Powerful Democratic Operatives in D.C. Help South Carolina Republicans Retain Control

Here’s a case study about how the South Carolina Democratic hierarchy heartily warrants that there will be no meaningful opposition from the state’s left for the multi-billion dollar crowd of multinational’s legislative wish lists and subsidies.

It’s a sneaky process, at least in the state of South Carolina. The Palmetto state is the reddest of red. Congressional Representative James Clyburn is the only Democrat of consequence. Clyburn is a wily old fox who plays high-end politics with the best of them. He got his daughter, Mignon, appointed to the FCC and 4 staff members have joined the Podesta Group which is the lobbying gold standard on behalf of the incredibly rich and enormously powerful.

Democrat John Podesta created the Podesta Group along with brother Tony back in 1988. John had been a major Washington player for years when he latched on to the Clinton campaign, rising to the post of Chief of Staff. He also co-chaired Barack Obama’s first term transition team. Podesta Group’s client list is a who’s who of American and global corporations. Podesta represents the likes of NPR while John presides over his progressive Center for American Progress just to even things out.

Against this backdrop, let me introduce you to the South Carolina State Democratic Convention’s upcoming May 4th ‘already decided’ election of a new State Chairman of the party. Clyburn and Podesta play key roles in assuaging any fears the power boys (and girls) may have about that election. The current Chairman, a legendary lawyer and Republican-basher, Dick Harpootlian, was Clyburn’s mentor and managed to get a Democratic Governor elected some years ago.

This all happened during the first of two separate terms he served as head of the state party. His last term produced nothing of substance other than name-calling and keeping his pricey law firm in the news. Having served on my County Democratic Executive Committee, I emailed the state party one day last year and asked for an audience with Harpootlian. I wanted to discuss the chairman’s possible role in a radio talk show that I might be hosting. I received no response so I called.

Amanda Loveday, a 27-year-old J-school grad from a Republican family and Executive Director of the state party informed me that Harpootlian simply didn’t have time to meet. I offered to drive the three-hour round trip from my rural upstate environs to the Columbia party headquarters. I pledged not take up more than 10 minutes of the chairman’s time. Loveday’s indifferent response; “If he’s in your part of the state, maybe he’ll have a few minutes.”

Had I been a Boeing big shot with the same request, Harpootlian and Loveday would have crawled on their bellies over barbwire to Boeing’s North Charleston facility (recipient of a billion dollars in state and local subsidies). And the meeting would have been 10 hours instead of 10 minutes had Boeing so desired.

Speaking of Boeing, that brings me to their prime lobbyist, Jaime Harrison, the next Chairman of the South Carolina State Democratic Party. At first blush, he’s a progressive’s dream. Harrison earned his Bachelors at Yale and his J.D. at the Georgetown University Law Center. He’s a pleasant looking, slick bald, 37-year-old African American who is “the former director of floor operations and counsel for former House Majority Whip, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC).

Previously, Jaime served as executive director of the House Democratic Caucus. Jaime was named six times as one of Roll Call’s “Fabulous Fifty Movers and Shakers Behind the Scenes on Capitol Hill” and listed as one of The Hill’s “35 Stellar Staffers Under 35.” In 2010, The Root web magazine included Jaime on its list of 100 “emerging and established African-American leaders who are making extraordinary contributions.” He was also dubbed one of the “Top 40 lawyers under 40″ by the National Bar Association and Impact DC.”

All CV materials within quotes in the prior 2 paragraphs were taken from the Podesta Group site where young Harrison is a Principal, working with both Washington clients and those Global corporations with a presence in South Carolina. These would include such American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) stalwarts (past and present) as the American Chemistry Council, Blue Cross/Blue Shield (no South Carolina legislative health care decisions are made without counsel from Blue Cross), Bristol Myers-Squibb, Johnson and Johnson (once on the ALEC Corporate Board), Merck, GE, GM, Duke Energy, Walmart, the Nuclear Energy Institute and Wells Fargo bank. Several of the above named corporations dropped or suspended their ALEC memberships in 2012. Do they still communicate?

So let’s look at that list and some non-ALEC additions and see what Harrison would not touch lest he lose his lucrative Podesta “Principalship.” Boeing,of course. Then add at least 20 health care clients including Blue Cross/Blue Shield, all of them hate Obamacare, Medicaid and Medicare and any pharma or medical device regulations; OpenSecrets.org estimates that Covidien (a Dublin-based medical device company with a South Carolina presence has given the Podesta Group roughly $200 million in lobbying funds since ’98).

Did I mention, Podesta’s CEO, Kimberly Fritts was once Southern Political Director for the Republican National Committee?

Harrison also works closely with the right-wing U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its foundation, “Institute for a Competitive (read cheap) Workplace.” On the institute’s advisory board is John McKernan Jr. He’s Executive Chairman of Education Management Corporation, one of the largest private school providers in the nation. Chairman Harrison opposing state public school privatization? Doubtful.

No Environmental concerns will be addressed. Wouldn’t want to make Duke Energy or the American Chemistry Council unhappy. Aaron Mehta, writing for PublicIntegrity.org tracked the Podesta connection with the American Coalition for Clean Coal & Electricity a laughingly misnamed industry group that pressures legislators through Podesta lobbyists to forestall any responsible climate or anti-pollution bills.

Don’t expect any banking or financial regs either. The Investment Company Institute and Wells Fargo would look askance at such bills, not to mention client Credit Suisse, once fined $536 million for secretly doing business with some countries that hate our guts. ING insurance is another big Podesta client. Their banking division was hit with a $619 million penalty last year for money laundering.

Wage and union breaks with Walmart and Boeing (just announced planned layoffs of 800 mostly union workers in Everett, Washington facility) in the fold? ROTFLMAO!

There are at least a dozen other examples of hands-off issues that would impact the Podesta roster.

So what does this “perfect” party Chairman bring to the table? He just sent out a fancy, multicolor 5 ½ X 11″ mailer with “Jaime’s” plan for the SC Democratic Party. Stuff like “engaging” SC voters; “increasing accountability” and demonstrating “democratic principles.” Then there were 3 magic words; Build, Grow, Win. WT*? Anything for the poor and middle-class? Pro public education, environmental reform, pro-Obamacare? Nope!

For Corporate and huge money special interests, their ownership of state politics with no fear of Democratic Party interference is locked in and “Jaime” will probably be in DC most of the time anyway. Harrison has no competition. After he announced, two would-be competitors bowed out suddenly after spending all of 2012 appearing to be eager to run.

At the very top, Democrats play the same big-money game as the right-wingers.

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