Real Shenanigans

by Justin

I wonder if this thing will boil down to a bizarre fluke, underhanded politics, or straight up criminal manipulation.

This past Tuesday Alvin Greene, an unemployed Army veteran with no political background, won South Carolina’s Democrat nomination for the U.S. Senate. In this age of internet campaigning and the sudden celebrity possible through YouTube that kind of success isn’t all that outlandish. Mr. Greene doesn’t need the edge of sharing the name of a recently deceased long time Senator – these are strange days for traditional publicity building.

What’s remarkable, though, is that Alvin Greene produced not one advertisement, gave no speeches, and spent no more money than the $10,400 required to get your name on the ballot. The man’s nothing but a question mark and he won the Senate nomination. He has no cell phone and only checks his email two or three times a week at the local library in the 4000 strong town of Manning, S.C.  I can’t pin down, and it doesn’t seem like informed analysts can either, how he managed to wrangle 59% of the vote. His opponent, Vic Rawl, was a four-term member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and recent Circuit Court Judge with populist leanings. While still a relative unknown, he dropped some $200,000 on the campaign. Regardless, the Republican incumbent, Jim DeMint, wasn’t very likely to be threatened either way.

The theory circulating is that our man Greene is a Republican plant – placed there and pushed to victory so that the Democrats will be unable to offer a legitimate contender in November. Or maybe meant to be a candidate forsaken by the Democratic party and therefore a piece of poor publicity on several levels. I don’t see any other way this makes sense. This story is all over the news and it gets more shady the deeper you go. Here’s a quick breakdown of the weirdness with links to flesh out the details:

  • Greene is facing felony charges for showing pornography to a university student. The obscenity charge has earned repeated ‘no comment’ remarks from Greene, and comes complete with a lovely sex offender style mug shot. Why wasn’t this apparent before the election? And why would someone with that spot on their record even run? Granted, he ought to remain presumed innocent and we should all hold off on judgment. But there is actual security camera footage that makes the allegation tough to dodge. This has earned Greene plenty of ire and his newly minted celebrity name is already being dragged through the mud. Bizarrely, HuffPo writer Earl Hutchinson took the opportunity to lambaste critics and point out that many congressman have done much worse. The thing is, we don’t know much else about Greene; whatever tidbits we get will be magnified. And any time a politician faces scandal every news outlet loses its mind – why should we make an exception for the new guy? More details here.
  • Money. How does a man unemployed for 9 months, involuntarily discharged from the Army (he says honorably), drop the $10,400 to enter the running? And then drop off the grid completely? MotherJones reported that he didn’t show up to the Democratic convention in April, nor had he filed any paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. Greene has only said that he paid out of his own pocket, but declined to explain the origin of the funds – especially shady given that he’s being represented by a public defender in his obscenity case, which usually requires being well below a certain economic threshold.
  • Voter numbers. Ordinarily in SC there’s a negligible difference between absentee ballots and same-day voter turnout, but in this scenario Rawl won 80% of the absentee vote and went on to lose by 20% of the total. That’s an unprecedented difference. Maybe it lends some credence to everyone just voting for the name that came first alphabetically, or the joke being enjoyed by some South Carolinians that he was believed to be the singer Al Green. Way more detailed breakdown here (at FoxNews, no less). Conceivably a large number of Republicans got involved and voted for Greene because South Carolina has an open primary system – but a GOP campaign to encourage that would be tough to keep quiet, right?
  • The performance. Our man Greene has a Bachelors in Political Science and worked as an Intelligence Specialist at the end of his 13 year military career, and yet he doesn’t know what an indictment is. When asked about the flyers he printed and circulated he responded with “Maybe thousands. Hundreds. Maybe a hundred. I don’t know exactly.” How does a man with no team, no budget, and no evidence of having made any effort get so confused about the numbers? Responding to the pending charges of obscenity: “I’m on the not-guilty side of things. I have to be. I mean, I mean, I mean. I have no comment, I mean.” Seriously. It’s too bad to be true. A number of blogs have critiqued his televised interview as being a coached and unconvincing piece of bad acting. (I’ll weigh in on that when I’m not at work).

The third ranking House Democrat, James Clyburn, threw down (this from The Hill):

“I think there’s some federal laws being violated in this race, but I think some shenanigans are going on in South Carolina,” Clyburn explained. “Somebody gave him that $10,000 and he who took it should be investigated, and he who gave it should be investigated.”

And yesterday the defeated Vic Rawl made his concerns official (again from Fox News):

“These findings concern the campaign, and should concern all of South Carolina,” Rawl said in a press release issued late Friday. “We do not know that anything was done by anyone to tamper with Tuesday’s election, or whether there may have been innocuous machine malfunctions, and we are promoting no theories about either possibility.”

“However, we do feel that further investigation is warranted,” he said.

The whole thing is so curious. If everything’s legitimate and Greene’s election is a bizarre anomaly, then that’s incredible in its own right. The investigation into his possible crimes and the particulars of his campaign will still have been warranted out of a responsibility to the people he may represent. And if this was some scheme enacted by opposing powers, that’s interesting on a very different level and could backfire in many ways. I can’t imagine that Greene will just fade back into obscurity – both parties will try to spin this in their favor.