"When are you going to debate the senator?" someone asked Sen. Strom Thurmond at the recent Ruby Parade. The most senior senator launched into a diatribe about how that young fellow running against him just wants publicity and everyone knows his positions.
Then one of the senator's handlers whispered in his ear that the person asking the question was Elliott Close.
If you are worried that the senator may be losing his grip, take comfort in the fact that he has managed quite well without it for some time. Men in dark suits have been whispering in Strom's ear for at least 30 years.
A former Thurmond staffer recalls that in the early 1970s "Strom never went to an event without several people whispering in his ear. That's Hootie Johnson; his bank gave us $25,000 last year. That's Mrs. Jones from Aiken, her mother used to cook bar-b-que for you"
"I was with the senator in the mid 1970s, when he was one of the lead negotiators in a missile treaty with the Soviet Union," the staffer recently confided. "For a week, the size of a certain missile was compared to a Volkswagon Beetle. I gave him a ride home one night this was during the height of the gas shortage and he pointed out a VW bug and asked, What kind of car is that? It looks like it would be good on gas."
While the senator's remaining brain cells may be atrophied, he never misses an opportunity to show off his physical prowess.
"I got to give him his props (respect)," said Jeremy Martin, a senior at Strom Thurmond High School in Edgefield. "He came to the weight room two years ago (at the age of 92) and did more push-ups than one of the football players," Martin said.
When the Palmetto Project, a Charleston based group that considers itself progressive, launched its biannual voter registration drive last month, one of its corporate sponsors prompted rolling eyes and clucking tongues.
Laidlaw Inc., a Canadian firm which operates one of the nation's largest toxic dumps in Sumter County, made a $2,000 contribution to the Palmetto Project's goal of enhancing participatory democracy in South Carolina by sponsoring voter registration drives. (Only about a third of eligible voters in South Carolina bothered to go to the polls in the last election.)
The irony of Laidlaw sponsoring a voter registration drive is that the corporation has the dubious distinction of being the state's top lobbyist last year, spending nearly a half-million dollars to insure that the toxic waste industry has more influence over legislators than you do.
One of Laidlaw's top lobbyists last year they had five was Tom Mullikin. Mullikin, a Camden-based contract lobbyist, was paid $37,500 by Laidlaw in the first nine months of 1995.
During that same time, Mullikin took an additional $30,000 from Industrial Waste Management Association. Other hazardous waste-related lobbying brought in an additional $40,055.
Mullikin has retired from his lucrative lobbying business to run for the state Senate seat presently held by Don Holland (D-Kershaw).
Since the salary of a state senator is only $10,000, one can only assume that Mullikin is being driven by a tremendous sense of public service.
Two months before the election, Mullikin had reported $3,100 in campaign contributions from waste-related industries whose interests he used to represent as a lobbyist.
Why lobby senators when you can be one?
Last March, POINT brought you the story about a security guard who choked a shoplifter to death as customers urged him to stop. We reported that Ricky Coleman had outstanding warrants for impersonating a security guard and pointing a firearm when he killed Douglas Fischer.
A Greenville police lieutenant was quoted in the story as saying, "(Coleman's) idea of security was shooting the customers."
We asked Best Buy why they would hire a known goon with outstanding warrants for a security position. The store's spokesman responded that Best Buy had checked Coleman's criminal record and it had checked out clean.
On Oct. 10, Coleman plead guilty to the charges that were outstanding when Best Buy hired him. He was given a one-year sentence, suspended pending the successful service of 18 months' probation.
Coleman is still working at Best Buy.
Former Mt. Pleasant dentist Jim Edwards recently became the 55th nominee for the South Carolina Hall of Fame. The Hall was created to honor people who have contributed to South Carolina's heritage and progress.
Edwards served as governor from 1974 to 1978. His most notable accomplishment was getting elected.
He went on to serve as secretary of the Department of Energy, where his only qualification was being fanatically pro-nuclear. He is best remembered for his failed promise to dismantle the entire department.
Edwards currently serves as president of the Medical University of South Carolina, where he will be long remembered as the man who sold the University hospital to a private corp-oration.
Edwards is well known in nuclear waste circles for his dedicated service on the board of directors of Waste Management Inc., the world's largest toxic garbage company and owner of the Chem-Nuclear radioactive waste dump in Barnwell.
Edwards will surely be remembered by generations of future taxpayers for his enduring contributions to our state's glowing heritage.
There may be some truth to the rumor that the Greenville County Council has declared "habitating for humanity" a sin.
The council's resolution condemning homosexuals as incompatible with community standards cost the county the Olympic torch. The resolution is still causing repercussions.
A poll commissioned by the Greenville Business Magazine indicated that 70 percent of Greenville County voters "believe that the government should not enact resolutions on moral issues."
Only 16 percent felt that the anti-gay resolution would have a positive effect on local businesses.
When a Seattle, Wa., church cancelled its plans to help the Greenville Habitat for Humanity build homes, it issued a statement warning: "Basic human rights such as employment, housing and public accommodations are under assault in the name of family values. As a congregation of justice-seeking Christians, we feel we must take a stand in condemning the actions of the Council."
ProJustice Carolina, a group that was formed to rescind the resolution, includes some of the very people that the council deemed unfit to live in Greenville.
In a move that underlined the council's hypocrisy, the members of ProJustice turned out to help build the Habitat houses, and invited the council members who passed the offending resolution to join them.
Council member Scott Case said, "No way."
Councilman Mark Kingsbury said, "I support Habitat, but I will not be caught dead with you."
By not showing up, the council drove another nail into its own coffin.
Since the Christian Coalition began its takeover of Greenville County politics in 1992, it has purported to represent the conservative, Republican majority.
The Christian Coalition has painted itself into an ever-shrinking corner by asserting that everyone who opposes its narrow brand of fundamentalism is a "liberal." But the Coalition, which has blurred the line between church and state, has alarmed a growing number of people.
They worry about things like the fact that the Greenville County School Board Chair, Joe Dill, had a message on his answering machine that said he is out "fighting the downtown Greenville money-lovers, children-haters and devil-worshipers."
A new group has been formed in opposition. Parents and Taxpayers for Better Greenville Schools includes Liberty Corporation CEO Hayne Hipp, Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown, Furman University President David Shi, former Mayor William Workman and a host of other Greenville notables, hardly the liberal philistines the Coalition brands its opposition.
Unlike the Christian Coalition, the group is not coy about its political activities, and has formed a political action committee to allow it to endorse candidates.
Hipp's group has mailed out two glossy brochures to Greenville County voters. The cutline under unflattering photos of the Coalition leaders on the school board says they voted to deny teachers a 2 percent pay raise and then voted to more than double their own salaries.
"They decided that putting more money in their pockets was more important than putting money in the classrooms," the brochure claims.
It then asks voters to ask themselves whether the board members did the right thing, before they go out on Election Day.
Democrats recently announced the Party's "Dinner Table Agenda," presenting it as a kinder, gentler alternative to the Republican's "Palmetto Promise." The Agenda is so named because, according to a press release, "it addresses issues South Carolina families discuss every night around the dinner table."
The "first course" of the Agenda serves up education, and deals with such topics as all-day kindergarten, and alternative schools for children with behavioral problems. So far, so good.
But the suggestion that cops be authorized to pick up any kid they see on the street during school hours may cause some civil libertarians indigestion.
The part we really thought hard to stomach, though, was the suggestion that parents be given one hour a month leave from work to "tutor or assist in our schools."
Let's see 20 minutes to get there, 10 minutes to park and find the class, 20 minutes to get back to work... that leaves 10 minutes to "strengthen the bond between parents and schools.