Georgetown Democrats take campaign contribution that exceeds state law limit

"A very troubling pattern of Democrat Party campaign finance law violations"

FOR IMMEDATE RELEASE: September 24, 2007
Contact: Tom Swatzel (843) 357-1673

GEORGETOWN - In late October of 2006, in the midst of the fall election campaign, the Georgetown County Democrat Party violated state campaign finance law by accepting a $5,000 campaign contribution, which exceeded the $3,500 limit on annual contributions by individuals to political parties.

According to the party's campaign disclosure form filed with the state ethics commission in January of this year, the party listed a $5,000 campaign contribution received on October 31, 2006 from a "J.E. Bell" with a Georgetown mailing address. The contribution represented over 70% of the total amount of cash campaign contributions collected and reported by the Democrats in the reporting period.

The form also listed itemized campaign expenditures totaling over $6,000 for items such as printing, radio advertisements, and payments to a number of Democrat elected officials.

Last week Georgetown County Republican Party Chairman Tom Swatzel said county Democrat Party officials had 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 since at least 2004 according to party website archives.

The party website was changed last week after the violation became public to list a Georgetown law firm as the party's 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 $3,500 legal limit on the amount any single group or individual can give to a political party each year.

"A very troubling pattern of Democrat Party campaign finance law violations is emerging. It appears that party officials think these laws do not apply to them," Swatzel said.

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."

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.

"I call on Democrat Party officials to come clean with Georgetown County voters by returning any campaign contributions that exceed lawful limits and reporting to the public, as required by law, just how indebted their party is to union bosses who have for years provided a rent-free headquarters for the party," Swatzel said.

Last week Swatzel said he was 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.

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.