Tom Steyer Paid SC Legislator $43K For One Month Of Advanced Blackness Studies
A recent poll showed Joe Biden with a five point lead over Bernie Sanders in South Carolina. That's not great news for Uncle Joe, because he was hoping for, if not outright planning on, a more commanding victory. Hillary Clinton carried the state by 50 points in the 2016 primary.
We don't normally get bogged down in horse race reporting, because horses are annoying (don't @ me). However, one reason Sanders is closing the gap on Biden is that Tom Steyer is sucking up all the oxygen. He's dropped millions in advertising in South Carolina. This year, the first words for most babies in the state will be "Tom Steyer." Although Steyer is from California and has no natural connection to South Carolina, it was a smart move to target this specific primary. It's a potential showcase for Biden's strength as a candidate and if Steyer wants to win, he has to first weaken Biden with black voters. That is a better option than just pretending we don't exist while gushing over the "heartland."
Steyer -- who the media insists on calling a "billionaire activist" like he's Batman -- has taken several steps of escalating sleaziness toward swinging black voters his way. Aside from the advertising dump, which makes it seem like he's an upcoming Avengers movie, Steyer also "found" South Carolina voter data from Kamala Harris's now unfortunately defunct campaign. Steyer promptly fired the aide responsible, so I guess we should all just shrug off his corresponding rise in the polls.
The Post and Courier just revealed step three of Steyer's plan. The "billionaire activist" paid The Govan Agency LLC $43,548 between October 31 and December 4 for "community building services." The Govan Agency LLC is a company owned by state Rep. Jerry Govan, who endorsed Steyer in early October ... before it started raining money (hallelujah!). Govan is chairman of South Carolina's Legislative Black Caucus. He jumped on board the Steyer Express as senior adviser last year. He'd previously supported Biden and was even an adviser and co-chairman on the former vice president's 2008 campaign in South Carolina. (Biden dropped out well before the actual primary.) Steyer probably made a convincing case for Govan to switch allegiances to his insurgent, underdog campaign.
Govan represents Orangeburg County in the South Carolina House. The median household income in the area is $34,943 -- that's for an entire year not just a little over a month. There is currently a 4 bedroom, 2 bath house on sale in Orangeburg for $49,900. Maybe Govan really believes in whatever it is Steyer stands for. There's no reason to assume any funny business. Besides, Steyer's lived in San Francisco for a while. His sense of what goods and services cost anywhere else is probably all out of whack.
Some haters have expressed their suspicions over Govan's true motives. State Sen. Dick Harpootlian, who backs Biden, implied Steyer outright bought Govan's support, along with some earrings for his wife. It was an efficient shopping trip.
HARPOOTLIAN: He told me he was with Joe Biden until Mr. Moneybags showed up. This is what happens when billionaires get involved, whether it's Donald Trump or Tom Steyer. They just buy things. They don't have to persuade anybody, they just buy them.
Govan denies these accusations, because they're almost as embarrassing as he is. He insists he's just a guy running a legitimate consulting business and would comment more in detail later today. The Steyer campaign had no comment -- likely because it can't explain why Govan made more in a single month than anyone else on his staff. Steyer's national campaign manager, Heather Hargreaves, whose monthly salary is $15,000 a month, has a compelling argument for an immediate raise.
Steyer is a billionaire so what he paid Govan for his soul is barely cigar lighting money. However, the presidency is a public position, and it seems wrong to pay crazy private sector salaries to other public officials during your campaign. If Democrats want to promote a narrative and present an image that can defeat Donald Trump, Tom Steyer ain't helping.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."