THE WANDERING EYE ‌ And So It Begins 

What would Lee Atwater do?

The Labor Day holiday weekend has for generations been the traditional start of campaign season in the American electoral cycle.

Although The Eye looks forward to this every two years with much anticipation, the mid-term elections tend to be a bit dull, with this go-around being no exception.

Sigh.

Last week, The State newspaper published details of South Carolina's Comptroller-General Richard Eckstrom's use of a state-owned fleet vehicle and gas card for a family trip to Minnesota in August of 2004.

The daily was supplied with initial details of the trip by Eckstrom's Democratic challenger Drew Theodore, son of former Lt. Gov. Nick Theodore.

A little over two weeks ago, Eckstrom cut a personal check for roughly $665 to reimburse the state for his gasoline purchases on the trip in response to inquiries from the Theodore campaign.

A little background information is in order. South Carolina's governor, lieutenant governor, seven other constitutional officers, and agency heads are provided with state fleet vehicles. They may or may not accept the use of said cars.

These officials and emergency response employees are exempt from reimbursing the state for commuting miles after normal working hours.

The nine constitutional officers are exempt also from maintaining mileage logs on their state vehicles.

So, Eckstrom did nothing wrong, legally or ethically, by using a state-owned 2002 Dodge Caravan to visit a pair of aging aunts on Lake Superior, one of whom died shortly after the trip.

Eckstrom told The State as much, "I was told there is no restriction on how constitutional officers use their vehicles."

He went on to say that he reimbursed the state for his gasoline purchases, "I don't want this to reflect on my staff."

Theodore announced that should he prevail in November 2006 he would not accept a state car but would use one for official business, "This is why I'm running, because the office is supposed to be a watchdog of government."

Yawn, thought The Eye ... is that the best this joker can do?

S.C. Sen. President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell (R-Chas) told The State that the General Assembly made the rules and that constitutional officers ought to be allowed some wiggle room when it comes to personal use of their state vehicles.

But, McConnell said, "Common sense tells me that vacations don't meet the test."

You said it, Glenn, mused The Eye. It's just like nuns said — something for nothing is always a bad idea and will land one smack dab in the bowels of hell, or in what might pass for political exile.

Gov. Mark Sanford, who counts Eckstrom as a close political ally, chose to stay out of the debate and by-the-by, has not accepted a state vehicle.

His press monkey Joel Sawyer commented, "The governor has been a long-standing steward of taxpayer dollars. It's a shame that the timing smells of politics."

Geez Louise, this dope is as bad as Theodore, rhetoric-wise.

Eckstrom, according to his spokesmodel Rod Shealy, actually saved South Carolinians $10,000 by accepting an older surplus 1998 Crown Victoria rather than a new sled.

Eckstrom said, "It's a car the state wouldn't use. When it rains, it gets a musty smell. The trunk leaks a bit. The floor mats have oil spots."

Oh, the sacrifice of public service, having to drive the same car as the proles!

The Eye would be willing to bet that even though the meanest man of politics ever apologized to his rivals before his death, S.C.'s own Lee Atwater would still be shaking his head at this bunch of chumps and their feeble attempts to generate buzz.


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