Out-of-state campaign donations coming in for some Charleston mayoral candidates

Out-of-state campaign donations coming in for some Charleston mayoral candidates

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The local officials elected to represent you could be getting help from outside the city or the state to run their campaigns.

So far, almost every candidate in the Charleston mayor's race has received some contributions from voters outside Charleston, or outside South Carolina.

Those outside donors may include out-of-state friends and family of the candidate or special-interest groups with their own motives for who gets a particular vote.

Out-of-state support in an election is not a new phenomenon by any means, but in this upcoming election in Charleston, all but one candidate has received outside contributions, totaling over $33,000 in outside money in the past six months.

"It's not unusual to have outside groups, outside individuals donating to local races," Dr. Scott Buchanan of The Citadel's Department of Political Science says.

Contribution lists from the South Carolina Ethics Commission show that in the 2011 Charleston mayoral race, the only candidate who got substantial support from outside South Carolina was incumbent Mayor Joe Riley.

But this time, contributions have come in from across the country, with donors from California, New York, and Massachusetts.

"South Carolina is one of the states growing in population," Buchanan said. "The more people you have moving here, the more businesses you have here, the more outside influences you have involved in this."

Outside groups are also pouring money in to sway opinion on State House issues like the current roads debate in the legislature. Anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity launched an ad blitz against proposed gas taxes, fighting both the House roads plan and Governor Haley's roads plan, because each plan proposes a ten cent hike to the state's gas tax.

"If you had a situation where the majority of the funds were coming out of the district, county, state, whatever, that could be a potential downside," Buchanan said.

But outside support and ads in your local election probably won't slow down any time soon. Dr. Buchanan says political contributions, both in-state and out-of-state, are considered an act of free speech-

"The Supreme Court said 'Hey, you can put some limits, but you can't tell someone not to give money, period,'" Buchanan said.

Out-of-state contributions were fairly prevalent in the 2014 governor's race as well, especially for Governor Nikki Haley's campaign.

She got contributions from India and all over the U.S. She even received one contribution from CBS Sports anchor Jim Nantz.

The current candidates who have announced their intentions to run are Virginia Deerin, Henry Fishburne, Leon Stavrinakis, John Tecklenburg and Paul Tinkler. Dick Elliott announced in February he was dropping out of the mayor's race and said all contributions would be returned within 30 days and all appropriate steps would be taken with the election commission.

You can search the South Carolina State Ethics Commission's database of total and maxed-out out-of-state contributions here: http://apps.sc.gov/PublicReporting/Contributions/Candidate/CandidateFinalResults.aspx

Candidate filing for the Charleston mayoral race opens on Aug. 3. The election is set for Tuesday, Nov. 3. The State Election Commission scheduled Nov. 17 as the date for a runoff if one becomes necessary.

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