In 2003, a voucher lobbying group called “South Carolinians for Responsible Government” was registered with the Secretary of State by Todd McCauley, then a field representative for Howard Rich's "U.S. Term Limits" organization. McCauley was replaced as president of SCRG in 2005 by Randy Page, after sending several letters to the editor of The State newspaper under a false name.
In May 2006, SCRG's spokesman Denver Merrill dismissed claims that the organization was funded by out-of-state interests, calling the allegation "laughable," according to The State newspaper. However, SCRG's earliest tax filing listed the Chicago telephone number of U.S Term Limits as its own. The group's website, prior to December 2006, was registered to "Americans for Limited Government," an entity chaired by Howard Rich.According to tax records, SCRG received over $1.0 million in funding in 2005, and an additional $3.0 million in 2006. SCRG filed a lawsuit against the State Ethics Commission in 2006 to keep its financial backing a secret. Although the suit was thrown out in November 2006, SCRG has yet to fully disclose the origin of this funding. SCRG received an additional $1.3 million in funding in 2007, according to tax filings.
It is now widely accepted that SCRG is "one of several entities funded by New York millionaire Howard Rich and his associates that has navigated loopholes in state laws in past elections to support candidates who promote their agenda." (Spartanburg Herald-Journal 12/11/08). UPDATE: SCRG received $580,000 from Howard Rich's "Americans for Limited Government" in 2008, according to tax filings.
South Carolina Club for Growth
Howard Rich is director of a national organization called “Club for Growth State Action,” which oversees and supports seven state affiliates, including the pro-voucher South Carolina Club for Growth. The S.C. Club for Growth shares office facilities with South Carolinians for Responsible Government.
The South Carolina Club for Growth's political action committee contributed $18,000 to the campaigns of Howard Rich-backed candidates in 2006, and another $20,000 in 2008.
Voucher Lobbying Groups Targeted at African-Americans
From 2004 to 2006, three voucher groups targeted at African-Americans were formed in South Carolina: the SC Center for Grassroots, Clergy for Educational Options, and the Southern Association of Independent Black Schools. According to the Secretary of State's Office, all three of the groups were formed from the same address (1620 Gervais Street Suite B, Columbia, SC) which was the address of South Carolinians for Responsible Government.
As of 2007, South Carolinians for Responsible Government, the South Carolina Club for Growth, and the Center for Grassroots shared an office at 3020 Devine Street, Columbia.
The latest tax filing available (2007) for the Center for Grassroots and Community Alternatives shows the center received the majority of its funding from the Parents in Charge Foundation (Howard Rich, president) and the Friedman Foundation (Howard Rich, director).
Another recent example is the "South Carolina Association of Independent Schools Serving Minority Children," a pro-voucher organization headed by lobbyist Sherry Street. According to a 2005 newsletter of School Choice Wisconsin, Sherry Street "accepted a job with the the LEAD Foundation in South Carolina lobbying for the Put Parents in Charge tax credit bill." Howard Rich is the president and chairman of the Virginia-based LEAD Foundation. UPDATE: In 2008, the "South Carolina Association of Independent Schools Serving Minority Children" received over $30,000 in funding from Howard Rich's U.S. Term Limits Foundation, according to tax filings.
Conservatives in Action
In 2006, a voucher lobbying group calling itself Conservatives in Action (CIA) appeared in upstate South Carolina. The group supported pro-voucher candidates in South Carolina politcial contests in 2006 and 2008, and sponsored negative attack television advertisements during a 2007 Supreme Court election.
CIA spokesman Taft Matney denied the organization was funded from outside South Carolina, but consistently declined to reveal the group's membership or funding. Early tax filings for CIA show that the group used the same telephone number as Howard Rich's "U.S. Term Limits" and "Americans for Limited Government" organizations. Subsequent tax filings also demonstrate that CIA received funding from national organizations tied to Howard Rich.