All sorts of seediness is shaking out of the public corruption trial of Jonathan Pinson, former business partner of Mayor Steve Benjamin and former S.C. State University trustee. A witness testified Wednesday about a business trip on which Benjamin, already Columbia’s mayor at the time, accompanied Pinson to Florida. The witness alleged the two married men visited a strip club and later took two of the dancers back to their hotel room for the evening, WIS reports.
Wednesday proved to be an historic one for the South Carolina Senate, as it elected two new leaders, immediately elevating one to lieutenant governor in order to make room for Hugh Leatherman, already the Senate’s most powerful member as Senate Finance Committee chairman, to be elected its president pro tempore. But before the senators voted, Sen. Shane Massey of Darlington took the floor to inveigh against selecting Leatherman, his fellow Republican, saying the Florence senator’s consolidation of leadership roles would endanger the body and the state. Then Massey claimed Leatherman had orchestrated a coup that in recent weeks compelled Sen. John Courson to resign as president pro tempore so as to avoid ascending to the largely powerless lieutenant governor’s office, filling that unwanted position with Sen. Yancey McGill, a Kingstree Democrat nearing retirement, and then locking down the votes to make himself president pro tempore for the foreseeable future. Yes, it’s complicated.
Meanwhile, the bill that would bolster College of Charleston to become the state’s third major research university and that led to the recent Senate power struggle has died, The State reports. Former Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, the college’s incoming president, tried to ram the bill through the Senate several weeks ago without allowing for normal debate, but when Sen. John Courson stood him down, McConnell threatened to leave the lieutenant governor’s office, compelling Courson either to resign as president pro tempore or ascend to the lieutenant governor’s office. Courson chose the former.
For yet another year, state legislators appear unlikely to pass an ethics reform bill. The Senate is expected to resume debate of the issue today, but Sen. Lee Bright, who has strange concerns about First Amendment infringement, also is expected to filibuster it.