(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
The state of South Carolina continues to disappoint its citizens from its elected politicians and its state law enforcement division down to its media. Politician’s in South Carolina simply have no fear of being held accountable, and thus, continually take actions from openly lying to its citizens to brazenly breaking the law.
The only accountability these politicians fear is that they will lose their elected positions. That accountability, however, rarely happens as voters are continually left uninformed about the actions of these politicians by a media unwilling to damage the dominance of the GOP in the state.
The most egregious example of this circle of corruption stemmed from the arrest of Republican State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel. Thomas Ravenel was elected to office in 2006 and had been office six months when he was arrested for the purchase and distribution of cocaine by the FBI. What makes this case so egregious is what it actually took for Thomas Ravenel to be held accountable for his actions, and, what his accountability turned out to be for his actions.
According to reports, the City of Charleston Police Department was the first to investigate Thomas Ravenel for purchasing cocaine and distributing it to “friends” at parties. The City of Charleston Police Department then brought the SC State Law Enforcement Divison (SLED) into the investigation. SLED then turned the investigation over the FBI. Thomas Ravenel was ultimately arrested and charged with one federal count of conspiracy with intent to distribute.
Thomas Ravenel, by reports, had purchased 500grams of cocaine with the intent to distribute it to his “friends”. It is a crime that under SC law holds a mandatory sentence of 25 years in prison if he had been arrested by SLED and charged under state law. Instead, Thomas Ravenel spent only 10 months in prison under a federal conspiracy charge, and, was able to spend the last two months under “house arrest” at his Charleston, SC, home.
How did this happen? How did a GOP SC State Treasurer get different treatment, a different charge, and a fraction of the sentence then the average person? It started, and ended, with both the City of Charleston Police Department and SLED’s unwillingness to be the arresting and prosecuting authority, instead, kicking the case to the FBI. The case was handed to the U.S. Attorney in South Carolina, Kevin McDonald, for prosecution, and, it was the SC U.S. Attorney’s office that was directly responsible for the charging and prosecution of Thomas Ravenel.
U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald was named to the post in October 2000, starting his tenure as the SC U.S. Attorney under the Bush Administration Department of Justice. The Bush Administration Department of Justice, especially under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, has been repeatedly shown to have been highly politicized over the Bush years.
To date, there have been four indictments in the Thomas Ravenel case spanning three years. What was left out of this story was the reporting, or lack thereof, done by the media in South Carolina. It was widely reported that Thomas Ravenel was holding parties where he was giving out the cocaine as a “party favor”. What was never reported was just who in South Carolina politics other than Thomas Ravenel was attending these parties. Isn’t that a question that should have asked by the SC media and answered by those investigating the crime? It should have been, but, wasn’t.
The reason this vital question was never asked, or answered, is still unknown to this day. One reason could easily be that if the names of those who attended these parties was ever made public it could have been devastating to the GOP and its dominance in South Carolina politics. While the Thomas Ravenel case is the most egregious example of politics in South Carolina inserting itself into a case of a GOP politician breaking the law, it isn’t the only example.
South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer was reported to have continually driven at high speeds, and, when SC State Troopers attempted to pull his car over were berated by him as he flaunted his office and power. That didn’t stop him, despite it being reported, from being re-elected to office despite calling into question the integrity of the state’s own Department of Public Safety.
When SC Governor Mark Sanford was having his affair in Argentina, emails that documented the affair were sent to The State newspaper. The newspaper sat on the emails for six months, not disclosing them, or, even investigating them by their own admission. It wasn’t until the Governor “disappeared” and the proverbial cat was about to come out of the bag that The State newspaper moved to “break” the story. It didn’t end there, however, as it took an Associated Press investigation to bring out that the Governor abused the use of the state airplane on numerous occasions if not outright violating the law on its use. SLED “determined” that there wasn’t any violation of the law warranting prosecution.
Once Gov. Sanford was in real trouble of possible impeachment, The State newspaper came to his defense on numerous occasions calling his impeachment “unwarranted”. In one editorial, The State even wrote that Gov. Sanford should be allowed to finish his term because his Lt. Governor, Andre Bauer, would be worse for the state! If The State newspaper’s best argument for Governor Sanford not being impeached is that Lt. Governor Andre Bauer is worse, why, after all of his transgressions, is he even Lt. Governor?
We are left, again, with the question of why, when the Governor himself is shown to have misled the public, lied, even possibly violated the law, would there suddenly be a coalition between the political party, SLED and the media, to protect that politician’s career? It isn’t hard, once again, to come to the conclusion that it stems from the fact that it would be damaging to the GOP dominance of SC politics.
The State newspaper did a recent editorial about the Town of Lexington City Council’s flagrant violation of law in the holding of a meeting. To date, there is no word if SLED will investigate this matter, and, it seems that this will be swept under the rug by everyone involved. No accountability required.
How can there be accountability in South Carolina when it seems that there is a direct collusion between the Republican Party, the U.S. Attorney’s office, SLED, and the media to keep these politicians that abuse their elected position in power, and, at worst, mitigate the penalty they get for even the most egregious of crimes they commit?
The State newspaper would have SC citizen’s believe that the most important thing happening in the state is that taxes on cigarettes should be raised to help alleviate the budget shortfall. In the meantime, you have the Town of Lexington City Council believing they are above the law. You have various police departments in South Carolina abdicating their responsibility, not once, but over and over, in order to protect GOP politician’s.
The State newspaper regularly reprints articles authored by conservative writers, regardless of whether they are factually correct or not, and do so without a balanced reprinting by more liberal writers. The State newspaper was, however, very quick to report that Dwight Drake, a Democratic candidate for SC Governor, was a former lobbyist. It starts almost all of their articles about Mr. Drake with that fact even going so far as to have an editorial titled, “The Lobbyist Who Would Be Governor”.
When you see the history of South Carolina, it is easy to see why accomplished author and blogger Glenn Greenwald has asked, “why do journalists expect to have credibility?” While Mr. Greenwald cites papers like the New York Times and Washington Post, his question fairly applies to those who work at The State newspaper in South Carolina. How do reporters and The State newspaper expect to have any credibility when the reporting is skewed to favor GOP politician’s, the GOP power structure, and, the state continually fails under the same politicians that The State newspaper goes out of its way to protect?
In a meeting I had with The State newspaper President Harry Heitz a few years ago, he said that The State newspaper was only interested in covering local politics. Yet, The State continually fails in its own most basic of duties it claims to have by not investigating these local politicians and those who represent the state. Those who are in power seem to be immune from any accountablity for their actions; from prosecution, from The State, and, with that, from its citizens at election time.
Politician’s like Andre Bauer seem to find themselves electable despite their abuses of power. Politician’s like Mark Sanford escape any prosecution and impeachment. Politician’s like Thomas Ravenel find themselves a sweetheart deal even when they should be serving 25 years in prison like an ordinary citizen of South Carolina.
Is it any wonder that a city Town council thinks they, too, are above the laws of South Carolina? That they, too, are unaccountable for their actions given the history before them? I think not.