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Mayor Riley’s money machine
See list of contributors

Warwick Jones

It is the nature of modern politics. A political family gains allies – retainers, supporters, hangers-on, admirers, associates, in-house Machiavellis. The bigger the government, the more ways allies can be awarded, which binds them more closely. Your destiny is theirs. Members of the Court recruit others. Money lines spread person to person, company to company, board to board, mover to mover.

The most important part is the money lines. Peggy Noonan WSJ October 8 2007

Ms. Noonan had others in mind when she wrote the above. If she were writing about Charleston, she would have added the local press, in particular the City's only daily newspaper, to the political family. But how true are her observations and how particularly true for Charleston.

The City’s Mayor, Joseph P. Riley Jr has been in office for 32 years and is now seeking another term. We may debate the achievements of his tenure. But there is little to debate about the efficiency of the machinery in place to fill the money lines.

Contributions total $425,000 to July
Up to July 10, the Riley Money Machine had generated $425,000 for its candidate. And there were another 4 months to go.from the date of the filing with the SC Ethics Commission. Who knows what will be generated in the final months of the campaign? Could we be looking to another $500,000, taking the total to near $1 million, similar to the last Mayoral campaign. Much will depend on the perceived threat from the other candidates. But looking at the funds they have raised to date, the drivers of the Riley Money Machine probably feel little pressure to put their foot to the accelerator. We await the reports of William Gregorie, Marc Knapp, and Omar Brown but suspect funding will be a fraction of the Mayor's. In the first report of funding in this election cycle, the Mayor reported $141,000. William Gregorie reported $11,700, all from his personal funds.

Rivals dissillusioned
Supporters of the Mayor’s rivals must feel disillusioned. How can they possibly match spending by the Mayor and run a competitive campaign? And those who would like to financially support other candidates ask themselves why bother? If the Mayot has an unassailable lead in money raising, why throw money away on a losing horse?

The list of contributors and contributions to Mayor’s campaign can be seen by pressing
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Support from professional and business establishment
It may well be that a cross section of the community is supporting the Mayor. But we cannot tell as the majority of contributors are unknown to us. But we do recognize a profusion of contributors from the professional and business establishment, and sufficient to recognize the aptness of Ms. Noonan’s observations.

It is also interesting in that we recognize names of some folk who have been critical of the Mayor but for reasons we do not know, support his campaign. Could it be that some folk, with businesses in the community feel intimidated and fear retribution should they fail to donate? We also know of folk who also put out "Vote for Joe" signs but do so only to appear to be on the right side of the administration. We are told they vote for his opponent.

Corruptingly disproportionate
Whatever the views of the citizens of Charleston about the respective candidates for Mayor, the money lines feeding the campaigns are corruptingly disproportionate. They do not reflect the popularity of the respective candidates. They reflect only the spread and length of the money lines - in the Mayor's case, cast over a 32 year period. It is corrupting in that potential contributors to the campaigns of the Mayor's opponents are daunted – the Riley machine can outspend them by some multiples and their candidates have an almost impossible task to win. We know of one well-known politician who considered running for Mayor but decided against it because there was no way he could match the funding available to Riley.

There are many issues that we feel that Mayor Riley has failed to adequately address in the City. The administration of the City Fire department is only one of them. Certainly the majority of the citizens, as measured by the poll taken by Channel 4, have harsh views about the City’s response the Sofa Store fire. It is a travesty, that by virtue of the money web woven over the last 3 decades that the Mayor probably will be elected for yet another term. He will say that he has a mandate. We think it is something else.

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