Democrats Are Hinting Foul Play In South Carolina Senate Primary

Alvin M Greene

Alvin Greene, who won the South Carolina Democratic primary to go up against Republican Sen. Jim DeMint. Mary Ann Chastain/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Mary Ann Chastain/AP

The news about the Democratic primary winner for the Senate in South Carolina continues to get more and more complex, if not bizarre.  So bizarre, in fact, that Rep. Jim Clyburn (D), the House majority whip, is suspicious and is calling for an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office.

Alvin Greene, an unemployed Army veteran who appeared on no one's radar leading up to Tuesday, won his party's primary to run against GOP Sen. Jim DeMint in November.  Receiving more than 100,000 votes, Greene defeated — and it wasn't even close — the party choice, former state legislator Vic Rawl.

Meanwhile, since his victory, the Associated Press has reported that Greene was arrested back in November and charged with showing obscene Internet photos to a college student.  That was too much for state Democratic chair Carol Fowler, who called on Greene to withdraw from the race.  He has refused.

It has to be among the more bizarre stories of the year.  As the AP's Meg Kinnard points out, Greene didn't raise any money and didn't have a website:  "Greene was considered such a long shot that his opponent and media didn't even bother to check his background."  If they had, she writes, "they would have discovered" the felony obscenity charge.

As to how he won the primary, that's still being debated.  The Washington Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia notes Greene never gave a speech during the campaign, never hired a consultant, didn't even plant a lawn sign.  "There's only $114 in his campaign bank account, he says, and the only check he ever wrote was to cover his filing fee."  It's not that the state's black voters decided to come out and vote for Greene, who is black.  No one knew anything about him.  The AP's Kinnard concluded, "It might come down to the simple fact that his name was listed before Rawl's on the alphabetized ballot."

Of course, nobody was, or is, going to defeat DeMint this year.  But Congressman Clyburn says that's not the point.  "There were some real shenanigans going on in the South Carolina primary," Clyburn said this morning on Bill Press' radio program.  "I don't know if he was a Republican plant; he was someone's plant."

Clyburn would love to know "whether a third party gave Greene the money for the $10,400 filing fee, a violation of federal campaign finance laws."  The congressman says that's a lot of money for someone who is unemployed.

Update at 3:45 p.m. ET. Richard Harpootlian, the former chairman of the South Carolina Democratc Party, just told All Things Considered host Melissa Block that he has questions about where Greene got the $10,400 to pay that filing fee. He said there are some "telltale signs ... that raise questions. ... I learned today that he has been appointed a public defender — which means back in November when he was arrested he filled out an affidavit of indigency. ... Yet in March he comes up with $10,400 to file for the United States Senate. ... That raises a question."

Where did the money come from?

For his part, Greene was just on Fox News Channel, telling Shephard Smith that he didn't get 60% of the vote just because his name was first on the ballot — as Hartpootlian and others have suggested — but rather because he's closer to the voters than Rawl.

Why did Greene win?

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Why did Greene win?

Much more from Melissa's conversation with Harpootlian will be on ATC later today. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.

Update at 5:30 p.m. ET:  I just got off the phone with Walter Ludwig, Vic Rawl's campaign manager, who disputes Harpootlian's contention that Rawl didn't campaign any more than Greene did.  Ludwig says the campaign traveled 20,000 miles across the state since March, made 250,000 robocalls and sent out 300,000 emails.  This still doesn't explain how Greene won the primary or answer the suspicions about how someone like Greene could afford a $10,000 filing fee; that's for another day.

For the record, if Greene drops out of the race before 3 p.m. Friday, Rawl would automatically become the nominee.  But Greene hasn't backed off from his insistence that he's in the race to stay.

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