March 22, 2023

The Nerve

Where Government Gets Exposed

Moore School Match Figures Raise Questions

The NerveUniversity of South Carolina officials were beaming in late July when they announced that the Moore School of Business had not only met a five-year fundraising goal of $30 million, but surpassed it.

In 2004 USC grad Darla Moore pledged $45 million to the school, contingent upon USC raising $30 million within five years to go with $15 million put up by the university itself.

On July 31, USC President Harris Pastides told the Greenville News that the match total, $42.4 million, was a record for private investment at a South Carolina public school.

“University officials noted an unprecedented display of giving and commitment from alumni, corporate partners and individual donors over the past six months as the match deadline approached,” according to a Moore School of Business press release issued on July 31. (That release is no longer available on the university’s Web site, but can be found here.)

However, research by The Nerve shows that a good portion of the money applied to the match challenge weren’t donations, but instead payments for services provided by the business school to public entities such as state agencies and municipalities over the past five years. They include:

  • $75,000 paid to the Moore School from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources for a study to assess the impact of natural resources on the state’s economy;
  • Nearly $54,000 from the S.C. Department of Transportation for a survey done by the business school to assess public perception of state department of transportation;
  • More than $40,000 from York County for a study by the business school accessing the economic impact of extending Dave Lyles Boulevard in York and Lancaster counties.
  • More than $30,000 paid by the South Carolina Research Authority for the Moore School to assess the economic impact of SCRA, created by the General Assembly in the 1980s.

When USC spokeswoman Margaret Lamb was asked why funding from work done by the Moore School was included she replied, “The challenge match to meet Ms. Moore’s gift was set up to include and show the broad range of support for the Darla Moore School of Business. Therefore, the match includes grants in addition to private gifts that typically make up private philanthropy.”Lamb said in all cases where the Moore School receives money from outside sources, it is, by definition, counted as revenue to the University.

In all, more than $3.4 million was contributed by public entities, or more than 8 percent of the amount raised through the challenge match.

Big Government = Big Bucks

An inspection of the donation list, acquired by The Nerve through an S.C. Freedom of Information Act, shows the two biggest public donors were the U.S. Department of Education, which is listed as having contributed more than $1.9 million, and the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, which is listed as having contributed nearly $1.2 million.

The U.S. Department of Education money was in connection with a Center for International Business Education & Research grant while the Commission on Higher Education funds were designated for the Center for Manufacturing & Technology and two other projects, Lamb said.

The U.S. Department of Education and the S.C. Commission on Higher Education did not return calls from The Nerve regarding the funding.

Besides DNR, DOT and SCRA, other state agencies listed as having contributed to the Moore Challenge Match include: The S.C. Department of Commerce, $9,800; Santee Cooper, $2,500; and an entity simply described as “South Carolina State Government,” which is listed as having given $57,000.

The latter was for two state projects: “The Survey of SC’s Investor 2006; and The Economic Impact of SC,” Lamb said.

Other public entities that contributed included: South Carolina State University, which listed as having contributed $30,000; Beaufort County, $3,500; Freddie Mac, $500; Fannie Mae, $200; and Coastal Carolina University, $100.

Also, a $50,000 contribution is listed from EngenuitySC, a public-private partnership that’s received more than $2.6 million in tax dollars over the past few years.

The money from EngenuitySC was divvied up as follows: $16,665 for the Division of Research Data Clearinghouse Project and $33,335 for the Moore School of Business Entrepreneurship Fund, Lamb said.

EngenuitySC’s funding sources include the University of South Carolina and University of South Carolina Research Foundation.

There were also some contributors that, while not public entities, still raised eyebrows:

  • The USC Fraternity Council chipped in more than $34,000;
  • Columbia College gave more than $10,000;
  • The United Way added more than $7,000;
  • Some $9,000 came from “Hodges for Governor.”

In addition, one-quarter of donations earmarked for the USC Honors College for Moore School of Business scholars were put toward the challenge match.Lamb said that 23 percent of students supported with Honors College scholarships attend the Moore School, which is how the university arrived at its challenge match funding formula.

In all, the business school received 7,515 total donations over the five-year match period, including several sizeable donations from private companies and individuals. Those included the Sonoco Foundation, which has pledged $4.5 million and BlueCross and BlueShield of South Carolina, which has pledged more than $2 million.

Moore, a Lake City financier and USC trustee, gave the school $25 million in 1998, prompting USC to name its business school after her.

Six years later, she offered to donate another $45 million if the school would match it with $15 million from the institution and raise $30 million in private donations. The deadline for the matches was Aug. 3.

Lamb took pains to reiterate that “Ms. Moore had all of the funding certified by her lawyers and accountants, so all is sound.”

A Boost for Innovista

As USC completed its fundraising campaign, it announced that a new business school building would be constructed in the Innovista research campus.

Work on the new $90 million structure could start as early as 2011. It would be located on Greene Street near the Colonial Life Arena and across the street from Innovista’s Discovery I research building.

The relocation should give Innovista a much needed-boost. Innovista was originally touted as a public-private partnership but it’s gotten very little private investment since its inception.

Despite costing taxpayers more than $100 million, the research campus has just a single tenant, the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health. The venture has produced no private sector jobs.

Innovista was intended to be a center for research on hydrogen and other technologies, and a magnet for private companies building spin-off products.

Nearly four years later, Innovista’s goals remain largely unrealized as a majority of the buildings constructed can’t even be completed for lack of funds.

Interestingly, when the Moore business school campaign was announced in 2004, the goal was to gut and refurbish the business school’s existing building.

“The walls, the floor, the basic footprint will remain the same, but everything inside will be new,” said Dean Smith, then the head of the business school, in April 2004.

According to The State paper, USC looked at replacing the 300,000-square-foot Close-Hipp Building, but the cost of a new structure with the planned upgrades would have easily been twice the renovation cost, Smith said at the time.

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022 or

We need your help to continue our mission of holding government officials accountable! As part of the South Carolina Policy Council, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, we rely on donations to operate. Please consider giving today so we can keep bringing accountability to government. It’s your power, and it’s time to take it back!
The Nerve