What Is Going On in South Carolina?
Alvin Greene has been accused of being a plant, and, honestly, it's an accusation that may not be too far from reality. After winning the state's Democratic Senate primary with over 100,000 votes, becoming the challenger for Republican Jim DeMint, the 32-year-old unemployed veteran has given interviews and appeared on TV. When asked about his campaign, he does not give answers that indicate he ran a real one.
James Clyburn, the House Democratic whip and nine-term congressman from South Carolina, has suggested someone propped Greene up to defeat Vic Rawl, a member of the Charleston County Council and a former four-term state legislator, calling for an investigation into the election. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has obliged; according to the South Carolina Democratic Party, an investigation has been opened.
This interview with Keith Olbermann is difficult to watch. In it, Greene insists he's always been a Democrat and that his 58% victory was not a fluke.
This interview with The Root, similarly, is a strange read. Greene seems well intentioned, wanting to be elected because of the state's high unemployment race, and insisting that he campaigned hard across the state.
There is precedent of "planted" candidates in South Carolina: in 2007, Ken Silverstein wrote in Harper's about Rod Shealy, a South Carolina political strategist who has actually done with someone else what is being suggested was done with Greene:
Shealy gained a bit of national notoriety in 1990, when he was running the campaign of his sister, Sherry Martschink, a candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Shealy was looking to increase the turnout of racially conservative low-country voters, a group largely sympathetic to Martschink, in the overall Republican primary. To do so, he recruited Benjamin Hunt, Jr., an unemployed black fisherman, to run for congress in the Republican primary against incumbent Arthur Ravenel, Jr., even paying Hunt's filing fee. When the ploy was revealed, Shealy was convicted and fined for violating campaign laws.
Greene's victory, however, wasn't the only surprise result in the Palmetto State this past Tuesday, and it is suspected that much broader mischief was afoot in the primary elections. Businessman Gregory Brown challenged Clyburn in his primary, earning 10% of the vote. He did so with the help of the former campaign manager to Rep. Joe Wilson (the Republican congressman who yelled "You lie!" at President Obama), having paid Preston Grisham's firm $24,000 according to TPM's Christina Bellantoni. But Brown didn't file any financial disclosures with the Federal Election Commission until after the race, according to receipts, Bellantoni reports.
And Ben Frasier, who was not endorsed by the Democratic establishment, won the first-congressional-district primary without filing any Federal Election Commission reports, either.
Democrats aren't sure who is behind any of this, but they think something fishy is going on. Clyburn has suggested there was a conspiracy to plant those three candidates. "Honestly, we have no idea," South Carolina Democratic Party spokeswoman Keiana Page told me when asked whether they have any idea who may be responsible for the alleged planting. Three different teams of election-analysis experts are now reportedly examining the Greene results, to determine how he ended up with so many votes.
Regardless, something strange is going on. It seems only a matter of time before someone pieces it together.