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Sales tax: Group won't disclose source of its pennies

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Pennies for Progress, a group formed to promote an additional 1-cent sales tax in Georgetown County on the ballot last November, will not be filing any more campaign financial disclosures with the S.C. Ethics Commission.

Bill Crowther, chairman of the group, said it was no longer necessary for committees like his to file financial disclosure reports, and Pennies for Progress organizers decided to call it quits after being defeated at the polls.

The filing deadline passed last week.

Cathy Hazelwood, council for the S.C. Ethics Commission, said the definition of a committee has been found unconstitutional, and until a committee is redefined by the General Assembly, no committee, non-candidate or ballot needs to file.

Pennies for Progress reported contributions of $2,500 and expenditures of $1,397 for brochures last October in its only financial disclosure.

Thomas and Hutton Engineering of Savannah, Ga., and Mead and Hunt of Myrtle Beach each contributed $1,000. Friends of the Georgetown Library contributed the remaining $500.

The group made a concerted push in the final weeks before the election with campaign signs and advertising.

“The conclusion you can come to,” said Tom Swatzel, a political consultant and former County Council member, “is the filing wouldn’t look very good based on the lack of contributions that came in at the end or the source of those contributions.”

Stop the Tax Hike Committee, the group that campaigned against the additional penny sales tax, raised $5,600, according to the Ethics Commission report the group filed following the election. It’s largest expenditure was $1,300 for billboards. Its largest contributor was the Pawleys Island Civic Association, which gave $2,500. Linwood Altman, owner of Pawleys Island Realty, followed up with a personal contribution of $500. The remainder came from 18 donations of between $50 and $250.

The capital sales tax referendum was defeated by a vote of 15,586 to 12,831.

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