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Probe urged to target Hunley finances - McConnell rival raises questions

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Postby TMSmalley » Mon Oct 11, 2004 10:58 am

Group calls for probe into Hunley project's finances

The government watchdog group Common Cause is asking Attorney General Henry McMaster to look into the finances of the H.L. Hunley project.

"There's something fishy about it," executive director John Crangle said.

Questions have been raised about spending, many by Charleston attorney Justin Kahn, the Democrat opposing state Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, in next month's election.

McConnell chairs the South Carolina Hunley Commission overseeing the preservation of the Hunley, the Confederate submarine that was the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship.

Common Cause wants to know if Friends of the Hunley, a group supporting the effort, is subject to the Freedom of Information Act. It also is asking whether income from the
project should go to the state general fund instead of the Hunley project.

Friends of the Hunley provided documents requested by The (Columbia) State. The documents show the group paid more than $277,000 to Richard Quinn and Associates of Columbia to market the Hunley. Quinn also does work for McConnell's re-election campaign.

McConnell said the marketing justified its costs. Quinn said more than 200,000 people have toured the North Charleston lab where the sub is being preserved.

Documents and campaign records show Friends of the Hunley paid former board member Mark Ragan $70,000 to research and write a Hunley book but did not put the work up for bid.

Raegan Quinn with Richard Quinn and Associates said Thursday the book was not put up for bid because author Clive Cussler gave $40,000 to Friends of the Hunley specifically for Ragan to write it.

"It was a very comprehensive analysis. Believe me, I did a lot more than $40,000 worth of work," Ragan said of the research. The book has been finished but not published. McConnell said Ragan was qualified because he already had written about the sub.

Records also show Burroughs & Chapin Co. and two of its executives have given $2,250 to McConnell's campaign. The company recently opened an interactive Hunley exhibit at Broadway at the Beach, which guarantees a donation each year for the Hunley project.

The contributions were unrelated and were "given in support of candidates who are good for South Carolina," company spokesman Pat Dowling said.

McConnell said the deal is good for the Hunley and taxpayers.

"They could have built it without paying us one nickel or dime."


SAME STORY FROM THE AP ===
The Associated Press


CHARLESTON - The government watchdog group Common Cause is asking S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster to look into the finances of the H.L. Hunley project.

"There's something fishy about it," executive director John Crangle said.

Questions have been raised about spending, many by Charleston lawyer Justin Kahn, the Democrat opposing state Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, in next month's election.

McConnell is chairman of the S.C. Hunley Commission overseeing the preservation of the Confederate submarine.

Common Cause wants to know if Friends of the Hunley, a group supporting the effort, is subject to the Freedom of Information Act. It also is asking whether income from the project should go to the state general fund.

Although not required to do so, Friends of the Hunley provided
documents requested by The (Columbia) State.

The documents show the group paid more than $277,000 to Richard Quinn and Associates of Columbia to market of the Hunley. Quinn also does work for McConnell's re-election campaign.

McConnell said the marketing justified its costs.

###
Tim Smalley
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Postby TMSmalley » Sat Oct 23, 2004 11:05 am

Let's not sink the `Hunley' again

By ED MCMULLEN

Guest columnist From "The State".


Only a couple of years after its historic raising — which brought
positive international attention to our state — the world's
first
successful combat submarine is under attack again. The Hunley
project has been assailed by a Lowcountry political candidate who is
using misinformation to score points against his opponent.
Unfortunately, those allegations have also been reported by the
media.

The scrutiny of the Hunley project is not really about mismanagement
or lack of success. The opposite is true. It is a well-managed
project that has brought millions of dollars into our economy,
revitalized a naval base, won national awards and developed new
technology. Currently, it is also almost entirely supported by
private donations — with the exception of security service, the
Hunley project has not received any state money since 2001. Even
federal dollars make up only around 25 percent of this year's
budget.

The negative focus on the Hunley project is a political swipe at
Sen. Glenn McConnell of Charleston, who serves as chairman of the
Hunley Commission. The commission was authorized by state law to
oversee the recovery and conservation of the Hunley in 1996 "to
ensure that the submarine... remain in South Carolina in perpetuity
and (that it be) displayed in an appropriate manner for the benefit
of future generations."

Under this broad authority the commission formed a nonprofit
foundation called Friends of the Hunley to help achieve its mission.
That decision reflects a positive trend in government toward public-
private partnerships, and it has proven very successful for the
Hunley.

Sen. McConnell, a strong supporter of government accountability and
fiscal responsibility, should be thanked for his ardent support of
the submarine. It would cost our state a fortune to buy the kind of
positive exposure that the Hunley has generated in news reports,
magazines and even television specials.

Because of that widespread attention, almost a quarter of a million
people from all 50 states and 20 countries have visited our state to
see the submarine.

The Hunley is a public-private partnership that works — exactly
the
kind of measure that taxpayers want more of. Many public agencies in
South Carolina, including universities and a variety of service
programs, have formed private foundations to help raise private
dollars to supplement public funding. That arrangement takes
pressure off taxpayers to foot the whole bill, and still allows
worthy projects and institutions to be viable.

Contrary to hints in news reports, there is no lack of
accountability on the Hunley. Public funds appropriated to the
project are based on detailed budgets approved by federal or state
authorities. The Hunley project's financial records are also
examined regularly by an independent auditing firm. Those audits are
filed with the S.C. secretary of state's office and available for
inspection.

There is nothing improper or imprudent about putting private money
raised for the Hunley back into the exhibit rather than sending it
to Columbia. It makes no sense to put dollars raised by a charity
for the Hunley's preservation and study into the general fund,
where
they could be used for other purposes.

The State's editorial suggests that Parks, Recreation and Tourism
should manage the Hunley. But in fact, revenues collected at our
state's parks are not deposited in the general fund. Rather, they
are retained by PRT to support our parks. Funds raised by the
Friends of the Hunley should not be treated any differently.

A headline in The State said "Hunley money, like the Hunley
itself,
belongs to the state." Actually, the Hunley remains the property
of
the federal government on permanent loan to the state. Sen.
McConnell was wise to add a provision to the agreement specifying
that funds raised to support the Hunley must remain in South
Carolina. Otherwise the federal government could attempt to lay
claim to Hunley revenues.

Taxpayers should be grateful to Sen. McConnell, the Hunley
Commission, Friends of the Hunley and the hundreds of volunteers who
have worked to make the Hunley a success while minimizing the burden
on taxpayers. We should encourage more private assistance projects
that benefit taxpayers instead of discouraging volunteers and
contributors who want to support a worthwhile project.

Now that we've finally saved the Hunley, let's not sink it
again.

Mr. McMullen is president of the South Carolina Policy Council.
Tim Smalley
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