South Carolina Ethics Commission Gives Mischievous Lawmaker a Pass

bill chumley


State Representative William M. “Bill” Chumley is an affable, albeit useless, appendage of the South Carolina General Assembly. “Bill” resides in Woodruff and represents the 35th District of Upstate, South Carolina. This General Assembly space occupier bills himself as the owner of a tree nursery and cattle farm. He hires Mexican laborers. Papers anyone?

In legislative terms, Chumley is the most callow of buck privates in the Tea Party-driven army of extremist legislators. House leadership, in addition to telling him how to vote, will let him sponsor a bill once in a great while, but somebody else will write that bill with Chumley contributing nothing but the misleading back-home headline that he actually had something to do with its content. An early year example was H 3101, carrying the lofty title of the “South Carolina Freedom of Health Care Protection Act.” This paranoid legislation would render null and void certain ‘unconstitutional’ congressional sections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that allows the feds to take control of the health insurance industry and mandate that individuals purchase health insurance under threat of penalty. Gee, just like the mandated purchasing of auto insurance UNDER THREAT OF PENALTY!

Last I heard the H 3101 effort was languishing somewhere in the House as it represents half the sum total of Chumley’s contributions to the legislative process. Being kind, it would be accurate to describe Chumley’s contributions as minimal at best. Two bills sponsored; none passed. That’s it!

That’s not to say 2013 was entirely devoid of Bill Chumley headlines. Yes, the humble tree and cow guy found himself in the middle of an ethics complaint when he requested a payment of $6,390 taxpayer dollars to fly Walter Williams to Columbia, the state capital, from the vicinity of the nation’s capitol to “testify” in favor of H 3101. Walter was also flown back.

Let’s put pencil to paper here. I jotted down some numbers from Expedia’s researched cost for a one-day round trip from DC to Columbia and back. The prices ranged from a dirt-cheap 425-buck milk run to a grand for the pampered big shot, non-stop ticket. Let’s compromise on $700. That compares to $6,390.

I looked at the 33-page PDF “Accountability Report” for FY 2012/2013, submitted September 19 of this year by the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission (SCAC), the agency that oversees the state’s airports and two state planes. It was fascinating to see how Washington funding oft-times exceeded state money in numerous projects of this fed-hating state. To the point of this story, also in the report, was the state-owned 9-passenger King Air 350. You’ll shell out $1,250 per hour to sit in one of its seats. The King Air C90 was a veritable steal at a meager $850 an hour. Doing the math, there was the initial flight in the King Air 350 to DC to pick up single-passenger Williams who refuses to fly commercial because it would be “taking up too much of my time” according to a report from Columbia’s State newspaper. The C90 took him back home. So that’s four legs when commercial would have been two at a fraction of the cost.

An aside I can’t resist sharing, involves my phone call to the Chief Pilot of SCAC. I thought I’d learn of the state aircraft fleet from the guy who flies them, Hugh Tuttle. He asked who I was and I told him I was a citizen of South Carolina. Whatdoyuhwant? “I’d like to ask you a couple of questions about your state planes.” “Have a nice day”, he sarcastically intoned and hung up on me. So, South Carolinians, whatever you do, never call as a mere citizen if you have a question for Tuttle about where in the ef your taxpayer dollars are going. Only insiders get to talk to the likes of 6,000-hour pilots. And in this state, there are plenty of Tuttle-types to go around.

In any event, the ethics commission made its ruling on the issue of Chumley bringing in the far-right, occasional Limbaugh replacement and long-time college professor and newspaper columnist. No question, Williams is a bright guy. A PhD, he’s taught economics at George Mason University for more than 35 years. While conversant with the constitution and American History, it should be noted he has no training in the law. I looked at dozens of his column headlines. There was such frenzied fare as Distrusting Government, Official Lies, Dishonest Educators, Poverty Nonsense, America’s Two-Faced Liberals and assorted other attacks on affirmative action, minimum wages and poor people, especially poor black people. Amazingly, there appeared to be no columns dedicated solely to the Affordable Care Act. Though he claims to have read ACA (I doubt it) Williams has about as much mastery of the law as Homer Simpson. Thanks to the Roanoke Tea Party, here’s the Williams speech.

Williams came to Columbia to address a subcommittee looking into Chumley’s ‘kill Obamacare’ nullification law. You just knew this adjunct scholar at the righty-nutzoid, corporate-run Heritage Foundation and CATO Institute, was going to be an objective actor (Kid-ding). He stood at a podium and talked for 20 minutes and 50 seconds. About half of the speech was read verbatim (as was obvious in the video) off a well-worn script that he had probably used dozens of times for various payouts. The reading off paper ‘er, “speech”, had virtually nothing to do with the specifics of H 3101.

Williams was then questioned for the remainder of the time by a few of the subcommittee members and answered an embarrassing number of critical questions with “I have no expertise in that area.” In other words, a solid waste of time for speaker and listener alike with retorts like “It’s at least moral, if not constitutional” when questioned about the legality of the legislation. Later, he told a subcommittee member that he was not compensated for his appearance. Forgive me, but guys like Williams don’t take a leak for less than a goodly stack of ‘Benjamins’. In my humble opinion, if the legislature didn’t pay Williams, some right-wing outfit did! His advertised going rate to read off a stack of papers is between 10 and 15,000 big ones. The only reason Williams was there was to affix his right-wing stamp of approval on this silly and unquestionably unconstitutional bill.

Sillier still was the final determination from the Ethics Commission. While conceding that Representative Chumley had inappropriately used taxpayer dollars and resources in the funding of the state-owned plane and further admitting that Chumley had also violated a state budget rule that limited usage of state planes for “official state business”, the ethics team gave Chumley a pass because he supposedly didn’t know he was breaking any law. And I thought ‘ignorantia juris non excusat was a well-established principle of the law.

Predictably, Chumley told the assembled press “I think justice was served.” If he’s talking about South Carolina’s perception of justice, Representative Chumley couldn’t be more on the (taxpayer’s) money!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.