The primary battle between incumbent state Rep. Carl Gullick and Republican challenger Kyle Boyd shifted this week to the topic of money, as new disclosure reports put the spotlight on where each camp is getting its cash.
Gullick says voters ought to know Boyd took money from a millionaire New York City businessman who supports school vouchers. Boyd counters that Gullick raised much of his haul through political action committees and lobbying groups.
According to the most recent filings, Boyd collected $2,000 from a New York City LLC with ties to financier and school-choice proponent Howard Rich.
Boyd says he doesn't keep track of everyone who donates to his campaign for the House 48 seat -- and that he isn't familiar with the aims of Rich's organization.
"I don't have any idea about their agenda," said Boyd, who has raised a total of $13,600. "When I get some of these contributions, I just believe it's conservatives supporting another conservative."
Like Rich, Boyd supports the concept of school choice, which can provide vouchers and tax credits to families who send their children to private schools. Boyd says he opposes vouchers but favors tax credits.
"Needless to say, I've gotten no Howard Rich money," Gullick said. "Basically, you've got a group of people trying to buy South Carolina's government. They've got an agenda. Primarily, the agenda is vouchers."
So far, Rich and his allies have given a total of $30,000 in out-of-state campaign donations to 16 House and Senate candidates, The State newspaper reported.
Gullick draws on donor base
Gullick has raised a total of $57,000 from individual donors and political action groups, including the S.C. Soft Drink Association, Progress Energy and Reynolds American, the North Carolina tobacco giant.
"His accusations of me taking money from 'special interest' groups are purely a diversion from his own 'special interest' problem," Boyd's campaign said in a Tuesday statement.
Among Gullick's notable York County contributors are developer Alex Haefele, who gave $1,000, and Haefele's female companion, Annie Williams, who gave $700. Haefele is challenging fellow Republican Buddy Motz for a seat on the York County Council.
"We've known each other for years," said Gullick, who said he isn't taking sides in the Motz/Haefele race. "His ex-wife was my children's pediatrician."
A check for $500 came from Piedmont Medical Center chief Charlie Miller. Gullick has done consulting work for PMC over the years but says he doesn't deal with the hospital as a legislator.
"Charlie has always been a friend of mine," said Gullick. "Like a lot of people on that list, what they do is incidental. I've known them for years. They're personal acquaintances and friends."
Gullick's biggest donation came from the state Republican caucus, which gave $5,000. The caucus is comprised of most, if not all, Republican House members.
Rich's influence questioned
While Rich's donations to South Carolina candidates are legal, some legislators have raised questions about out-of-state sources buying influence in South Carolina.
"I call them political terrorists," state Rep. Gene Pinson, R-Greenwood, told The State. "They're outside of the state, trying to do a hostile takeover of state government. I like for South Carolinians to run South Carolina."
Earlier in the race, a Columbia-based conservative interest group called South Carolinians for Responsible Government paid for mailers criticizing Gullick.
Some legislators say SCRG is a front for Rich. SCRG says Rich is one of thousands of donors to its organization. Others see it differently.
"SCRG and Rich are one in the same. They're behind (the polling), and it's just despicable," said Rep. Bill Sandifer, whose primary opponent, Ed Rumsey, has received about $3,000 in campaign contributions from Rich's allies.
The June 10 primary between Gullick and Boyd is a winner-take-all contest because no Democrat entered the race. House members serve two-year terms and earn base salaries of $10,400.
Birth date: Jan. 31, 1975
Education: Graduate of College of Charleston
Work: Founder and principal, Walnut Grove Christian School in Charlotte
Family: Wife, Shannon Boyd; three children, Draye, Charleston and Skye
Political experience: None
Birth date: March 20, 1953
Education: Graduate of Wingate University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Work: President of consulting firm, Gullick & Associates, and host of TV program, "Assignment Carolinas"
Family: Wife, Lynn Preston; two adult children
Political experience: Chairman, York County Council (1993-2001)