Sanford vs. Moore

Allegations highlight main difference
between Sanford and Moore

By Brad Warthen
Editorial Page Editor

EVERYBODY likes Tom Davis. He’s open, sincere, hard-working and honest as the day is long. That makes him a good emissary for Gov. Mark Sanford.
    As legislative liaison during the session, Tom (I can’t call such an approachable guy “Mr. Davis”) is the one bright, warm spot in the governor’s four-year Cold War with the General Assembly. Lawmakers may sometimes use him as a whipping boy because he’s handy and the governor isn’t (that’s him above standing at the back of the House above, watching lawmakers rip into the governor’s veto of the budget this year), but no one stays mad at Tom for long. He’s too nice a guy.
    Sen. Tommy Moore calls Tom Davis a “hired gun.” Not by name. That’s just how he refers to the person responsible for a “white paper” released by the Sanford campaign that attacks his performance in the Senate.
    Tom’s no hired gun; he wouldn’t wear the black hat in anybody’s Western. He’s the faithful sidekick. He has neglected his law practice in Beaufort — and, more importantly to him, his family — for the past four years to help his friend Mark Sanford.
    But he is the guy going around and peddling a set of detailed allegations against Sen. Moore. (You can find a link to Cindi Scoppe’s column on the subject Friday, and to the entire “white paper,” on my blog.)
    The allegations go back to 1988. Sen. Moore is accused of letting a bribery-tainted tax cut slip by him; of watering down ethics legislation after the Lost Trust scandals in the early ’90s; of continuing to hamper efforts to plug ethics loopholes since then; and of supporting a bill that would benefit a company that contributed to his campaigns and was proposing a development in his district. With supporting documents (mostly old news stories from The State and other papers), the handout runs to 45 pages.
    And this is only the beginning. “This isn’t exhaustive,” Tom says. He plans additional “white papers” on the environment, education and possibly other issues.
    Tom’s been working at this since the June 13 primary — poring through Lexis-Nexis, digging articles out of newspapers’ electronic archives. He seems to have enjoyed the change of pace after months of standing at the back of the House and Senate chambers and watching fellow Republicans roll right over his boss on issue after issue: “To me, it was like reading a very, very detailed historical novel.”
    But why would a governor who is 30 points ahead in the polls (according to Tom) go to this kind of trouble to dig up such detailed allegations? Was it, as some speculated at first, a sign of how nervous Mr. Sanford was about a Jake Knotts candidacy that didn’t materialize? No, says Tom; polls showed Sen. Moore losing more votes to Sen. Knotts than the governor would have.
    “Desperate people employ desperate tactics,” says Sen. Moore. “It sounds to me like some people have looked at some poll numbers” and that they weren’t as favorable as Tom lets on. He doesn’t know this, though, as he has yet to get out there with a baseline poll himself — a measure of how far behind he is in fund-raising. It reminds him of former Gov. Jim Hodges’ decision to attack challenger Sanford practically from the day after the primary four years ago. “I thought it was ill-conceived and unwise,” said Sen. Moore. “He must have the Hodges playbook.”
    But Tom’s “white paper” is actually of great value to the voters, for one reason: It highlights the main difference between the two candidates.
    “I don’t think he’s a bad man,” says Tom. “I don’t think he took bribes. I think it (the 1988 tax break) got in the budget because he didn’t read the budget.”
    Note this from the first line of the release: “Sen. Moore’s legislative record shows that he was inattentive to details, easily misled and unconcerned about (providing) legislative due diligence in reviewing legislation….”
    Time and time again, what you see and hear is this contrast:
    Mark Sanford is a stickler for detail. In preparing his executive budget, he challenges every line in an excruciating process that lasts months. (“Every line,” complains Tom. “It’s hell for me.”) Then, when lawmakers pass a budget that he doesn’t like, he vetoes the entire thing rather than work with them to come up with something mutually acceptable. His six-year career in Congress was marked by an utter lack of achievement; he’s remembered for sleeping on a futon, and talking endlessly about Social Security reform that never materialized. He is admired for being uncompromising, even though that means he gets little done.
    Tommy Moore (below, with long-time Senate Chaplain George Meetze) is respected as the “go-to” guy in the Senate. He is regularly appointed to conference committees because he is known for rescuing legislation by getting people of differing views to find something they can agree on and take action. As a result, his 28-year career in the Senate offers much to praise, and much to criticize. Of the 1991 Ethics Reform Act, he says, “You had a lot of people working together,” from the governor and other ardent reformers to lawmakers who didn’t want to pass anything. “You could have had everybody stand firm on their own positions, and then you would have gotten nothing done, and that would have been the absolute worst of all scenarios.”
    To him it would, but not necessarily to Gov. Sanford. There’s the contrast. Tom’s whole point in his 45-page broadside is that “there are bad sides to being the insider who gets things done.”
    But as Sen. Moore points out, there are good things as well.
    Which do you prefer? You have to decide by November.

    More on the subject.


12 thoughts on “Sanford vs. Moore

  1. Dave

    So the gift to the billboard lobbyists was an example of “getting something done rather than nothing”. I’ll take the nothing over that every time.

  2. Brad Warthen

    Yep, that would be an example of one of the "bad sides to being the insider who gets things done."

    Tom mentioned that one a couple of times. I suspect it’s to be explored more fully in a later "white paper." That will be an interesting one to discuss. If you follow that link, the governor was the good guy on that one, while the lawmakers acted outrageously. As is often the pattern, a larger proportion of Republicans voted against the governor, but among the Democrats joining them was Moore.

  3. Brad Warthen

    But I can’t agree with you on the idea that “nothing” was better than “something” in that case. I mean, I do it you’re talking about Moore’s “something,” but I hated for the governor to come up with “nothing.”
    “Something” in the good sense would have been for the governor’s veto to succeed. If he would learn to work better with lawmakers — particularly those of his own party — the governor would have prevailed on that one.
    If he weren’t constantly pushing his own side away from him, the governor could get a lot done.

  4. ed

    The fallacy with your thought process is the truth – Governor Sanford has accomplished a great deal over his 3.5 years in office. The truth is that our state government runs better than ever before. A DMV wait of 10 minutes (or no wait by using the internet) versus average waits of over one hour are representative of the achievements of Governor Sanford’s agencies. A few others include our state Juvenile Justice department that ended its 10+ years (spanning several previous administrations) of US Court control system in less than a year under Sanford, a Medicaid agency that has focused on patient outcomes rather than importing fed dollars as “economic development” and controlled its growth so we have money for other things like education, a Commerce department that’s achieving amazing job growth at record wages and many similar stories at every agency that report to him. Competency matters and we have it running the executive branch for a change.
    True, his accomplishments aren’t headline worthy like creating massive government program – ie, a lottery that largely taxes the poor to give to the middle class – but his accomplishments are significant and there have been legislative ones as well. To name a few – a reduction in the income tax for small businesses (a notable compromise for the Gov), tort reform, hundreds of millions of new money for public education approved from his Executive Budget’s (although most of you opposed to allowing poor kids the opportunity to attend the same private schools where the rich kids go are too focused on opposing tax credits to pay attention to the rest of his education agenda), and many more.
    I agree with you that he hasn’t been successful in achieving the most important part of his agenda – completing government restructuring. Ironic, isn’t it that “mr-insider” Sen Moore and the “all-powerful” Sen Mconnell weren’t even able to get that out of their Judiciary Committee….must be because they are part of the good ole boys in the legislature that don’t want to move to a more efficient and accountable government that gives them less ability to do favors for their contributors. I say we should re-elect our Governor and get some more reformers in the legislature to help him do more rather than put the good ole boys back in charge with no one there looking out for the average taxpayer.

  5. Guerry Green

    The SC legislature has had the most power to move our state forward for over a hundred years and they have failed. Why have they failed? It is because their their priority is keeping themselves in power, usually by steering goodies to their constituants. Seldom have we had a Governor who was willing to stand up against the status quo or simply base his decisions on what is best for all of the citizens of the state. Mark Sanford is our best hope, Tommy Moore is not.

  6. Joey

    I’m afraid this whole conversation brings us back to the eternal question of why we can’t get the best available people to run for political office in this country. It is not an accident that the people who achieve the highest offices, like the President and Governor, are people with the least experience in and understanding of the issues they will have to deal with in office. Anyone who has tried to accomplish anything has that attempt “on the record” as having tried to do something. That, of course, leaves them open to criticism. Therefore the candidate who has not spent the last twenty years trying to figure out how to address the incredibly complex issues of government with license to attack and spin the record of the opponent who has tried to make a difference.
    Can’t we do better than this? How do we know that Governor Sanford has never signed a business deal with someone he trusts without reading every single line of the contract? How do we know that he would not have tried to get an imperfect form of Ethics reform in place rather than no reform at all and would we have preferred this? There has to be better way than this to elect the people who are forming the nation where our children will live out their lives!

  7. Ed

    In the first week of the general election four years ago, then-Gov Hodges spent millions of dollars on TV ads to attack his opponent, Mark Sanford, in misleading 30-second sound bites.
    This election cycle, a supporter of Gov Sanford’s has put together an extensive 45-page paper documenting Tommy Moore’s questionable record on ethics and asked editorial writer’s to read and contemplate it.
    The contrast is remarkable and telling. Hodges’ negative sound-bite approach represented much of what is wrong with modern-day politics. Sanford’s issue-oriented approach is exactly what we need more of in this country. The fact that Tommy Moore is trying to compare the two should tell you all that you need to know about the man’s character.

  8. Brad Warthen

    What Mr. Sanford is doing is indeed far more defensible. I can understand why it would look otherwise to Mr. Moore, but there is a big difference.

  9. bill

    Some old quotes from Senator Brad Hutto on Sanford’s Medicaid “plan”:”I’m not willing to experiment with the people of South Carolina.If it doesn’t work out there’s no backup plan.What happens if something terrible happens to someone and through no fault of their own, they exhaust their account? Are these people just out on their own? Thrown out on the street? That’s not the American tradition. It’s unfair and cruel.”
    That was before Sanford unethically got his waiver and ripped the rug out from under this state’s most vulnerable citizens.

  10. Joey

    People keep saying that the Governor could “get a lot done” if the legislature would just get out of his way. Why should we assume that the Governor (who is just one person, the last time I looked) is necessarily more informed and more “right” than the couple of hundred other people in the legislature who don’t agree with him. Why would he rather be “right” than sit down and talk with the people who have other opinions and see if they might have some good ideas that the Governor had not thought of? He’s a very intelligent person, but I don’t believe any one person knows all the right answers.

  11. VOA

    Governor Sanford (for whom I voted in ’02) has some good ideas and some bad ideas, but he came to Columbia like Christ to cleanse the temple, without any notion that it might be preferable to feel out legislators and start building alliances to do what he wants. Small wonder he’s not been effective.

  12. Lee

    Tommy Moore has been in government far too long, and done nothing to introduce honesty or efficiency.

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