Jim DeMint, why should taxpayers fund special election?

Dear Mr. DeMint,

We are writing to ask you to help pay for the election to replace you in the Senate. The South Carolina Election Commission estimates that the special election required by your resignation will cost South Carolina taxpayers about $1 million.

According to the Federal Election Commission, your Senatorial political action committee has $800,409 “cash on hand” and no outstanding debts (Team DeMint FEC ID S4SC00083, most recent filing 9/30/2012).

In 2010, your PAC gave a total of $1,150,000 to Republican parties in eight states other than South Carolina. That year you made a total of $7,500 in contributions to 19 South Carolina county Republican parties.

In 2012, you generously donated $700,000 to the Club for Growth and $5,000 to the SC Republican Party.

Your new million-dollar-a-year job at the Heritage Foundation affords you the opportunity to donate the remaining $800,409 in your campaign account to the SC Election Commission, removing that burden from South Carolina taxpayers.

According to FEC staff, your check to the SC Election Commission to pay for an election you necessitated would qualify as a “public purpose” as required by statute.

Your resignation from the Senate, and Congressman Tim Scott’s resulting appointment to your seat, will cost South Carolina taxpayers $1 million to pay for a special election.

We hope that you agree that paying for this election with campaign money you no longer need would honor both your constituents and your conservative values.


Brett Bursey
Director, SC Progressive Network

History repeats itself

By Hoyt Wheeler
SC Progressive Network Co-chair

As the famous philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” We are experiencing once again deep challenges to the survival of the American republic that bear a close resemblance to challenges that we have faced before. Our present fix looks a great deal like the rocks upon which our country foundered in the 19th Century.

In the 19th Century, the War Between the States (or the War of Northern Aggression as it is known in South Carolina), in the words of Abraham Lincoln, tested whether the American government “of the people, by the people and for the people” could survive. This was settled only by a massive slaughter in which the Southern states were conquered by the Northern ones. The root cause of this war was an employment system in which human beings were used as mere resources by their owners – human slaves. To protect this system, the Southern states attempted to nullify national laws and, ultimately, to secede from their Union with the other states.

In recent years, under the banner of honoring the 10th Amendment, which reserves to the States those powers not given by the Constitution to the Federal government, legislatures in a number of states have once more attempted to nullify Federal laws.

With South Carolina once again in the forefront, several states have enacted provisions in their state constitutions to enact their own version of labor laws that conflict with Federal law. When challenged, their attorneys general have responded that these laws, which have to do with employee representation by unions, are not contrary to national legislation, although this is patently not the case. Also, in response to the much hated Federal “Obamacare,” some states are attempting to remove themselves from its requirements by state legislation.

The rhetoric used in attacking the national government has reached extraordinary heights. One of the more moderate candidates for the Republican nomination in the last election for South Carolina’s governor told a Tea Party rally that, where the enemy used to be the Soviet Union, it was now Washington. An application of Federal labor laws has resulted in the National Labor Relations Board being accused of being a “rogue agency” by South Carolina’s governor.

To resolve any doubt as to the extremes to which some citizens would take their resistance to the national government, in several states thousands of signatures have been collected in favor of actual secession from the United States. One would think that, in states such as South Carolina that are characterized by extraordinary expressions of patriotism, this should not be taken seriously.

However, it takes place in the context of the extreme libertarianism of many public officials. At least in South Carolina, it is clear that powerful politicians are simply opposed to any government – national or local. Appointments to head state agencies have been accompanied by statements by the governor that the task of the agencies’ leaders is to weaken, not enforce, state laws. Being business friendly, not the welfare of citizens, is seen as the ultimate test of state policy. Gov. Nikki Haley is opposed to cooperating with the Federal government, even refusing millions of dollars of Federal money for expanding Medicaid to benefit health care for the state’s poor.

American government, whether big or small, is in fact a government of, by and for the people. It is not a despotism that justifies rebellion. Although not perfect, it is superior to any alternative. It is a democracy worth defending and supporting.

New Year’s Memo to Members and Allies

Brett Bursey
SC Progressive Network Director

Over the past many months, right-wing leadership has lost its credibility and momentum, posing opportunities for progressives to make headway organizing on critical issues. Three policy areas that are especially ripe:

Medicaid expansion: We have discussed a primary legislative focus being on the expansion of Medicaid. It is a major battle in the war over the role and size of government. That said, it seems that major players (everybody to the left of the Tea Party) are taking up the call to accept Medicaid expansion. Gov. Nikki Haley will probably lose this fight, but we need to mobilize our members to ensure this happens.

Voting reforms: The Network has promoted a package of voting reforms for the past decade to make voting easier and verifiable. After the long lines to vote in November – which inconvenienced and disenfranchised even some Republicans – the idea of Early Voting Centers (which we championed in 2006) now has bipartisan support. The voting machines we use (and which the Network opposed the purchase of in 2003) are reaching the end of their life span. We have an opportunity to again push for an new voting system that is publicly owned, paper-based, simpler, cheaper and more reliable. The Network has been a major player in South Carolina’s voting business, and we need to focus on this.

Ethics reforms: The bipartisan clamor for ethics reform has been driven by indictments and investigations of leading politicians. I have testified before the four different ethics reform committees holding hearings. My main point has been that just because something is legal doesn’t make it ethical. Take House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s leadership PAC which legally circumvents campaign donation limits.

The other elephant in the room is that money is not speech and corporations are not people. The best these committees may come up with is “transparancy” that lets us know who is buying our elections. It is timely to again raise the concept of publicly financed elections for those who don’t want to be bought or sold. Common Cause is joining our call for a pilot program to elect the state Attorney General as a publicly financed candidate. Why should the state’s top cop have to take money from the corporations they may be called on to investigate?

Other work in progress:

A Midlands Public Transit Riders Association that we are helping to organize is coming along nicely. We are meeting every Wednesday at 2pm. Leadership from riders has emerged to run the group. After winning the fight for the penny tax in Richland County for transportation, we need a transit riders group to lobby for just and necessary changes. It shouldn’t be left up to the Chamber of Commerce to shape public transit.

The Workers’ Rights Project
did a nice job with the Longshoremen Dec. 20 in shutting down the Charleston port for two hours to protest a shipment of garments from Bangladesh destined for WalMarts. Some of the clothing came from the factory where 112 workers lost their lives in a fire last Nov. This is the price of always low wages. We will continue to ponder new opportunities for community-based labor organizing.

Immigrant Rights advocates will meet with Sen. Graham’s staff in Columbia Jan 11 and Charleston Jan 10 to thank the Senator for his leadership on establishing a path to citizenship. There is a caravan of “Dreamers,” young people raised in the US but without documentation, passing through SC on the way to DC. Sen. Graham is the major Republican player necessary to get immigration reform. The Network set up the meetings and is seeking community support for other activities. See the Network’s calendar for details.

Last year was one of the Network’s most successful. We won the fight over SC voters having to show photo ID to vote. We helped prevent critical budget cuts that hurt South Carolina’s most vulnerable. We worked to help pass the penny sales tax to fund public transit in the Midlands. We steadily improved the Network’s visibility in the community and online. We did it all on a shoestring budget with the help of a talented board and gang of dedicated volunteers.

Let’s work together to make 2013 even more productive. And fun.