Originally created 08/15/98

Governor's flights attacked



COLUMBIA -- Gov. David Beasley's history of accepting flights on corporate planes drew criticism again Friday as opponents questioned why no record can be found of some 1994 flights donated by a controversial Charleston businessman.

On the same day, state Attorney General Charlie Condon, a fellow Republican, referred any investigation to the State Ethics Commission for possible campaign violations.

"That would be the appropriate state entity to address the questions you have related to ethics and campaign law," Mr. Condon wrote to Sen. John Land, D-Manning, who had requested an investigation.

Mr. Condon determined there was nothing criminal to investigate, spokesman Tom Landess said.

Former financier William Gilliam said that four times the Beasley camp asked him to furnish his company's twin-engine jet.

"I was informed by the Beasley campaign that any utilization of this aircraft would be reported pursuant to the appropriate campaign laws," said Mr. Gilliam, who now lives in Colorado.

Beasley spokesman Tony Denny said he told the ethics commission Friday the current campaign would amend the old report if necessary.

"Gov. Beasley's campaign always has been honest and up front and willing to correct any paperwork errors that may have been made," he said.

But, said George Shelton, spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Hodges, "Gov. Beasley appears to believe that he is above the law."

One issue is what value should be put on the flights.

Mr. Beasley's 1994 and 1995 campaign documents list a $1,600 in-kind contribution from Mr. Gilliam's New Charleston Capital Inc. for air transportation, The (Charleston) Post and Courier reported.

Mr. Beasley's campaign said that covered September and October 1994 flights in Mr. Gilliam's Dassault Falcon 10 jet.

An official with a Columbia company that operates similar planes told newspaper that they normally are chartered for $1,500 per flight hour and $50 an hour for ground time.

At those rates, it would have cost about $4,500 alone for Mr. Beasley's Nov. 4, 1994, trip to three South Carolina cities and back to Columbia, the newspaper said.

But Mr. Denny said in-kind contributions are usually made at the lowest rate possible, and the $1,600 might have been the value assigned to all the trips.

Mr. Denny said the Nov. 4 flight was a fly-around urging people to vote Republican on Nov. 8 election and could be listed as an in-kind contribution to the state Republican Party, which would not have to be disclosed.

Though disclosing such contributions was not an issued four years ago, Republicans have made it an issue this year, challenging Democrats to disclose video poker industry contributions to that party's administrative account that could be used to help Mr. Hodges.

A Nov. 22, 1994, flight to pick up Mr. Beasley and his wife, who had attended a meeting of the Republican Governors Association at Williamsburg, Va., may not have been reported correctly because it happened after the election and bookkeepers were unsure how to classify that flight, Mr. Denny said.

"If anything, this is a case of something not being reported fully," he said.

Mr. Beasley said last month that he and his campaign would reimburse companies for more than $13,000 of free air travel during the past two years.

New Charleston Capital, now bankrupt, was fined $40,500 as part of a bribery scheme to get Mr. Gilliam a seat on the Charleston Naval Base Redevelopment Commission.

Authorities determined Mr. Gilliam was not aware of the plot.

Another Gilliam company, Marine Energy Systems Corp., sought bankruptcy reorganization after the state loaned it more than $12 million to build floating electric power plants at a Berkeley County factory.

The state, which was owed more than $14 million in principal and interest, now owns that factory.