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McMaster reports $64K in gifts, covered trip expenses in ’21

By RICK BRUNDRETT

Gov. Henry McMaster reported a collective $64,130 in gifts and covered trip expenses last year – more than half of the total funded by the Republican Governors Association, The Nerve found in a review of his latest income-disclosure report.

McMaster in 2021 received 116 gifts totaling $31,955, ranging from a $5 magazine to a $15,000 painting, according to his statement of economic interests (SEI) filed March 30 with the State Ethics Commission. In comparison, McMaster reported receiving a total of $87,695 in gifts from 2017 through 2020, as The Nerve revealed last year.

Separately, McMaster, a Republican, reported a total of $32,175 in paid or reimbursed meal, hotel and flight costs for speaking engagements last year – $30,674 of which was covered by the Republican Governors Association (RGA) for events in Charleston and Hilton Head; and in Aspen, Colo.; Napa, Calif; Nashville, Tenn.; Palm Beach, Fla.; and Phoenix, Ariz. He reported another total $3,511 in trip-related expenses, including a flight to Chicago, covered by the RGA under the gifts section of his SEI.

McMaster’s office didn’t respond to The Nerve’s written questions this week about whether he kept any of the gifts from constituents, other individuals, organizations and businesses; and how he balances his duties as governor with his RGA activities.

All but one of the listed eight RGA event dates were during the regular business week. McMaster was a member of the RGA’s Executive Committee in 2021, according to the organization’s website.

On its website, the Washington, D.C.-based RGA says it is “dedicated to one primary objective: electing, re-electing and supporting America’s Republican governors.” In January 2017, McMaster, then the lieutenant governor, became governor after former President Donald Trump selected then-Gov. Nikki Haley to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

A former two-term state attorney general and ex-chairman of the state Republican Party, McMaster was elected in 2018 to a four-year term as governor. His annual salary as governor is $106,078.

State ethics law requires public officials to annually report “anything of value” of at least $25 that they received in a day, or anything collectively valued at $200 or more accepted during a calendar year, if “there is reason to believe the donor would not give the thing of value but for” for the official’s position.

The law also bans individuals from directly or indirectly giving “anything of value” to public officials to “influence the discharge” of their official duties.

McMaster’s latest SEI lists the donor of a $15,000 “uncommissioned” painting – the single-largest reported gift in 2021 – as Mary Smith, identified as a constituent though no other specifics were given. Besides the RGA, other listed top gift givers included HMR Veterans Services, which provided a total of $3,010 in flights that included stops in El Paso and Del Rio, Texas; and Mike Hutchins, identified in the SEI as a “professional/colleague,” who provided a $1,125 round-trip flight to Myrtle Beach.

In last year’s Nerve story, Hutchins, former owner of the Frank’s Car Wash chain in South Carolina and whom McMaster appointed to the state Department of Natural Resources’ governing board, confirmed that he had provided a private plane to McMaster for a 2020 trip to Washington, D.C.

On its website, Anderson-based HMR Veterans Services says the company operates veterans homes in South Carolina, Alabama, Maryland and Texas.

Other gifts that McMaster reported receiving last year included, according to his SEI:

*$561 in “hospitality” tickets from the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism;

*$350 replica of a championship ring from Coastal Carolina University;

*$225 painting of the University of South Carolina Horseshoe, donated by ex-USC president Bob Caslen, plus a $40 certificate and folder from Caslen;

*$150 gift basket from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers;

*$125 helmet and shirt from USC head football coach Shane Beamer;

*$50 pillow donated by current interim and former longtime USC president Harris Pastides;

*$40 hat from Hugh Weathers, the state agriculture commissioner; and a

*$35 umbrella from Kevin Shwedo, the state Department of Motor Vehicles director.

McMaster received his undergraduate and law degrees from USC.

Brundrett is the news editor of The Nerve (www.thenerve.org). Contact him at 803-3948273 or rick@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @RickBrundrett. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and Twitter @thenervesc.

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