SCDOT Paid Lobbyists $1.5 Million Since 2001

Thu March 13, 2008 - Southeast Edition

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) The state Transportation Department paid lobbyists $1.5 million from 2001 through last year, according to agency records.

The state agency told The Greenville News that $963,000 of that went to a Washington, D.C., firm that employs former South Carolina Republican congressman John Napier to represent the agency before the U.S. Transportation Department and Congress.

The agency also paid $628,000 to Khare/Fowler Inc. for the lobbying services of Don Fowler, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The South Carolina Transportation Department stopped hiring lobbyists last year. A spokesman for Gov. Mark Sanford said it was because the agency was part of the governor’s cabinet and the governor signed an executive order in 2003 banning his cabinet agencies from hiring lobbyists.

“We don’t think government should be in the business of paying money to lobby for more taxpayer money,” Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said.

Former Transportation Commission Chairman Tee Hooper of Greenville said the reason lobbyists were dropped was to save money.

“It was a cost-saving measure,” Hooper said. “I think they brought some value. I don’t think they were bringing the value that they were getting paid. I think we can do, if not as good, close to as good a job as they were doing for us.”

Transportation Secretary Buck Limehouse said that dismissing the lobbyists should save the agency about $265,000 a year.