by Paul Bowers
On Friday, a Charleston County Democratic leader criticized Republican County Council candidate Thomas Legare for failing to file campaign disclosures with the S.C. Ethics Commission in time for the Republican primary. On Sunday, Legare finally filed the disclosures online — five days after the primary.
According to Legare, it was an honest mistake. He says he tried to file his state-mandated campaign finance disclosure and statement of economic interests on March 30, but he accidentally hit the "Save" button instead of the "File" button at the end. "That was a mistake, but mistakes happen," Legare says. "Everybody makes mistakes on computers."
Legare, co-owner of Legare Farms on Johns Island, says he may have made the mistake because he was attempting to file online with his iPhone. He says he does not own a computer.
Charleston County Democratic Party Chairman Brady Quirk-Garvan had strong words for Legare on Friday, writing the following in a press release:
If the Ethics Commission is correct, this is about as blatant disregard of the law as I've seen in a while. Mr. Legare is clearly hiding something, doesn't think the law applies to him, or both. Whatever his reasoning, we have enough outlaws in politics and don't need one more.
Voters have the right to know if a candidate has conflicts of interest and who is funding their campaign. Not only is Mr. Legare violating the law, he's showing a lack of respect for the voters in District 8. If Mr. Legare can't file a simple ethics form, how can he ask voters to trust him?
But now that Legare's paperwork is in order, it reveals ... a whole lot of nothing. Legare lists $700 worth of contributions from three contributors and $590 worth of expenditures for radio advertising. His statement of economic interests lists no conflicts of interest, despite the fact that County Council has taken up the issue of whether to create a conservation easement on the 314-acre Legare Farms property in the past.
Legare won the Republican primary June 10, and he will face Democratic District 8 incumbent Anna Johnson in the general election in November. Legare previously challenged Johnson in the 2010 election and lost, and he is currently criticizing Johnson for being a swing voter on a 2012 County Council decision that allowed the extension of I-526 across rural Johns Island. Johnson had campaigned on a promise that she would oppose the highway extension, and Legare and other members of the Nix 526 crowd have been taking her to task for breaking that promise.
Legare says he thinks the Democrats came after him for his late filing because they're afraid Councilwoman Johnson could lose her position.
"People are mad at Anna Johnson because she told them one thing and voted the other way. She lied to her constituents and changed her vote on it," Legare says. "There is some resentment and there are a lot of people who are mad about that, and I think that's one reason we saw a lot of nontraditional Republicans getting out and voting in the Republican primary for me."