Georgetown Democrats Fail to Report Union Contributions

FOR IMMEDATE RELEASE: September 16, 2007
Contact: Tom Swatzel (843) 357-1673

GEORGETOWN — Georgetown County Democrat Party officials have for years violated state campaign finance disclosure law by failing to publicly report United Steel Workers union officials’ ongoing contribution of rent-free office space at a Georgetown union hall used as Democrat Party headquarters.

In addition to violating state law by failing to report the contribution, Democrat Party officials also possibly violated the law by accepting rent-free office space for which the market value exceeds the legal limit on the amount any single group can give to a political party each year.

Georgetown County Republican Party Chairman Tom Swatzel said it “appears Democrat Party officials are guilty of serious violations of state campaign finance laws.”

Persons who violate state campaign laws are “guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.”

“Georgetown County voters have a right to know just how indebted Democrat Party officials are to union bosses who have a very recent history of deceiving Georgetown County taxpayers, and voters have a right to demand that Democrat officials no longer be allowed to cover it up by breaking the law,” Swatzel said.

Swatzel pointed to county tax records which indicate that Steel Workers union local 7898 owns the union hall located at 1515 Butts Street in Georgetown, the same address the county Democrat Party’s website has been listing as its street address since September 2004, according to website archives.

Yet none of the party’s campaign contribution and expenditure forms submitted to the State Ethics Commission that are on file with the county clerk of court disclose any contributions from the union or rent payments to the union.

State campaign laws define contributions as “anything of value made to a candidate or committee to influence an election,” and include in-kind contributions or expenditures. Individuals or groups are limited to contributing $3,500 per year to political parties.

Swatzel said rent-free office space clearly falls under that definition, and he’s not surprised Democrat Party officials would attempt to cover up the extent of their financial dependence on union bosses who in 2001 were featured in a national publication on union corruption for misusing Georgetown County taxpayers’ money to promote local Democrats.

“Steel Workers union bosses willfully misused taxpayer dollars for partisan political purposes to benefit local Democrat Party officials, and Democrat Party officials are now compounding that impropriety by failing to disclose their financial entanglements with and illegal unreported contributions from the same union bosses,” Swatzel charged.

According to the National Legal and Policy Center’s Union Corruption Update, Steel Workers union boss James Sanderson – a prominent party activist-- deceived county officials and taxpayers by gaining a $3,000 county accommodations tax grant, along with contributions from area businesses, to pay for a 2000 Labor Day parade event under the guise of a supposed non-profit charitable group called the “Georgetown County Labor Council.”

That group was later found not to be registered as either a non-profit or a charitable organization with the S.C. Secretary of State as required, and the tax monies and private contributions were actually deposited into the Steel Workers union’s bank account. The funds were then used for a partisan Labor Day event that featured Democrat Party candidates and officials.

Then state Attorney General Charlie Condon said in a 2001 opinion on the matter that if the "purported nonprofit corporation involved is, in reality, a sham and . . . the public funds ended up in the account of a labor union . . . if these facts are indeed true, such would surely be an expenditure for a private, not a public purpose. If a labor union represented itself as a nonprofit association for the purpose of obtaining public funds, such would clearly be an improper use of public funds."

Click here for Union Corruption Update- March 19, 2001
Click here for Union Corruption Update- August 27, 2001