Lt. Gov Bauer Paid From Two Taxpayer Pots

October 12, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveAs South Carolina’s lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer gets $46,545 annually for what is listed as a part-time job.

But what many people probably don’t realize is that since he was first elected in 2002 as the second highest-ranking executive branch member, Bauer has been paid thousands of dollars more in another part-time role as president of the S.C. Senate, The Nerve found in a review of state records.

As the Senate president, Bauer, who didn’t seek re-election this year as lieutenant governor so he could pursue the governor’s seat, presided over the 46-member chamber. Under the S.C. Constitution, the lieutenant governor votes on legislation in case of a tie.

Over a 2.5-year period from Jan. 1, 2008, through this past June 30, Bauer was paid a total of $27,650 as the Senate president, Senate records show. Combined with his salary as lieutenant governor, Bauer earned at least $144,000 during the period.

Of his total Senate compensation, $22,925, or 83 percent, was “subsistence” payments, according to Senate records. That money is supposed to be used to reimburse lawmakers for hotels and meals while they are on official legislative business, which generally occurs in Columbia while the Legislature is in session.

Whether Bauer really needed the subsistence payments is a matter of debate.

Lawmakers aren’t automatically given subsistence payments; instead, during the typical five-month legislative session, they request whether they want the full daily $131 payment, part of it, or none of it for being in Columbia on session days.

And they don’t have to provide any documentation detailing hotel or meal expenses, The Nerve revealed in a series of stories last week on lawmaker salaries and expenses.

In an initial interview in late September for The Nerve’s series, Bauer said he lived in Greenville County when questioned about his subsistence expenses and other Senate payments.

“I’m registered to vote in Greenville, and my driver’s license (listing a home address) is in Greenville,” he said, adding his Facebook page also lists a Greenville-area address. Greenville County property tax records list his Greer home as his legal residence since at least July 2009.

After the Sept. 27 phone interview, however, The Nerve learned that Bauer has owned a condominium at the Senate Plaza in downtown Columbia since May 2008, Richland County records show. His Senate Street condo is located less than a half mile from the State House.

Bauer owned the condo while he was receiving most of the nearly $23,000 in subsistence payments, records show.

From July 2005 through March 2006, Bauer listed Richland County as his county of residence and a Catawba Street address in Columbia as his mailing address; in the following years, he listed a Columbia post office box as his mailing address, according to his statement of economic interests forms on file with the S.C. Ethics Commission and information listed on the commission’s website.

In addition, pilot certification records dated this year with the Federal Aviation Administration show that Bauer, a licensed pilot, listed the same Columbia post office box as his mailing address.

Contacted again last week, Bauer told The Nerve that he used the Senate Plaza condo as his office for Senate business, noting that “there’s a lot of legislators who do it.”

“This subsistence is set up to offset expenses in Columbia,” Bauer said. “I get compensated for that, yes. … But I could live in hotels.”

Bauer added that he is selling his condo because he will no longer be in state office after this year.

“I wish they would pick up the tab for what it really costs here,” he said.

Besides his subsistence payments, Bauer received $4,725 in total salary as Senate president for the 2.5-year period, Senate records show. His annual salary for that job is budgeted at $1,575.

In its series of stories last week, The Nerve revealed that 26 current or former Richland or Lexington County legislators collectively received more than $500,000 in subsistence payments over the 2.5-year period, though all of them at the time were living relatively close to the state Capitol.

The payments are treated as reportable income for tax purposes for lawmakers living within 50 miles of the State House, according to House Clerk Charles Reid. Bauer’s subsistence amounts for the 2.5-year period were listed in Senate records as non-reportable.

In total, The Nerve’s analysis found that 202 current or former House and Senate members earned at least $3.8 million in subsistence payments over the period. Bauer’s subsistence expenses were included with Senate records provided to The Nerve under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

In 2006 and 2007, Bauer earned a total of $14,800 in wages for his Senate duties, according to his statements of economic interests. The source of that income was listed as “Senate finance.” No other specifics were provided.

From April 2008 through May of this year, Bauer listed a total of $24,890 in subsistence payments as personal income, the Ethics Commission records show.

An amended statement of economic interests in 2005 listed his total state salary as $54,000, though it didn’t provide a breakdown of his Senate portion. No records on him for 2003 and 2004 were available at the Ethics Commission. An agency spokeswoman last week cited state law that requires the commission to preserve reports for only four years from the date of receipt.

Bauer’s annual pay as lieutenant governor was itemized on all but one of his statements of economic interests reviewed by The Nerve. Although the position is classified as part-time for pay purposes, Bauer told The Nerve that it’s a full-time job for him.

“This job costs me a ton of money,” he said. “I’m running a $40 million agency, but the state doesn’t pick up the tab for that,” noting that “all the time I flew my airplane (on official state business) I never got reimbursed a dime.”

The total administrative costs for the lieutenant governor’s office are budgeted at $289,658 for the 2010-11 fiscal year that started July 1. The agency also administers the state Office on Aging, which has a total budget of $35.3 million for this fiscal year.

Bauer’s statements of economic interests don’t include his income from private sources. The state Legislative Manual lists Bauer’s occupation as “businessman/real estate.”

Cathy Hazelwood, the Ethics Commission lawyer, told The Nerve last week that under state law, officials have to disclose their private income only if the “filer’s employer has a contract with the filer’s governmental entity.”

“Many other jurisdictions do require full disclosure of all income received by legislators,” she said. “We’re not even close.”

Reach Brundrett at (803) 254-4411 or rick@thenerve.org.