Jill Kelso: Clean Elections Act

Published in the Georgetown Times- April 19, 2009

By Jill Kelso

Recently liberal Democrat State House members, including Rep. Vida Miller, introduced the "SC Clean Elections Act," a measure that would force taxpayers to pay for the election campaigns of politicians running for state offices.

Under the proposed law, candidates would agree to limit the amount of money spent on their campaign and not exceed the amount of money spent by their opponent. The bill would require the State to issue "debit cards" to candidates to pay for campaign expenses. It would also create a whole new administrative and enforcement bureaucracy.

Why would legislators want to pile the burden of paying for political campaigns on the backs of taxpayers - especially at a time when budgetary constraints are causing teachers to lose their jobs? After some research, it becomes crystal clear: Incumbent legislators want to ensure they hold their seats and are using their power to have taxpayers foot the bill.

It gets better. The legislation reads "The General Assembly finds that the current system of privately financed campaigns for election to statewide and legislative offices undermines democracy in this state."

So, a private citizen using their own money and time to support candidates of their own choice "undermines democracy?" This bill is akin to union bosses taking union dues and funding political campaigns for politicians its members don't agree with. But it's not a union it's our government. How is this democratic? How does this protect the First Amendment and the integrity of the electoral process? The answer: it doesn't.

Six states have similar legislation - Connecticut, Maine, New Mexico, North Carolina, Vermont, and Arizona. Advocates believe that special interest involvement in the election process has deterred people from running for public office. They feel that by enacting "clean" campaign laws more "everyday" people will feel compelled to run for office and that voters will feel like their votes matter more, thereby increasing turnout.

The data shows these laws have done nothing to increase the number of candidates, change special interest involvement, or increase voter turnout. In fact, data from the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) on Arizona's 2004 elections demonstrated that incumbent reelection rates actually rose for House seats in Arizona. And Arizona's Goldwater Institute has found that publicly financed elections in that state have failed to increase voter participation. So who is really behind this effort?

According to the John W. Pope Civitas Institute the "clean" elections movement is being led by groups "notorious for their extreme left-wing sympathies." Examples of these groups include The Open Society Institute, founded by leftist billionaire George Soros, and The Tides Foundation, which receives funding from Soros and by Theresa-Heinz Kerry, the wife of liberal U.S. Senator John Kerry. The Tides Foundation has contributed to MoveOn.org, the Arab-American Action Network, and two pro-Castro groups: United for Peace and Justice; and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Board chairman Wade Rathke is also the founder of the far-left group ACORN, and is a former activist for the socialist group Students for a Democratic Society.

Here at home, the South Carolina Progressive Network, a far left group that's pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion, and anti-right to work, is championing the Democrats' bill.

So why are Miller and the Democrats pushing for this law? Because they believe they have the right to use our money to pay for campaigns, to ensure that incumbent voting records are silenced and to minimize opposition to their seats. In short, they expect over-burdened taxpayers to pay for the campaigns of politicians, even those we may not agree with.

This legislation is nothing more and nothing less than an Incumbent Protection Act ... an obscene violation of the First Amendment and huge waste of our money. We can only hope conservatives in the State House kill this bill while it's still in committee.

Rep. Vida Miller, Democrats More Interested in Petty Politics than Government Reform

Published in the Georgetown Times- April 10, 2009

By Tom Swatzel

Last Tuesday, the Democrats in the State House showed Governor Mark Sanford a thing or two. They voted in unison, led by a motion from the House floor by Rep. Vida Miller, to delay legislation that would have restructured the troublesome, nearly unaccountable Employment Security Commission (ESC) into the Department of Workforce.

The legislation would put the department under the governor’s control, allowing him to hire the executive director. It would reduce the role of the three current commissioners, all ex-state legislators being paid over $100,000 each, to an appellate board, and require the department to share its data base with other state government departments. These are just good common sense reforms.

The reason for the delay, according to the leader of the House Democrats, Rep. Harry Ott, as told to the Greenville News is, "You do not reward bad behavior. Our governor is behaving badly."

Just what constitutes Sanford’s bad behavior? According to Ott, Miller and the rest of the House Democrats, it’s Sanford’s principled refusal to accept federal stimulus money.

I think Sanford’s decision concerning stimulus money is based on sound economics and I support his decision.

A recently released study by the S.C. Policy Council shows higher government spending due to federal stimulus funds would hurt the private sector and cost between 23,800 and 34,850 lost South Carolina jobs.

The House Democrats are certainly entitled to a different opinion.

However, it’s one thing to take a principled policy stand and another for the Democrats to simply play petty politics by standing in the way of important government reform legislation that will make the antiquated ESC more efficient and accountable, ultimately saving taxpayers significant money- just to show Sanford a thing or two.

Especially Miller, who was identified by an investigative report published by the Greenville News in January, as one of six state legislators that were "warned of dangers facing the unemployment trust fund" by the ESC, as the trust fund went from an $800 million balance in 2000 to huge deficits this year.

The report states that ESC Commissioner William "Billy" McLeod met with Miller in September 2008, according to documents obtained by the News. Additionally, the ESC released a letter to Miller dated September 9, 2008, in which McLeod wrote the "agency is in dire straits."

Upon receipt of this information did Miller put out a news release, call a press conference, write letters, or take any action to help fix the ESC problem? No, she did nothing.

Miller’s failure to do anything at all with the ESC warnings raises the issue of basic competency.

I think most taxpayers would agree with House Republican Majority Leader Kenny Bingham’s assessment of Miller’s and the rest of the Democrat’s pointless stalling tactics as “short-sighted and immature.”

It’s time for Miller and the Democrats to ditch their incredible pettiness and work for taxpayers, not against them, by supporting the creation of the Department of Workforce.

Swatzel lives in Murrells Inlet and is the chairman of the Georgetown County Republican Party

County GOP convention reelects Swatzel as Chairman

Contact: Tom Swatzel (843) 222-7456

GEORGETOWN- Georgetown County Republicans unanimously reelected Tom Swatzel as party chairman at their convention today, and adopted a resolution calling on Republican candidates and elected officials to follow the party platform.

A Murrells Inlet resident, Swatzel was first elected as county party chairman in 2007. He served from 1995 through 2002 on the Georgetown County Council and was the first Republican elected to council since Reconstruction. "I'm privileged and honored to be reelected as chairman and will continue to work hard to build on the party's successes," he said.

Other party officers elected by the convention were R.L. Port, Vice-Chairman; Ruthann Howard, Secretary; Howard Ward, Treasurer; and Jill Kelso, State Executive Committeeman.

The convention unanimously adopted a resolution reaffirming its support for the party platform and calling on "all Republicans, including its officers, members, candidates, and elected officials, to follow the foundational principles represented in the platform."

"I was pleased at the unanimous support for the resolution. The party exists because of the positions in its platform like support for lower taxes, limited government, the sanctity of life and traditional marriage, among others. We want those positions implemented into public policy, and the only way to do that is to elect candidates to office that support the platform," Swatzel said.

Guest speakers at the convention were SC Attorney General Henry McMaster, who is running for governor, and Karen Floyd and Rick Beltram, both candidates to replace Katon Dawson as state GOP chairman.