Politicians’ Federal Income-Disclosure Statements Reveal More Than State Forms

March 26, 2013

Investigative Reports

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Money BinocularsFor politicians, the difference between state and federal income-disclosure forms is like comparing routine teeth cleaning to a root-canal operation.

State income-disclosure forms require information about candidates’ and officeholders’ public sources of income, such as government pay and contracts, but not private-income sources.  In contrast, federal disclosure forms require details about the private incomes and assets of federal candidates and officeholders, in addition to public income.

As an example, The Nerve compared federal and state income-disclosure forms for several sitting state lawmakers and former Gov. Mark Sanford, who were on the ballot in last Tuesday’s GOP primary election for the vacant 1st Congressional District seat.

Four S.C. legislators unsuccessfully sought the congressional seat formerly held by Tim Scott: Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley; and Reps. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston; Peter McCoy, R-Charleston; and Andy Patrick, R-Beaufort.

Federal law requires that candidates for federal office in odd-numbered years file income-disclosure forms within 30 days after qualifying for their seats if they have received or spent at least $5,000 in their respective campaigns.

For U.S. House candidates, the forms are filed with the House’s Office of the Clerk in Washington, D.C.  McCoy’s, Patrick’s and Sanford’s statements are listed on the House clerk’s website, though there were no such listings for either Grooms or Limehouse as of Monday afternoon.

A spokesman in the House clerk’s office would not confirm to The Nerve whether it had received Grooms’ or Limehouse’s statements.

McCoy’s statement shows he earned $84,000 last year with his Charleston law firm, McCoy & Stokes LLC, plus $22,400 as a state lawmaker. S.C. legislators earn a base annual salary of $10,400, plus can receive an additional $12,000 yearly in “in-district” payments, among their other taxpayer-funded benefits, The Nerve previously has reported.

U.S. House and Senate rank-and-file members receive $174,000 annually.

McCoy listed land in Fairfield County, valued between $100,001 and $250,000, as his sole investment asset, though he reported that it produced no income for him last year. The federal forms give ranges for the value of and income derived from assets.

“I don’t have multiple sources of income,” McCoy said when contacted Monday afternoon by The Nerve. “I’ve got my job, and that’s it.”

McCoy said he is one of two partners in his three-attorney law firm, which he noted practices civil, criminal, family and probate law.

Asked if it bothered him to publicly release his private income, McCoy replied, “I don’t have a problem with it.”

“You just can’t go wrong with the public knowing where your funds are coming from and where you are working,” he said.

Contacted Monday, Patrick told The Nerve that he generally supports disclosing his income, though he added that as the CEO of a security consulting firm in Hilton Head, known as Advance Point Global Inc., he couldn’t reveal the identities of his clients if bound to secrecy through non-disclosure agreements.

“As a part-time legislator, I’ve got to protect the interests of my clients, or otherwise, I wouldn’t have a job,” said the former U.S. Secret Service agent, noting his firm provides a variety of “risk-management” services.

Patrick’s income-disclosure form lists the value of his investment in his business in the range of $100,001 to $250,000, though he reported earning only $5,100 last year with his firm, along with his $22,400 legislative income.

“I’ve lost more work being a legislator than I’ve gained work,” he said with a laugh.

On his 2012 statement of economic interests filed with the State Ethics Commission, Patrick listed $15,985 in legislative salary and in-district payments for 2011, while McCoy reported a total of $22,400 in salary and in-district payments for the same period.

Neither lawmaker listed any sources of private income on their state forms filed last year. This year’s forms, which will list government income from last year, are due by April 15.

Grooms, president and CEO of a petroleum-leasing company called GTI Inc., did not respond Monday to a phone message from The Nerve seeking comment on his federal income-disclosure statement.

Limehouse, whose legislative biography lists him as a real estate broker and executive with Limehouse Properties in Charleston, told The Nerve on Monday that he “filed everything I needed to file” for the U.S. House race. He said, though, he could not immediately provide The Nerve with a copy of his federal income-disclosure statement, explaining that he would have to contact his campaign manager.

Asked if he supported a state bill (S. 338), sponsored by Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, that would require state lawmakers and other public officials to disclose most sources, though not amounts, of their private income, Limehouse replied, “I’m all for full disclosure, but we don’t want to take reporting for a citizen-legislator at the state level and make it so onerous that you have to have a lawyer and an accountant.”

“Just bear in mind that the more onerous you make it,” he added, “the more people you preclude from running for public office.”

Limehouse listed $22,400 in legislative income for 2011, according to his statement of economic interests filed last year with the State Ethics Commission. Grooms listed $22,850.88 in legislative income, $14,185 in legislative expense payments, and $5,322.92 in “fee-in-lieu-of-office” payments from Berkeley and Dorchester counties for the same period.

Neither lawmaker listed any private sources of income on their 2012 state forms.

Sanford, who served as governor from 2003 to 2011, revealed in his federal-income disclosure form that he received $130,000 last year as a Fox News contributor, plus another $61,402 in fees for serving on the boards of Lending Tree and Coastal Forest Resources.

In addition, Sanford reported another $107,510 to $285,600 in asset income last year, mainly rental and farm income from various businesses. Most of his assets were listed with three companies – Cotton Hope LLC, Sanford Land Co. and Smith Tract LLC; the reported total value of those assets ranged from $3 million to $15 million.

In his last statement of economic interests covering when he was governor, which was filed on Jan. 13, 2011, Sanford reported his $106,078 gubernatorial salary but did not list any private sources of income.

The Nerve on Monday attempted to contact Sanford; campaign spokesman Joel Sawyer responded and inquired about the story deadline, but did not call back before publication.

Reach Brundrett at (803) 254-4411 or rick@thenerve.com. Follow him on Twitter @thenerve_rick. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and on Twitter @thenervesc.