and see

Every politician whose campaign Rich and his shell
groups contributed loads of cash to except for one came
out victorious on Nov. 7. Mark Sanford, Andre Bauer
(though a very close race), Richard Eckstrom and
Thomas Ravanel all pulled wins. The only anomaly was
Republican Candidate for Superintendent of Education
Karen Floyd who some believe Rich may have had the
most personal vested interest in. Rich’s view on public
education— specifically, keeping the government entirely
out of it—is one he seems to hold most dear to his heart
and the hearts of many of the PACs and “[insert state
name here] Club For Growth” and “[insert state name] For
Responsible Government” groups he pumps money into
to keep from financial cardiac arrest. And while Floyd’s
campaign may have needed a few Rich-induced monetary
defribulations, it ended up dying on the operating
table. (Although it may have actually been the closest
statewide race in S.C. history.)

While in New York last week, City Paper contacted
Howard Rich who said he would “gladly answer questions.”
When asked to comment on his contributions to
S.C. statewide campaigns and members of the legislature
or if he bankrolled the negative mail pieces for Rep.
Cotty, Rich did not respond. He also refused to dispel
allegations that he pays Joshua Gross’s salary and would
not comment on the use of shell groups to skirt campaign
finance laws.

While Rep. Cotty says he believes the shell groups
are “so unaccountable and irresponsible” that they need
to be regulated, others say those who take Rich’s money
should just come clean and admit it so they can be held
accountable for their votes down the line and how that
money may or may not affect it. Similarly, Shealy believes
that if you were to cross-reference Rich’s LLC groups and
his friend’s contributions to members of the legislature in
South Carolina against their individual votes on Put
Parents In Charge, for instance, they would presumably
all be “yes.”

City Paper plans to keep an eye on those elected
officials with ties to Howard Rich and their voting record
down the line.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson: “I sincerely
believe … that banking establishments are more dangerous
than standing armies, and that the principle of spending
money to be paid by posterity under the name of funding
is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”

Ross Shealy contributed content to this article

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2 Comments on “Columbia City Paper analyzes SCRG”


  1. Howard Rich remains under the radar of South Carolina’s voting public no mo.

  2. scchaser Says:

    Guy who’s too scared to put his name on his post:

    We let your post through to clarify our rules which are posted on http://adailyshot.com/about.htm.

    The posting rules for The Shot and it’s net branches including The Chaser, The Shot’s YouTube page, The Shot’s MySpace Page, and The Shot’s Facebook page are as follows:

    • No profanity.
    • No personal attacks on the author or other bloggers.
    • No harassment of a particular individual.
    • No impersonations of people, public figures or otherwise.
    • No disruptive behavior or off-topic remarks for their own sake.
    • No using The Shot to attack your opposition. If you are on a candidates’ payroll, you will not use this forum to attack your opposition unless you are on the record and speaking on behalf of your candidate. If you do so after the first warning, your comments will be considered on the record and used accordingly.

    The purpose of this site is to promote and build a South Carolina netroots community of informed and engaged activists and voters. The proprietors of this site are the sole and final judges and enforcers of this policy. If you break these rules, we will warn you once. Do it again and you will be banned from posting.

    Have fun without being an idiot…please.


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