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In true fashion of being used, The State newspaper printed this letter from South Carolina state Sen. Glenn McConnell.  

If you remember this diary of mine where The State newspaper printed the letter by South Carolina U.S. Senator's Graham and DeMint, The State has a knack of being used as a platform by politicians promoting their "agenda".

Well, McConnell's letter is about "setting the record straight" on oversight legislation at the SC Dept. of Transportation.

Meet me after the fold...

First, the reader must understand what happened at the South Carolina Dept. of Transportation and how it is organized.  Cindi Scoppe of The State has done some great pieces on the SCDOT fiasco.  Elizabeth Mabry was head of the SCDOT.  Audit reports submitted to the SC state legislature by the SCDOT and Mabry's board "misled" the lawmakers on where $50 million dollars of the taxpayers money was spent.  Not only were they misled, but, testimony by two department officials brought out that the "books" were cooked to hide it.  

Two department officials -- testifying under oath, at times in tears and obviously fearful of retribution -- said top managers ordered the books to be manipulated...

But because of how the SCDOT board is organized, she couldn't just be "fired", no, she had to be "bought out".  That's right, bought out.  The state had to pay $40,074.57 into Elizabeth Mabry's state retirement account so she could "retire".  No charges.  No accountability.  The taxpayer was punished.  

Second, the reader must understand what has happened since Mabry's "retirement".  Governor Mark Sanford has asked that the SC state legislature write a law reforming the SCDOT system giving him the ability to appoint, not just the head of the SCDOT administration, but all executive branch agencies.  As Cindi Scoppe points out, there are many Governors who have this ability - just not South Carolina's governor.  As it is, the head of the SCDOT is accountable to not one person.  The SCDOT "board" was supposed to just "police themselves".  

So, we are at Sen. McConnell's "setting the record straight" using The State, who lists him as "guest columnist".  Funny, I thought he was a SC state Senator.  From McConnell's letter:

I have been a primary sponsor of Gov. Mark Sanford’s efforts to restructure government, and I believe in bringing our executive branch into the 21st century. However, the Department of Transportation is different because it is not a true executive agency and, therefore, must be handled differently. Since the Department of Transportation can decide what it does and how much and how money is spent, it is a hybrid in government. Our founding fathers created a great system where the Legislature creates the policies that the executive branch implements. However, the Department of Transportation does both. It is this dual role that necessitated that it be treated differently and watched carefully.

It seems simple, doesn't it?  You write a law that places the SCDOT firmly under the SC executive branch (Governor).  And, Sen. McConnell, it wasn't watched closely.  In fact, it wasn't watched to the tune of $50 million dollars.

The Senate bill would set up the Department of Transportation to run like a business. It would have a board of directors, each of whom would be appointed by the governor, who could remove them if they did their job poorly or unethically. They would be screened by a review committee to ensure that the individuals appointed were qualified to oversee an agency as large and diverse as many large corporations and that has a yearly budget of more than $1 billion. The board would then appoint an executive director to run the day-to-day operations of the agency. That person could be removed for any reason by the board. The board would also hire a chief engineer who would assist the board in creating a state highway plan. The chief engineer would be a professional who could only be removed for cause.

Did you get all of that?  Step 1 - Governor nominates SCDOT board members.  Step 2 - SC Senate approves/disapproves the nominations.  Step 3 - The SCDOT board then picks their own leader and goes about their merry way.

The Senate plan was to create a state highway plan that was the result of objective criteria. The roads of our state, we believed, were too important to be built on the basis of politics instead of need, and we wanted to make sure that the Department of Transportation did not turn into a billion-dollar slush fund.

Step 4 - The SC Senate then, in conjunction with the SCDOT board, sets up the highway plan.  Guess who gets their fingers into the BILLIONS of dollars under this plan?

Those who have attacked the Senate plan wanted instead a plan offered by Sen. John Courson that would have simply turned the Department of Transportation over to an executive director appointed by the governor, who could then fire the director for any or no reason. That political appointee would be responsible for determining where all projects were done, to whom contracts were awarded, who received and who did not receive repairs and how much money was spent. All of this would have been handed over with no oversight at all. This, in my opinion, would be like giving a child a thousand dollars to go to the store to buy groceries with no guarantee that he would buy the right groceries for the family.

First, there are many states that operate in this fashion.  Second, if the money is mismanaged by the Governor's appointee, then the Governor pays the price at the polls and the person is supposed to be arrested, indicted, tried, convicted, sentenced and jailed by the SC Attorney General and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.  Unlike Elizabeth Mabry who had the SC taxpayer's buy her out with zero accountability.

Many members of the Senate were concerned that this was too much temptation to give to any one person.

We can stop right here in his letter, because this is the crux of South Carolina politics; who has the power and control of the money.

SC's legislators and Governor are fighting over who gets to play with the hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money.  And make no mistake here, this isn't about the SC government funding projects in bills and the Governor making sure they are accomplished (think Congress, Bush and Iraq war here), this is about who has control over all of it; money and power.

But, there is one more thing from McConnell's letter that truly shows McConnell for what he is:

That billion-dollar budget would be a re-election account and a tool to influence legislation. We could be faced with bridges to nowhere and stalled projects of needed roads to alleviate traffic congestion, all being held up by politics.

This coming from the man who spent $100 million dollars to fund the preservation of the Hunley submarine.

The story, which ran over three days and covered 13 pages, described how McConnell used stealth and skullduggery to surreptitiously fund the preservation of the submarine and to build a museum to put it in -- all at taxpayers' expense, of course. The ultimate price tag would run upwards of $100 million.

Bad enough?  No?  

Furthermore, McConnell has led the state on a reckless adventure to build a $42 million museum to house the submarine, yet his commission had done absolutely no feasibility, site, or market studies, which experts say are critical to knowing whether such a venture can succeed. McConnell's commission chose North Charleston as the site for their Hunley museum, far from the tourist traffic and historic sites of Charleston and Mt. Pleasant, but suspiciously close to McConnell's family-owned CSA Galleries, which bills itself as the nation's largest Civil War store.

And now, McConnell wants to "set the story straight" on why HE should be involved with a BILLION dollar account and cites bridges to nowhere?  How about submarines going nowhere, Sen. McConnell!

Welcome to South Carolina politics, ladies and gentlemen, where the schools still suck, roads are mismanaged, literacy is in the dumps, taxes are high, unemployment is above national average (and as high as 10-12% in some counties), but, the SC state government wants their hands in even MORE money so they can get richer.  

Originally posted to MotleyPatriot on Tue Apr 10, 2007 at 02:19 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Part of the reason this isn't flying, in the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mandevilla

    legislature, is because the state congress quite rightly distrusts Sanford's motives, one hundred percent. And this recent crap where he wants to give a 40 million dollars in tax breaks to the folks on their St. James estates, with their horse farms geared to producing polo horses, is a good example of why even many Republican congressmen in the state, who are a loathsome bunch in and of themselves (Mike Fair, anyone?) won't support a change that gives the governor more power.

    •  South Carolina is stuck... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wayward, cfaller96

      ...in the 19th Century...

      South Carolina FINALLY got a lottery... do you know how?

      There were about 5 men in South Carolina who ran video poker.  They were making billions.  They were also giving the state about $260 MILLION dollars in revenue EVERY YEAR.

      Then, the legislature decided they wanted MORE money.  They basically decided to extort the money from the men by telling them if they didn't give MORE money to the state, they would just make it illegal.  The men said no, the legislature did make it illegal, they fought and lost (based on the fact it was a LAW now), the legislature then was $260 MILLION short in the budget.

      They THEN wrote the lottery bill (which had failed EVERY year), but, didn't write WHERE the money would be spent... that would come AFTER the bill passed.  The same people who shot down the bill THEN wanted it passed.  It passed.  Funny thing though... even making $950 MILLION dollars in lottery revenue, the state was STILL laying off teachers...

      Guess where all that money went... because we are STILL wondering.

      Don't tell me how corrupt SC is... I KNOW.

      •  I voted against the lottery (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cfaller96

        Although I supported the lottery, I voted against the amendment in 2000 because it didn't say where the money would go, although the legislature said it was for education.

        My suspicions were correct. In the first year, the lottery brought in $36 million for education - which was almost enough to offset the $40 million budget cut. Lottery scholarships have provided millions to SC students - while higher education budget cuts have given SC schools the highest in-state tuition in the Southeast. In-State tuition Clemson is almost twice that at NC State and Ga Tech, despite NC State and Ga Tech being in the middle of large cities and Clemson being in the middle of nowhere.

        The SC Edumakashun Lottery is nothing but a shell game that the General Assembly put over on the people of SC.

        "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." - Will Rogers

        by wayward on Wed Apr 11, 2007 at 04:12:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I dunno. The Hunley's a big deal. :( (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mandevilla

    Great work showcasing South Carolina politics, a microcosm of the country the Republicans wish to create.

    M-O-O-N! That spells Iran!

    by cskendrick on Tue Apr 10, 2007 at 03:48:08 AM PDT

    •  South Carolina politics (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cfaller96

      South Carolina is by far the most Republican state in the South. Republicans control the Governor's Mansion,  the House, the Senate, and all constitutional offices except Supt. of Education, which the Democrats held on to by 455 votes.

      The Hunley is about par for the course in SC. The way the SC Senate is structured, a single senator can hold up important legislation until he gets what he wants. If it's someone like McConnell, he can basically hold the Senate hostage for a pet project.

      The legislature is not corrupt because the Republicans run it, it was corrupt when the Democrats ran it before 1994 (House) and 2000 (Senate). The only reason video poker was ever legalized in the first place was that the gambling industry bribed a senator to sneak an amendment into an appropriations bill. Seriously. That's how politics works in the Palmetto State.

      The most recent fight is between the Republican Legislature and the Republican Governor. Like most of his predecessors, the Governor wants reform, and like before, the Legislature won't give it to him.

      I am no fan of Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), but he is absolutely right that things need to change in state Government.

      "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." - Will Rogers

      by wayward on Wed Apr 11, 2007 at 04:07:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If you think Sanford is bad... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cfaller96

        what about the Lt. Gov?

        I mean, come on... speeding at 100 mph, twice... no ticket... actually asks the legislature for a DRIVER... and gets re-elected.

        Is it any wonder nothing ever changes?

        •  Don't forget... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cfaller96, MotleyPatriot

          ...getting a gun pulled on him by the officers who stopped him for speeding.  On Assembly Street.  Blocks from the State Capitol.  

          And the sweetheart land deals.

          And report after report of him hanging out in Five Points and sweet-talking the college girls.

          Hey, he sounds like Dubya Junior!

          Sanford is, at least, just a dimwit.  Andre is a reckless dimwit with a sense of entitlement.

          Anyway, I love my home state, but the state government needs a serious overhaul.

          We did it. Now we have to do more.

          by socratic on Wed Apr 11, 2007 at 05:57:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  But we have such beautiful beaches! (0+ / 0-)

            Isn't that what all the politicians said in the wake of the Confederate flag brouhaha?  "We have such beautiful beaches, why would anyone want to boycott visiting our state?"

            I have no answers on how to get SC caught up to the rest of the country.  None.

            The South Will Rise (Blue) Again Blue Dawn Politics

            by cfaller96 on Wed Apr 11, 2007 at 07:25:21 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The flag and the Hunley (0+ / 0-)

              From what I have heard, the millions for the Hunley was the price of getting Sen. McConnell to support moving the flag from the dome to the Confederate monument.

              As for the flag boycott, in SC, progressives have to pick and choose their battles, and this battle was poorly chosen. South Carolina has real problems that need to be solved before taking on the symbolic ones. Furthermore, the flag flap directly led to the defeat of Sen. Jim Bryan, which allowed the Republicans to take the SC Senate. On top of this, the boycott is poor strategy. Those who are most affected by the boycott would take down the flag in a heartbeat, while those who insist their representatives keep it up are generally unaffected by it.

              "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." - Will Rogers

              by wayward on Wed Apr 11, 2007 at 10:50:21 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  very much so! (0+ / 0-)

            SC is screwed up... and it isn't getting better... let us hope I can get The State to "see the light".

        •  Lite Gov. Andre "Andretti" Bauer (0+ / 0-)

          Andre Bauer was re-elected because he campaigns twice as hard as anyone who runs against him.

          Mike Campbell thought he had him in the primaries when he got 48% of the vote in a three way race. However, Bauer beat him 51-49 in the runoff.

          Democrat Robert Barber should have easily beaten him in the general election. Barber somehow managed to get the actual Highway Patrol video (!) of Bauer getting pulled over and put it in his commercials. Barber beat Bauer by 20,000 votes in Charleston County, which is normally enough to win, but he forgot to campaign in the upstate. Bauer crushed him in the upstate, running ahead of everyone in those counties, even Sanford, and won by about 3,000 votes in the second closest statewide election ever. (Only the Supt. of Education race on the same ballot was closer.)

          "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." - Will Rogers

          by wayward on Wed Apr 11, 2007 at 09:06:28 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  there is a reason he won... sure... and it's... (0+ / 0-)

            because they purged the voter rolls!  I know...

            I WAS PURGED.

            I have lived in the same house for about 9 years.  I have voted in the same district, at the same polling place, FOR YEARS.

            Guess what... SUDDENLY... I'm not on the roll!  If I hadn't carried my voter registration card, I wouldn't even have been allowed to file a provisional ballot... which btw... ISN'T COUNTED UNLESS THERE IS A RUNOFF (as I understand).

            Republicans are screwing EVERYONE... and the f(&(*& sheep in SC just get screwed and BAAAAA at them.

      •  Which Senator bribed? And who was the briber? (0+ / 0-)

        M-O-O-N! That spells Iran!

        by cskendrick on Wed Apr 11, 2007 at 11:10:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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