Contact report: Hugh Leatherman

One thing I need to do is catch up on some recent meetings I haven’t let y’all know about, before I get too far behind. I’ll mention this chance encounter from this morning now:

I ran into Sen. Hugh Leatherman this morning at breakfast and sat with him for awhile to kick over a number of topics — national and state politics, what’s happening in Florence, etc.

Two things stand out in my mind:

  1. We talked about endowed chairs. Sen. Leatherman is high on the program, but isn’t convinced that the cap has to be raised. Mind you, he’s certainly not persuaded by any of the governor’s objections, which seem to him off-base. The governor chops at trees, but has never bought into the forest (although he IS into preservation of wilderness, so maybe that’s a bad metaphor). But the Senate Finance Chairman sees a way to make sure future chairs are funded without lifting the cap. He briefly explained it, but I confess I didn’t fully understand it, and didn’t want to detain him all morning trying to. It’s a good topic for further inquiry.
  2. I was reminded at various points in the conversation, as I am so often in speaking with the General Assembly’s Republican leadership, about how frustrated they are trying to deal with the governor day-to-day. Conversations such as this one flesh out the substance of such stories as this one in The Post and Courier today, about the governor’s efforts to stack the Legislature in his image. To serious, responsible lawmakers, having one Mark Sanford is enough of a burden; they don’t need any clones. Note this quote from the Charleston story: "If someone ran against Senator Leatherman, I’d probably support them." Who said that? Mark Sanford. So we’re not just talking paranoia here.

15 thoughts on “Contact report: Hugh Leatherman

  1. weldon VII

    Well, it’s good to know there’s a way to fund future chairs without raising the cap, which means, no matter how you chop down the tree, Sanford was right, no more money need be spent on the program.
    It’s also good to hear (:>) that the one thing Brad didn’t understand about his conversation with the Finance Committee chairman was the nuts and bolts of the deal, the finances.
    Yet Brad understood every bad word he heard about Sanford, because that was exactly what he wanted to hear.
    I thought the anti-partisan argument was about finding solutions that ignore bias not based in logic.
    To summarize: The one thing that flies in the face of what Brad wants to believe, that the endowed chairs need more money because Sanford says they don’t, is the one thing that Brad doesn’t understand.
    And that one thing, as it happens, is the financial heart of the deal, the only thing independent of bias because it’s based in pure numbers.

  2. Lee Muller

    Hugh Leatherman is the Unparty incumbent.
    When he could no longer be elected as a Democrat, he changed party labels. The same big businesses kept financing his re-elections, he promotes special legislation benefitting the same special interests, and he gets the same cover and protection from Big Media.

  3. Brad Warthen

    You think numbers are always reliable, huh?
    And I should explain that it didn’t sound like the senator was saying we shouldn’t spend more money on it. Confused? See what I mean? But as I said, I’ll get the details and get them to you later — after Cindi figures it all out and explains it to me. She can figure out more about fiscal matters in five minutes than I can in a week.

  4. Brad Warthen

    On that point — y’all DO understand, don’t you, that the very nature of this attempt of mine at transparency (giving you raw reports on contacts) means that the reports are generally incomplete? If I waited until I finished getting all the questions I have answered, I’d go ahead and write a column for the paper.
    That said, I’m always happy to get feedback from the consumer — do y’all want stuff like this or not?

  5. Lee Muller

    In other words, you don’t dispute what I said about Hugh Leatherman representing himself and his backer rather than a party, but you don’t like that I said it.
    If you depend on Cindi Scoppe to explain economic matters, you are in a world of trouble.
    I can’t recall a single opinion piece of hers where she understood the subject. She uses all the bogus lingo about “budget crunch” and “budget shortfalls” and stalls every effort tax reform until there is a huge “comprehensive tax reform” from the same incompetent and greedy government which created our current mess.

  6. Doug Ross

    The fact that you would accept that Leatherman is not “persuaded” by Sanford’s clear explanation of the problems with the endowed chair program is troubling.
    Sanford laid out the specific issues he had with the program. All the other side has to do is refute them.
    For example, is it justifiable to pay $750K to a lobbying firm using lottery dollars to try and get even more money out of the tax system for the colleges — money that could go to scholarships instead?
    Is it justifiable to allow the colleges to use a very broad definition of matching funds? Like valuing a microscope at $1.5 million dollars?
    Is it justifiable for money that could be spent providing tuition grants to South Carolina students to instead be spent on preserving a 150 year old submarine that sunk?
    The legislators depend on the ignorant public not paying attention to the details in order to keep the money flowing where they want it to go. When Governor Sanford shines the light on their backroom money grabs, he’s accused of not being a team player. GOOD! I hope he spend the next two years exposing every single dime of corrupt behavior…
    The devil’s in the details, Brad… it’s easy to stay at the 50,000 foot level and avoid seeing reality.

  7. Richard L. Wolfe

    Am I reading her wrong her or is Cindi just a tiny bit left of center? Otherwise, she is a very nice and hard working woman.

  8. weldon VII

    Well, I certainly want stuff like this. Otherwise I wouldn’t feel the incomparable sense of gratitude that’s coursing through me right now. I really do feel dutifully thankful every time you strain, stretch and ignore your high caste to hand something down to us mere publicans from your ivory tower.
    So “it didn’t sound like the senator was saying we shouldn’t spend more money on it,” but he “isn’t convinced that the cap has to be raised” because he “sees a way to make sure future chairs are funded without lifting the cap.”
    Sounds like the money has to come from somewhere else and it’s no more confusing than you’re making it, because, golly gee whiz, Brad, yes, numbers are more reliable than political posturing and editorial mudslinging.
    I can’t wait for Cindi to Scoppe it out for you and McCain to name some running mate other than Sanford, because I’m tired of seeing you throw pebbles at Sanford like a girl.

  9. Doug Ross

    I’ll give Cindi Scoppe credit.. her recent piece on the most recent cash grab by legislators trying to pad their pensions is exactly what I expect from The State.
    Please read this, Brad, and then tell give me an example of a similar process in the private sector. It is mind boggling that you can just let this kind of stuff just float on past without it sinking in just a little bit. This type of pension rigging would be criminal in the private sector.
    From Cindi’s column (2/20/2008):
    The difference starts with a super-sized taxpayer subsidy: For every dollar state employees pay into the system, the public kicks in $1.27; for every dollar legislators pay into their special system, taxpayers kick in $3.91.
    The result is that, on average, the people who have devoted their lives to full-time state jobs teaching our children and guarding our prisons and paving our highways are receiving a pension of $17,536 — 53 percent of their final salary; our part-time legislators are receiving a pension of $18,218 — or 102 percent of their pay back when they retired.
    But that’s not the worst of it. Even after the voters kick someone out of the Legislature, he can keep buying time in the system at the super-subsidized rate. (Regular state employees get no subsidy if they buy additional years’ credit.)
    What this means is that a legislator can serve eight years, get kicked out of office, buy “service credit” at a cost of $2,280 a year for the next 22 years, and then start collecting an annual pension of $32,980 a year. He will recoup his entire “investment” in just over two years, and clear nearly $33,000 a year in profit — courtesy of the S.C. taxpayers — for the rest of his life.
    Former legislators also get to start drawing a full pension at age 60, five years earlier than state employees. That means an extra $91,000, on average.
    What we need is term limits. If eight years is enough for a governor, it ought to be enough for a legislator as well.

  10. Lee Muller

    No one should receive a pension for public office, because it is not a real job, and is not supposed to be a career.
    REAL REFORM would be to eliminate all employer-subsidized pension plans, including government employees. Pay off everyone with their share of the actual assets in the plan now, and let them buy their own retirement plan.
    Oooops! The government pensions don’t have much cash to pay out. They have $53 TRILLION in unfunded IOUs which they plan to pass on to “the children”.

  11. Brad Warthen

    No problem, Doug. Look at executive compensation. Look at what folks who sit on each other’s boards in the private sector vote to each other. You have instance after instance that makes what these legislators do penny-ante.
    Does that excuse the legislators? No way, because THEY are held to a higher standard, and that is exactly as it should be. The public sector, unlike the private, has to account to all of us. That’s why we in the press go on and on and on about stuff like this, which we only do here and there in the private sector.
    Of course, what we’ve succeeded in doing is making cynics of you and others who either fail, or refuse, to see the difference. You hear about bad stuff in the private sector because we tell you about it all the time. You don’t hear about it so much in the private realm because we DON’T do that (at least, not to the systematic extent that we do with government) — and that’s as it should be. Public is public; private is private.
    Whenever you see me preferring public over private, it is precisely BECAUSE I know from experience how much easier it is to hold the public sector accountable. Private executives pretty much have to do something criminal — and egregiously so — to be held accountable in any way. Public executives get in trouble just for doing something we don’t like.
    Anyway, we will keep on telling you this stuff about government, and I suppose you will keep on missing the point. But I don’t know what to do about that; we have the obligation to do this…

  12. Doug Ross

    Someday you may come to understand the way private companies work. You do realize that the executives of a private company are beholden to a board of directors, Wall Street, the SEC, etc.? That if they don’t generate a consistent profit, they will lose their jobs?
    You do realize that whatever pay they get is given to them, not taken from the public? People aren’t elected to be CEO – they rise through the ranks or transfer in based on performance. You act as if private company executives are somehow stealing money. They aren’t. They are EARNING it. Maybe they don’t deserve it, but that’s up to the board and shareholders to decide.
    They are also responsible for responding to market forces that can cause whole industries (like the newspaper business) to shrink or disappear. By the way, which McClatchy executives do you think are overpaid? Just wondering.
    I worked for a company 15 years ago that went from 1 employee to 135,000 and back to 20,000 in the span of 30 years. Can you give me a similar example in the government sector? Unlike the government, private industry cannot just come up with a new tax increases.
    And who exactly has been held “accountable” among the current state legislators? You’ve made that claim before but I don’t see any examples. Surely you don’t mean at the ballot box — where incumbents and well connected insiders rule.
    Or are you talking about putting Andre Bauer’s driving exploits on the front page?
    What are the higher standard that you as editor of The State opinion page enforce? Can you give examples of where you have caused a single politician to be forced out of office due to the high standards you impose? Aside from exposing John Edwards’ jogging habits, I mean.
    If that pension issue alone isn’t enough to make you cynical about the occupants of the State House, nothing will cause you to remove the rose colored glasses. Prove you are holding them to higher standards by using the power of your opinion page to reverse this scam.

  13. weldon VII

    But, Brad, isn’t it the public sector that’s supposed to hold the private sector accountable?
    And the private sector, more particularly the court of public opinion, spearheaded by the Fourth Estate, that should hold the public sector accountable?
    Public and private should work hand-in-hand as check and balance to further liberty, equality and fraternity.
    More importantly, the purposes of public and private are different, a distinction you don’t seem to make. Government exists for the common defense and just tries to make ends meet. Private enterprise pursues profit.
    It’s not wrong for a poor man to become rich by becoming a business mogul. It is wrong for a public servant to become rich by bilking the public.

  14. Doug Ross

    One other point – my cynical view of the government hasn’t been formed by reading The State. It has evolved over time as a taxpayer, a contractor who spent over a year developing a software application for Secretary of State’s office, and as a failed candidate for school board. Each one of those experiences has provided more supporting data for my views.

  15. Lee Muller

    It just seems “easy to hold government accountable” to Brad, because he isn’t making much effort to do so. There are plenty of tinhorn lawyers in the SC legislature who went from small town nobody to rich skid-greaser, that need some exposure.
    If Brad wants accountability from corporate executives, he first needs to become a stockholder. Until then, most of what they do is none of his business, other than to observe and report on what the business of stockholders.


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