Fact-checking the attacks against Senator Martin


There's a new attack ad on the air by the "Liber-Tea Committee", taking more shots at the record of Pickens County Senator Larry Martin on behalf of former State Representative Rex Rice, who is attempting to return to the political arena after losing badly in a 2010 bid for the GOP nomination for Congress.

The attack ad makes two claims about Senator Martin - legislative travel expenditures and a bill which created a legislative pension for legislators over the age of seventy. In examining the facts behind both claims, what was turned up brings the credibility of the ad into question.

The fact-check on this ad will be a bit lengthy and it was a challenge to assemble, but we think the facts speak for themselves. Here's what we found:

LEGISLATIVE TRAVEL: The commercial opens with a claim that Senator Martin was a "Top Spender". We're not sure how being ranked number seven gets called "Top", but it's a stretch.

We found a story in the Anderson Independent-Mail from 2009 which reported that Senator Martin ranked seventh of forty-six senators for travel expenses for the year 2008, charging $14,460 that year. Senator Kevin Bryant next door in Anderson County, much lower in seniority, charged nearly as much that year - $12,732 - but we don't see him drawing any fire for it.

It's 124 miles from Pickens to the State Capitol, or 248 miles per round trip. In 2009, the standard milage rate was .55/mile for business trips, meaning any trip to and from the state house would normally be reimbursed roughly $136. As many legislators make at least two round-trips each session to deal with business and family members back home, two round trips a week during the regular session could run well over $5,000, not counting additional trips that more senior legislators make when the legislature is not in session. Add a conference, federal lawsuits, or anything else and travel costs mount quickly.

I'm not even in the Legislature and my work-related mileage and travel-related expenses weren't much lower than this figure. Those who spend a lot of time on the road in the private sector can easily rack up mileage travel expenses this big and bigger.

By the way, senior Judiciary Committee members end up in lots of lawsuits and hearings these days. Just look at how much time was spent in federal courtrooms out of state over redistricting and Voter ID.

LEGISLATIVE PENSIONS: Eight seconds into the commercial, the announcer refers to a "taxpayer funded pension for career politicians" and claims: "The Senate Journal says that Martin didn't vote for it once, but 5 times" We couldn't find records where Martin cast a recorded vote for the bill. All votes were assumed to have taken place.

In looking into Senate Bill S.852, roll call votes were never taken on any of the five dates named in the ad and most actions taken by the Senate were procedural moves.

Senate Bill 852 was described as:

"A BILL TO AMEND SECTION 12-44-30, AS AMENDED, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO DEFINITIONS FOR PURPOSES OF THE FEE IN LIEU OF TAX SIMPLIFICATION ACT, SO AS TO INCREASE THE EXTENSION ALLOWED IN THE INVESTMENT PERIOD FROM TWO TO FIVE YEARS; AND TO AMEND SECTION 12-44-90, RELATING TO THE FILING REQUIREMENTS UNDER THE FEE IN LIEU OF TAX SIMPLIFICATION ACT, SO AS TO ALLOW THE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE TO GRANT A MAXIMUM SIXTY-DAY EXTENSION FOR FILING RETURNS AND TO PROVIDE THE REQUIREMENTS TO OBTAIN THE EXTENSION." 

Further, in reviewing the language of the initial bill, of which Senator Martin was a co-sponsor, the bill just addressed specific changes to Fee-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes, an industrial economic development program. However, legislators soon descended upon the bill in both chambers, stacking a series of amendments that covered a broad range of topics - one of which was the legislative pension item, which was NOT in the original bill which Marin agreed to co-sponsor.

Jan. 9 - Senate Journal shows no roll call vote on S.852. On this date, bill was "Read the first time and referred to the Committee on Finance." - a standard legislative procedure to ensure bills received any opportunity to be discussed and reviewed.


  • First, there was (U)nanimous consent to take Senate Amendment No. 5 up for immediate consideration", which is simply permission to move forward with an amendment.
  • Then there were a series of amendments proposed, most notably The section which created the legislative pension provision was inserted in an amendment by Senator Moore on May 16:

    "(3) A member who has attained the age of seventy and one-half years and has twenty-five years of service or who has attained the age of 70 or has 30 years of service may retire and draw a retirement benefit while continuing to serve in the General Assembly upon written application to the board setting forth at what time, not more than ninety days before nor more than six months after the execution and filing of the application, the member desires to be retired. A member who has retired under this provision shall make no further contributions to the system, shall earn no further service credit, and may not reenter membership in the system."

    The record simply says "The amendment was adopted. There being no further amendments, the Bill was ordered sent to the House with amendments." No record of a roll call vote, so nobody knows who supported Moore's amendment, opposed it or who wasn't there.

May 19 - Senate Journal shows no roll call vote on S.852. Senators did ask for a conference committee on the legislation:
The Senate insisted upon its amendments to S. 852 and asked for a Committee of Conference.

Whereupon, Senators LEATHERMAN, HAYES and MOORE were appointed to the Committee of Conference on the part of the Senate and a message was sent to the House accordingly. 

  • PROCEDURAL MOTION: With Senator RYBERG retaining the floor, Senator LEATHERMAN asked unanimous consent to make a motion to take up S. 852 for immediate consideration. There was no objection.
  • ASSUMED VOTE: Senator RYBERG desired to be recorded as voting against the adoption of the Free Conference Report on S. 852.

Such a bill puts legislators in a tough spot - load a bill up with provisions that address a wide range of topics and affect a wide range of constituents and they're forced to vote for it or kill the entire thing a and take the heat.. Specific items which were added to this bill addressed bingo operations, tax deductions for contributions into the state pre-paid college tuition fund, late penalties by local governments for late payment of sales taxes by businesses - and the legislative pension loophole that ended up being thirteen lines out of thirty-six pages.

In any event, the only thing which can be conclusively established is that Martin co-sponsored a bill that made no mention of legislators or pensions at the time he signed on to it and that he was present at some point on each of the days the Senate took action on the bill. But anyone who spends time at the State House knows Senators come and go to meetings and appointments, so it's hard to establish who is where and when at any given point of the day.

Since Senator Martin voted for H3004 last year, which instituted recorded roll call votes, votes that he does - or doesn't - cast in the future will be on the record. Hardly the action of someone who wants to keep their record out of the public eye (that's more transparency than the group which is running the ad is offering).


In the future, legislators need to enact limits upon the practice of bobtailing legislation so legislators and citizens alike have a clear understanding of who did what and why.

Given Rex Rice's record of sponsoring bill after bill calling for new taxes to benefit new government programs, filed year after year UNTIL the year he was running for Congress, it's hard to see how anyone could call Rice a "conservative", but considering how the facts about Martin's record were distorted, maybe it's not so tough to brush Rice's tax-and-spend leadership role under the rug.

Senator Martin has responded by going on the air with an ad explaining motives behind the attacks and giving out his personal cell phone number, asking viewers to contact him directly to discuss the claims which are being made. That seems like a fair request and we hope those who see the Liber-Tea ad will consider the facts presented above, write down the Senator's number and give Senator Martin a chance to explain his side on these matters.

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