The State: “Dark Money” Funding Anti-Tax Bill

  • “at best was deceptive, at worst was downright untrue.  It was a very clever, yet deceptive campaign.” Sen Shane Massey

  • “They were just giving them part of the story.” Sen. Katrina Shealy


  • “I really want to hear from my constituents. But what’s not healthy is when people (are) being told an absolute lie. When one group is funded by a couple of billionaires, it limits the ability of having free and open speech. The message then becomes one-sided. ” Sen. Larry Grooms

Last August, Lake and Main revealed that the opposition to the Town of Lexington’s proposed 2% Hospitality Tax was funded and controlled by out-of-state interests.  In “Outside Special Interests Working to Impede Progress in Lexington,” we noted;

It is an open secret in state and county political circles that the LCCW also gets occasional funding/support from American’s for Prosperity, a far, far right organization operating out of Arlington, Virginia.  A major source of AFP funding is said to come from Texas.

The State newspaper has published a report that the same AFP is a “dark money” organization connected to billionaire brothers Charles Koch and David Koch.

According to The State:

The Koch brothers, whose billion-dollar industries range from paper products to refineries to transportation, founded AFP. Americans for Prosperity S.C. is a state chapter of the national organization. The S.C. chapter is an issue-based group that does not have to disclose its donors.

Americans for Property is at it again in Lexington County as they mount yet another ANTI-prosperity campaign.  AFP and its affiliates, Lexington County Citizens Watch and People For a Better Lexington, have begun to label Lexington Town and County officials as “corrupt” in an effort to poison discussion for a proposed 1% county sales tax hike to fund much needed road improvements.

Last month, the secretive People For a Better Lexington sent a letter to the South Carolina State Ethics Commission asking for an investigation into retiring County Council Chairman Johnny Jeffcoat.  The allegations were spurious and clearly politically driven.  L&M examined those claims here, here and here.

Lexington County Citizens Watch (LCCW) has been advertising Council member’s email addresses and telephone numbers (all available on the Town website).  Curiously, LCCW keeps it’s own contact information, membership and leadership private.  There is no such information on its website or Facebook page. 

LCCW FB

As for the LCCW Facebook page, an image is used of Council Members Debbie Summers and Johnny Jeffcoat with the words “STOP Council Corruption.”  Interested to find out what was considered corruption and why these two Council members were singled out, I sent an email to Mr. Talbert Black, a member of the group, asking those and other questions.  Here is the email sent January 8 of this year.

Two months later and Mr. Black has not responded.  That is cowardly.

Associated with LCCW, PBL and AFP is a Facebook page called “Lexington Watch Dogs,” formerly  “Eliminate the 2% Tax.”  These pages, with a steady stream of anti-tax, “Lexington is corrupt” vitriol, use much of the same language as LCCW, AFP and other groups and people attacking the town and county.  

Profoundly partisan and dangerously uninformed, these people and groups have not only tried diligently to mislead the public, but their logic is plainly odd.  One of these proponents told me he would “rather see a cut in emergency services than to see even a penny rise in taxes.”

But it’s not just dumb stuff.  The quotes below, from “Watch Dogs/Eliminate the 2% Facebook pages show the kind of rhetoric these organizations are using.  

“My brother told me he had heard you had a drinking problem, but being tore up in the middle of the afternoon and getting confused about who folks are, pretty sad. Our county has suffered alot over the past few years with DUI’s and deaths. It’s a serious matter. Please get some help.”

Except for the occasional (and rare) ceremonial sip, I haven’t had alcohol in 46 years as a personal choice.

This one is particularly creepy.  I guess he wanted me to think he was peeping through my window:

“You looked pretty cosey sitting in your recliner….”

I don’t care what they say about me, but I think this one is – or should be galling to the people of Lexington:

“Since Mayor MacDougall was elected in 2013, more murders have happened in the Town of Lexington, than the previous 30 years combined.

WOW!  In 2014, a fight in the parking lot of the Cookout restaurant resulted in the stabbing death of a teen by another teen.  And, on Valentines Day this year, restaurateur Greg Leon shot and killed a man he claimed was his wife’s lover.  Somehow, these two deaths are being attributed to Mayor MacDougall’s tenure in office.  These people are using these tragic incidents to demean someone with whom they have a political difference.

So, who are these people?  Well, we know that Talbert Black, Jr. is affiliated with the South Carolina Chapter of the  AFP as is Wes Howard.  Lake and Main has been told that it was Mr. Black that helped recruit people to make calls to residents last year during the hospitality tax discussions.

Mr. Howard is also a “spokesman” for People For a Better Lexington, the organization that sent the Jeffcoat letter to the State Ethics Commission.

Although the names of owners/creators of Facebook pages are not available, sources have told L&M that Mr. Howard and Mr. Jake Kaminer run or contribute to”Lexington Watch Dogs.”  Mr. Kaminer has denied any affiliation.

The tactics and dialogue used by these people and organizations is beyond unacceptable.  As pointed out in a previous post;

We need to look at facts, not listen to rumors or legend.  We need to talk, not rant.  We need to ask questions, not automatically accuse.

We’ve got stuff to do.  We’ve got roads, bridges and dams to fix, children to educate, business to build and we’ve got communities to prosper.

What’s going on now is not beneficial and it’s not constructive.

Lexington is better than this.

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