Welcome to your weekly South Carolina politics briefing, a newsletter curated by The State’s politics and government team.
A trial over whether South Carolina’s new congressional map discriminates against Black voters got underway Monday in Charleston federal court.
The map, passed back in January, firmed up GOP control in six of South Carolina’s seven congressional districts by turning the competitive 1st District, represented by Republican Rep. Nancy Mace, into a solidly red district.
The trial, which is expected to last about two weeks, pits the South Carolina NAACP against House and Senate Republican leaders.
The plaintiffs argue the U.S. House map unconstitutionally dilutes the power of Black voters and should be redrawn. Specifically, they claim lawmakers prioritized race above all else when drawing the 1st, 2nd and 5th congressional districts by unnecessarily and intentionally carving up Black communities to relegate African American voters to electoral irrelevance in all but a single district, the sprawling 6th, represented by U.S. House Majority Whip, Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia.
Lawyers for the defense counter that there is no direct evidence of racial discrimination and that political considerations and other traditional redistricting principles, such as preserving the cores of existing congressional districts and respecting communities of interest, drove line-drawing decisions, not racial animus.
Through two days of testimony, witnesses have included Black community leaders and residents impacted by the map and a Tufts University mathematics professor who conducts research analyzing redistricting maps, including assessing for “excessively race-conscious line drawing.”
Non-compliant charities get earmarks
In the latest evidence that South Carolina’s earmark process is ripe for reform, an analysis by The State Media Co. found at least 32 charities awarded earmarks over the past two years were out of compliance with state law and should not have been soliciting donations.
The state has granted a combined $11.3 million to such charities, some of which had never registered with the secretary of state or submitted financial reports, as is required by law, during the past two budget cycles, the analysis found.
Under the Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act, any charity that intends to solicit donations must register annually with the secretary of state’s office, unless it meets criteria for an exemption.
All of the unregistered charities that received earmarks last year and most of the out-of-compliance charities granted public dollars this year eventually came into compliance after being contacted by the secretary of state’s office, although for some it took months of badgering.
Charities that don’t register with the secretary of state, allow their registrations to expire or fail to file annual financial reports are subject to violations that can lead to fines and, ultimately, suspension. Suspended charities that continue to solicit are subject to legal action.
None of the charities granted earmarks last year paid fines, even though four were assessed fines and three were suspended after failing to resolve their fines, because the secretary of state – which generally is lenient with delinquent charities – agreed to waive any financial penalties.
When House and Senate budget leaders were made aware of the issue, both said they were open to reforming the earmark process to ensure greater transparency and accountability going forward.
It remains to be seen how or even if such reform occurs, but one possibility is requiring legislative sponsors to complete forms with basic information about earmark recipients and their plans for spending public dollars. Forms could include questions about a charity’s registration status and fiduciary ties to lawmakers.
Cunningham releases taxes
Democratic nominee for governor Joe Cunningham saw his income, and the amount of taxes he paid, jump after he was elected to Congress in 2018, according to five years of tax returns reviewed by The State.
In 2018 Cunningham and his ex-wife, Amanda, reported just under $70,000 in income on their federal return. The amount jumped to $177,000 in 2019 after Cunningham’s first year in Congress. The couple also went from paying nearly $9,900 in income taxes to nearly $31,500 in state and federal income taxes.
However the couple divorced earlier this year and filed separate returns for 2021. Cunningham still reported $172,000 in total income. About $112,000 that amount was net income after expenses from running his law firm, Joe Cunningham Law.
Read more: Why is Cunningham holding a chicken? Democrat running for SC governor jabs McMaster
▪ The SC Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision that the North Charleston police came up with flimsy reasons to prolong an ordinary traffic stop for a broken brake light and ultimately use it to search the car Frasier was riding in in 2013.
▪ NBC News reports that a SuperPAC connected to US Sen. Tim Scott is donating $5 million to the Senate Leadership Fund as the Republican Party tries to regain control in November.
▪ Scott’s Chief of Staff Jennifer DeCasper is leaving the his office to start her own consulting firm and guide the potential 2024 presidential candidate’s political activities, Politico reports.
▪ A Citadel cadet who participated in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot may plead guilty instead of going to trial and contesting the charges, according to a court record in his case.
▪ The South Carolina Democratic Party in a new TV ad is calling out one of its own members for voting to pass a stricter abortion ban.
▪ Republican 1st District Congresswoman Nancy Mace and her Democratic challenger Annie Andrews will face off in a debate on Oct. 19 on WCBD in Charleston.
▪ Republican Congressman Joe Wilson and his Democratic challenger Judd Larkins will face off in a debate at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at Riverbluff High School.
Mark your calendar
SC lieutenant governor televised debate, 8 p.m.
The Senate returns to Columbia to discuss abortion legislation, 1 p.m.
Oral argument in SC Supreme Court challenge to fetal heartbeat law
SC-1 Debate between Nancy Mace and Annie Andrews, 8 p.m.
Early voting for SC’s general election starts
SC-2 Debate between Joe Wilson and Judd Larkins
SC governor’s race televised debate, 7 p.m.
SC superintendent candidate televised debate, 7 p.m.
SC’s general election
Before we adjourn
At the beginning of the pandemic nearly 200,000 homes didn’t have access to high-speed internet, something that is key for someone to have a telehealth appointment, participate in remote learning or work from home.
But in just over a year, about 100,000 homes have been connected to broadband, Gov. Henry McMaster, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Office of Regulatory Staff officials announced Monday.
“Our rural areas are loaded with talent, and it is vital to our future prosperity that our rural areas and everyone in our state has broadband access,” said Governor Henry McMaster
Now the ORS is set to begin awarding up to $180 million in grants to internet service providers to continue build of broadband projects. The $180 million is the first tranche of $400 million of American Rescue Plan Act money the General Assembly allocated for broadband expansion.
“Through the State Broadband office and its leadership, South Carolina has created a model that other states are now following. When it comes to education, health, or anything else – broadband will make it all more accessible and affordable,” Clyburn said.
Pulling the newsletter together this week was Joseph Bustos, reporter on the The State’s politics and state government team.
You can keep up with him on Twitter and send him tips on Twitter at @JoeBReporter or by email email@example.com. To stay on top of South Carolina politics and election news, you can chat with us on Facebook, email us tips and follow our stories at scpolitics.com.