COLUMBIA South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster has begun asking campaign contributors for permission to use their donations for his gubernatorial campaign but in a way that some say may not square with state law.
McMaster sent a letter June 23 to people who have donated to his attorney general campaign.
"I respectfully ask that you give me permission now to transfer your contribution when I become an official candidate for governor. All that is needed is your signature on the enclosed reply sheet. A postage paid envelope is enclosed for your convenience," McMaster wrote.
McMaster campaign spokesman Brad Henry confirmed today the letter was sent through McMaster's attorney general campaign.
But the state Ethics Commission's top lawyer says that kind of request has to come from McMaster's governor's race, which hasn't been announced.
"Any monies used to request a transfer of funds needs to be coming from the new statewide account, not the old statewide account," said Cathy Hazelwood, the commission's deputy director and general counsel.
"We've not set up an account because we have not announced," Henry said.
Why not open an account and do it the way Hazelwood describes? "That would be tantamount to announcing for governor, which we haven't done yet," Henry said.
Besides, Henry said, any interpretation that he'd have to request the transfer means assuming that McMaster will be running for governor. McMaster leaves little doubt about that. He cites a state law in the letter that says contributions can be transferred "at the appropriate time to our gubernatorial account when it is opened."
"I think it's people in the campaign kind of putting the cart before the horse," Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon said. McMaster's a known factor in the race even if he hasn't announced. "I'm not sure that even the most ancient Luddite in a cave in South Carolina is unaware that Henry McMaster is running for governor in 2010."