THE ISSUE: Congressional election
OUR OPINION: Ex-senator can dismiss liberal group, but call for use of PAC money has conservative ring
The race to succeed Tim Scott as congressman from the 1st District will not lack for interest.
Sixteen Republican candidates and three Democrats are in the running, with the GOP field including none other than former Gov. Mark Sanford.
The process will be drawn out.
n Primary elections for both parties on March 19.
n Runoff elections, likely in the GOP race and possible with Democrats too, on April 2.
n A general election pitting the GOP and Democratic winners on May 7.
And things will get expensive. The S.C. Election Commission is estimating the tab at roughly $1 million.
With archconservative U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint’s resignation leading to Scott’s elevation to the Senate seat and necessitating the primary for the congressional opening, DeMint’s foes have thrown out a fiscal challenge to the man now in charge at the iconic conservative organization, the Heritage Foundation.
Too bad the idea being publicized by the very liberal S.C. Progressive Network was not put forward by someone else. DeMint might actually have considered doing what his critics are suggesting in a fashion designed to embarrass the former senator.
Citing a Sept. 30, 2012, filing with the Federal Election Commission as its source, the Progressive Network states that DeMint’s senatorial political action committee has $800,409 “cash on hand” and no outstanding debts.
The organization says DeMint should use the cash to pay for the special election his move from the Senate to a new job in Washington is necessitating.
“We sent letters to Mr. DeMint on Jan. 26 to his Heritage Foundation office, as well as to the consultant that handles his ‘Team DeMint’ political action campaign,” Dr. Hoyt Wheeler of the Progressive Network said in a press release.
The letter noted that DeMint PAC money has been spent funding races in other states: “In 2010, your PAC gave a total of $1,150,000 to Republican parties in eight states other than South Carolina. That year you made a total of $7,500 in contributions to 19 South Carolina county Republican parties and $350,000 to the state Republican Party. In 2012, you generously donated $700,000 to the Club for Growth and only $5,000 to the SC Republican Party.”
Citing Federal Election Commission staff as its source, the Progressive Network says, “Mr. DeMint’s check to the S.C. Election Commission to pay for an election he necessitated would qualify as a ‘public purpose’ as required by statute.”
The summation by Wheeler is: “We hope that Mr. DeMint agrees that paying for the election with campaign money he no longer needs would honor both his constituents and his conservative values.”
It is hard to argue with the reasoning. It easily could have come from conservatives rather than a group whose opinion is easily dismissed by the former senator and his allies.