Excuse the old-fashioned screamer headline, but this is pretty startling stuff.

Mark Sanford, the governor who long ago gave up playing well with others (radical libertarians, being self-oriented, have trouble with that sort of thing, so make allowances) has just taken his first visible step toward dumping the conservative Republicans in the Legislature in favor of drones more to the liking of himself, Howard Rich and Grover Norquist.

More startlingly, he’s got Tom Davis — who I would have thought was above such things — helping him do it.

You really need to read to the bottom of this to get the full import. But basically, the governor is no longer satisfied to let Mr. Rich finance the effort to Ayn Randize South Carolina. He, a man elected to be a steward of this state, is now leading the charge.

Note that there is no longer any pretense of his idea of "reform" having anything to do with good government. Restructuring state government — the one best idea Mr. Sanford embraced — is left out of the bulleted list of important values at the end. (Only one "good government" goal remains — prioritizing spending. But this context makes clear that for Gov. Sanford, it’s not about better, smarter spending, but simply less of it.) It’s now about less government, pure and simple.

This particularly disturbing because up to now, ReformSC has styled itself as an advocate for restructuring, and deservedly attracted support on that basis.

For the sake of time — we can come back to these things later — I won’t go into refuting the governor’s bogus figures about the growth of state spending. Just read the e-mail that was shared with us today:

—–Original Message—–
From: Tom Davis []
Sent: Wednesday, September 05, 2007 10:42 AM
Subject: A Chance for Reform in South Carolina

Please disregard the previous e-mail that was inadvertently sent to you with
the wrong subject heading.  I apologize for the inconvenience.  Thank you
for your time.

Dear Supporter of Gov. Sanford, 

First, please excuse this impersonal email.  It is not my preferred mode of
corresponding, but present circumstance requires me to reach as many
conservative-minded South Carolinians as soon as possible.

Second, a brief introduction: I am currently Gov. Sanford’s chief of staff.
I have known the governor for over 25 years (we both attended Furman
University) and I have also worked on both his gubernatorial campaigns.

Third, the reason I am sending you this email.    As you may have guessed, it
involves asking you for money, an unfortunate but necessary evil in the
world of politics – especially when you are trying (as the governor now is)
to mobilize the people of South Carolina to send Columbia politicians a
powerful message.

The money is not for Gov. Sanford or for any other elected official – it is
for a recently formed non-profit called Reform SC – an entity whose sole
purpose is to provide information – through television, direct mailings,
radio, etc. – in the belief that if people understand what is truly
happening in Columbia, then they will have a greater reason to demand things

And equally important, Reform SC will be a vehicle through which to make
that change happen, a statewide, organized grassroots movement that likes of
which have never been seen in South Carolina.  But to do that Reform SC
needs money, and to that end major fundraisers for Reform SC will be held on
Tuesday, October 16, 2007.

On that day, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will join Gov. Sanford and other
leading conservatives in our state at a breakfast event in Spartanburg, a
lunch event in Columbia and an evening cocktail event in Charleston – all
for the sole purpose of raising money for Reform SC.

The sole purpose of this email is for me to ask whether you will help us get
folks to attend one or more of those events.  If you are willing to help,
then simply reply to this email with your contact information (name, mailing
address, phone number) and I will personally follow back up with you to
discuss particulars.  Time is of the essence since the fundraisers will be
on Oct. 16.

I appreciate your consideration and look forward to corresponding with you
in more detail in the days ahead.


Tom Davis



South Carolinians elected Republican candidates to serve in 8 of the 9
constitutional officers and as a majority in both chambers of the General
Assembly.  For that reason, many folks believe that conservative ideas are
being advanced in Columbia – but all too often they are not.

No question, there are some great conservative legislators serving in
Columbia.  But there are also far too many who campaigned for election on a
conservative platform and then failed to follow through on their promises.
Here are just a few examples: 

.    Promising to limit the growth of state government, but then voting
to grow it by 41% in the past three years – almost three times people’s
ability to pay for it.

.    Promising to cut taxes, but then opposing a reduction to a state
income tax rate that is the fifth highest in the nation and the highest in
the Southeast.

.    Promising to provide South Carolina parents with more educational
choices for their children, but then making state education bureaucrats the
ones who "choose."

.    Promising to prioritize spending on public safety, education and
healthcare, but then funding local pork-barrel projects that do nothing but
help them get re-elected.

The list could go on and on, but you get the idea.  The problem is, until
the creation of Reform SC, there has never been a statewide, grassroots
effort to inform the voters of the disconnect between their legislators’
conservative campaign promises and the way they actually vote.

Paid for by Reform SC

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Post Office Box 123
Columbia, South Carolina 29202

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  1. GOPer

    You are spot on with your analysis of this pathetic situation concerning our Governor. Thank you for your strong and well informed words…and I hope the State newspaper can devote more resources to discovering the REAL record of Mark Sanford. When one plunges into the claims made by this administration one finds them hollow, and inaccurate.
    Sanford is a smart man, a talented man…but a man so arrogant that to him the rest of us just simply do not matter. He reduces everything to some intellectual argument that completely leaves the human element out of the debate. But government only exists to serves humans! So while he can “talk the talk”, his “walk” is always off center.
    His Reform SC movement is doing what the Republican party should be doing…but he and Katon Dawson have perverted the SC GOP such that it is simply a tool for their personal glory. If one takes away the “buzz” of presidential primaries, there is nothing left of the party. Think about it…the SC GOP is headed by a libertarian Governor, run by a publicity seeking businessman that sprints from one camera to the next gaining personal fame and glory while publicly stating that he is OK with disenfranchisement of the GOP at the next convention…simply because he wants the debates here in SC! Hell…wars have been fought over disenfranchisement…but for glory and fame our GOP chairman throws our vote overboard with barely a whisper of public conversation.
    The SC GOP has lost its way, just as the national party before us. Money, and personal power, and fame are what our leaders seek. The signs are all around us…but it appears that until we are sent to the woodshed at the next election no one will recognize our plight. I could care less about those selfish leaders, but in the mix of all of this are the hardworking taxpaying citizens of SC…and they deserve better.

  2. Karen McLeod

    I must be getting terribly cynical in my old age. Here is this (undoubtably) nice man asking for my money so he can send me ‘information’ about what is happening in the state, so that I can be ‘informed’ when I prepare to vote. And yet I get this (unfounded) suspicion that anything I get from this organization will be, at the very least, incredibly spun (look-out there spinning–it’s an ice skater, no an electron, no a quark; no…it’s INFORMATION!). It may be spun so fast that it’s read backwards, turning the meaning inside out. But, if I get too confused I can always read a partisan report from the other side, with such opposite spin (but no charm) that I won’t be able to realize that they’re talking about the same set of facts. My distrust and utter suspicion of these (undoubtably) completely trustworthy groups is terribly dismaying. Perhaps I should seek counseling. Perhaps I should head for happy hour.

  3. Austin

    A bit dramatic don’t you think? I’m much more interested in your analysis of “hollow and inaccuracte” claims. Do your own claims ring hollow and inaccurate, or do you have examples of the “REAL record” of this administration.
    I think that you have really hit on something that has plagued South Carolina for some time – a fear of the intellectual. It is too bad that some would criticize a man for being thoughtful and not playing on emotion, stereotype and prejudice. If you’ll allow me a moment to collect myself, my poor old South Carolina brain is still reeling from the revelation that government serves humans…
    I can assure you that Mr. Sanford is not a selfish leader. While you may not agree with his ideas, he is nothing if not a hard worker. I have it on good authority that he often toils over policy, speeches and the like until late in the night. It is worth noting that the sacrifice is not his own – his family shares in it.
    I would suggest to you that our state would be better served by your thoughts on how to improve the quality of life for South Carolinians than unsubstantiated, “hollow, and inaccurate” claims.

  4. Stanley F.

    Your trouble, Brad, is that you spend far too much time showing people how much you know about politics, how many big words and exotic names you know, without ever getting around to the pertinent business of explaining what you mean by them.
    You accuse Sanford et al. of “dumping the conservative Republicans in the Legislature in favor of drones more to the liking of himself, Howard Rich and Grover Norquist.” At least Tom Davis in the email you reproduce explains why he doesn’t think the legislators in question are “conservative Republicans” at all. You, by contrast, think it’s sufficient to accuse Sanford of cultivating “drones” – as though it’s somehow inappropriate or malicious for a governor to push for the election of likeminded legislators. It’s called “politics,” Brad.
    Why, by the way, must you mention Grover Norquist? How does he come into this? Oh, wait, I get it – you’ve got to show us all how deeply familiar you are with the political scene.
    Which is the same reason, I guess, why you think it adds weight to your “argument,” if that’s the right word for it, to accuse Sanford of trying to “Ayn Randize South Carolina.” Are we to think that you’ve made your way through The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and concluded that Mark Sanford is promoting the same worldview? Or did you just need a snappy alternative to the usual empty epithet, “libertarian”?
    “It’s not about better, smarter spending, but simply less of it,” you say, as though you’ve caught Sanford in some disgraceful act of insincerity. “It’s now about less government, pure and simple.” Wow, you’re really a keen observer, Brad! Sanford has been talking about “less guv’ment” since the day he started campaigning for Congress in the 90s. Why are you pretending this is interesting or newsworthy?
    “I won’t,” you say, “go into refuting the governor’s bogus figures about the growth of state spending.” No, I wouldn’t want you to do that – it might require you to make a reasoned, cogent argument.

  5. weldon VII

    Donating money in the hope of paying less tax is an ironic concept, but I don’t see what’s startling about it, unless your mantra is “Govern more, govern better,” which flies in the face of personal freedom.
    Hard as if might be for you to believe, Brad, someone told me recently that Sanford is our best governor EVER. That assessment shocked even me, the crunchy libertarian. I responded by saying respect for Sanford might be greater across the board if he had achieved more through compromise rather than alienating the legislature.
    Still, just because the missive above doesn’t mention reform doesn’t mean reform has been forgotten. I didn’t mention remodeling my house yesterday, but I do plan to do it.
    Furthermor, after all your previous explanations, I can’t fathom the way you use “libertarian” as though it were a four-letter word.
    If government’s job is to maintain the road from my house to the store, what’s wrong with simply doing that for the smallest price possible? Why should we prefer the government that opts to charge us 10 percent more so it can stop at the store to buy Miss Essie a pack of Nabs and a sweet roll in the hope of selling her a lottery ticket while it purchases her vote?

  6. Brad Warthen

    Here’s the problem with running a HEADLINE IN ALL CAPS — you attract people who had not been paying attention up to now.

    Folks, I’m going to say it again — anything and everything that appears on this blog is within the context of what has already appeared on the editorial pages. Speaking of context, here’s where I said this before.

    So you would like to read "your thoughts on how to improve the quality of life for South Carolinians?" That’s what I do all day every day in my real job. That’s what we do. My words have to be judged within that context, or you will miss the meaning entirely. I do my best to help you out with links, but the lion’s share of what will support a simple statement on the blog was published before the last seven days, which unfortunately is as far back as keeps material up and freely available (you want it to stay up longer? so do I).

    There is no bigger issue to us that the need to restructure South Carolina’s government to make it effective and accountable. That is REFORM, as opposed to demolition. The governor’s embrace of that reform was why we endorsed him in 2002, and his neglect of it in favor of his wackier libertarian proposals (plus his completely gratuitous antagonizing of the very Legislature that must be persuaded to give up power to achieve such reform) was why we did NOT endorse him in 2006, even though the alternative was lousy. We learned over time, and we documented it every step of the way, that this governor was all about abstractions that are in no way grounded in the reality of governing this state. Ideological purity is more important to him than ever accomplishing ANYTHING, which is why he has been a failure, and has let down so many people who initially supported him.

    Just as I judge the governor’s current actions and words on the basis of what he’s said and done over the past few years, you have to look at what I say on the same basis. It is impossible to stop and provide all proof every damned time you make a simple statement (such as, say, "the governor is a libertarian") that has already been amply established, on your way to making some other point. If I tried to do that, I would never finish a sentence. As it is, I already link far more than most blogs — and to my great frustration, I usually do so for naught, because very few people bother to click on them.

    Because he doesn’t read the paper, or doesn’t pay attention, Stanley F. makes himself look foolish in his last paragraph above. No, I’m not going to stop and REPEAT the arguments against the governor’s bogus numbers, because at the moment, I’m writing about what is in front of me — this bid for a libertarian takeover of state government. Nor am I going to repeat all the arguments against vouchers, because then the post becomes a book, and it never gets to the point at hand. Even now, as I go back to use a previous link to an explanation of why the governor’s numbers are bogus, I get this instead.

    So, for the sake of those of you who weren’t paying attention, I’ve gone back and found a couple of files in the database, washed out the coding through Wordpad, copied them into Word, saved them and uploaded them to the blog. Here’s one column on the subject by our budget specialist Cindi Scoppe, and here’s another. Both are from last year. The governor’s strange use of numbers is a long-standing phenomenon.

    Why mention Grover Norquist? Because the governor is allied with him ideologically (in fact, I think I first heard the name from Mark Sanford, several years back). Why mention Howard Rich? Because up to now, the financing of the effort to dismantle South Carolina’s public infrastructure has been left to the likes of him. Now, we have our own elected governor openly stepping out to carry Howard’s and Grover’s water for them, and THAT is a significant development.

    And weldon, where on Earth did you get the idea that we are opposed to taking care of your road at the lowest price possible? Everything we have ever said on the subject indicates our support of that concept. Indeed, in this very post I said that the governor’s push for priority-setting in budgeting is the one actual REFORM mentioned in the Davis memo. Come on, weldon — usually YOU pay attention…

  7. Austin

    As you may be able to tell by the quotations, my comments are directed toward the comment prior to mine by “GOPer.” It was a fairly significant oversight on my part to omit the name of the one to whom my comments were directed.
    I’m well acquainted with your thoughts on our Governor, and while I don’t agree with you, I know that your conclusions are not drawn without considerable reflection. I also know that you are a proponent of raising the level of political discourse in South Carolina, and for that I applaud you. I apologize if you took my comments to be an indictment of your background and knowledge on the subject.

  8. bud

    Furthermore, after all your previous explanations, I can’t fathom the way you use “libertarian” as though it were a four-letter word.
    -weldon VII
    Have you never read Brad’s arguments Weldon? Brad is the very antithesis of libertarian. Brad embraces more government at every turn. I don’t have any problem with that philosophy. What I’ve never been able to understand is why Brad continues to deny it.
    On the other hand, Mark Sanford has a basic philosophy that government should be limited. Sanford believes the private sector does things more efficiently and we should take advantage of that efficiency. Now I’m certainly no libertarian but in many areas the governor is probably correct.
    Brad simply cannot grasp the concept that government should stay out of anything. He believes government should play a role in every decision we as individuals make. Whether it is how to spend our entertainment dollar, educate our children, build our roads or provide security to the American people Brad believes government should play a significant role. So to Brad libertarian is very much a 4-letter word.

  9. Austin

    P.S. Brad – would you please edit my comments to correctly address “GOPer?” Or, in the alternative remove them altogether. I realize that this is an unusual request, but I would greatly appreciate it.

  10. Justin Young

    Your claim that he crunches numbers doesn’t mean that what he said was not a very valid point. You seem to suggest that it was a total fabrication….
    Your Cindi Scoppe link shows our state government growing at a 10% clip. With this rate of increase in the expenditures of government, it will double roughly every 7 years… Someone needs to wake people up.

  11. Jeep

    Thank goodness someone is going to shed the light on the complete failure of a legislature infiltrated by self serving carpet baggers. I hope I get the email from Mr. Davis because I will gladly step up and help expose the bottlenecks that keep our state from moving forward. Mr. Sanford is a leader that most South Carolinians can relate to. Brad, your comments are off base, you say you want progress in South Carolina but you dont have a hint of a plan to see changes through, sounds like the Sanford team does.

  12. Brad Warthen

    Tim, or Jeep, or whatever — you’re kidding, right? That was a sendup, wasn’t it?
    We DO have a plan, and Sanford said he was all for it — restructure state government. Then he sets up a group that has but one goal — not to reform state government, but to shrink it? To use tax money to pay people to abandon schools? You ARE joking, right?
    As I’ve said before and keep saying: Our problem is that our governor doesn’t want tax money spent on ANYTHING, and the Legislature wants tax money spent on the WRONG things. What we need is some leaders who want to spend it on the RIGHT things, and organize our government so that it can spend it effectively, so that we are no longer last where we want to be first, and first where we want to be last.
    THAT’s a plan, but the governor evidently wants no part of it, going by that memo.

  13. Karen McLeod

    The problem with having the government less involved in various decisions that we make, is that when given total freedom, human beings often make the wrong decisions. For example, those rich enough to afford it, send their children to private school to ensure that they receive a good education. Understandable. But, it robs the public school of responsible persuasive parents who can push the school to higher performance. So the public schools become worse and worse. Likewise, a person with a lot of money and a lot of macho is free to buy a Hummer. Unfortunately, this decision, combined with similar decisions by many, lead to increased global warming, which may make life impossible for our grandchildren. Where to draw the line is debatable, but until people can and do make decisions based on common need rather that personal gain or preference, we are out of luck if we don’t have at least some government intervention.

  14. GOPer

    Mock me if u will. But I know exactly what I am talking about. I know the players and I know the game.
    Mark Sanford has accomplished less than any reasonable person could ever have imagined. The skinny on him has started leaking out to the general public, and much much more is to come. I will not argue with you now…but Sanford’s glory days are behind him.
    One telling aspect of all this is the obvious blogging by his staff. A successful governor in his 5th year would have a staff too busy two worry about blogging.

  15. puzzled

    where in davis’ email is there any mention of sanford wanting to “stack the legislature”? sounds to me like he wants folks who ran on a conservative agenda to start voting like conservatives.

  16. weldon VII

    What, Brad? I missed something? I skipped a paragraph by accident?
    Heck, and there I was thinking I soak up everything you write with religious rigor.
    Seriously, you’re right, I probably didn’t think through everything you wrote before I responded. I just didn’t like the last column Cindi Scoppe wrote about the governor, and I’m tired of seeing him written and talked about as though he were some big wart on South Carolina’s face.
    Oh, yeah, he’s a bit of a strange bird for a politician, and he hasn’t fixed all the problems he’s identified, but neither did the preceding umpteen governors, and neither has the legislature, which is strewn with smarmy tinhorn dictators on both sides of the aisle, they themselves descended from a long line of smarmy tinhorn dictators who served themselves previously.
    And, Bud, I think you exaggerate Brad’s anti-libertarianism as much as I do. I was just trying to make the point, with a little hyperbole, that the more government grows, the more likely it is to grow cancers, tumors, boils, goiters, extra limbs and non-functional, superfluous digits.

  17. Steve Gordy

    Would Gov. Sanford’s admirers on this blog please explain how Carroll Campbell was able to work with the General Assembly to get things done and yet Sanford can’t? The governor and Mr. Dawson’s fondness for another PR campaign hints that they have bigger things in mind – such as a Vice Presidential bid. At least George W. Bush took steps to build a credible record, working with the legislature in Texas before he launched his campaign for national office.

  18. Brad Warthen

    "puzzled," it appears that your name derives from confusion over terms.

    The last thing he wants lawmakers to act like is "conservatives." He wants them to act like libertarians. Libertarianism is a radical variant of liberalism.

    As for stacking the Legislature, how else do you characterize this?:

        Despite an August that’s seen a string of defeats at the hands of the Legislature, Gov. Mark Sanford is optimistic he can push his agenda forward over his last three years in office.
        A key, by Republican Sanford’s estimation, is having more like-minded lawmakers in the GOP-controlled General Assembly.
        Next year’s elections, Sanford said, will be critical for building support for his agenda in the State House. All 170 seats in the Legislature are up for election in 2008.
        Sanford, who has $1.7 million remaining from his re-election campaign last year and the ability to raise more, would not say if he planned to help finance legislative candidates.
        But it’s clear Sanford is hoping to see new blood in the General Assembly.
        “Maybe one more election cycle we’ll have enough members to affect the (Republican) caucus,’ Sanford said. “Are the numbers accruing in our direction? Absolutely.”

    Of course he wants to stack it. That’s objective fact. How you feel about his wanting to stack it depends upon how you feel about his aims.


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