Published December 23, 2015
The No. 3 Democrat in the U.S. House called on federal authorities Thursday to investigate how an unemployed South Carolina military veteran entered and won the state's Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.
"Here is Alvin Greene, unemployed, he goes into the Democratic headquarters and pays $10,000. That's no little bit of money for an unemployed person," House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., said. "This guy, who is he? Where did he come from?"
Greene, 32, stunned the Democratic Party establishment Tuesday night when he handily defeated Vic Rawl, a four-term state lawmaker and former judge, for the party's nomination. Rawl, who had campaigned little but already raised $186,000, was forced to scrap a fundraiser planned for Thursday night.
Greene has not reported any fundraising, run any ads, or put up signs or a website in his challenge of Republican U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint. He had been considered such a long shot that neither his opponent nor the media bothered to check his background, which includes a November arrest on a charge of felony obscenity.
"There are a number of things that are taking place in the South Carolina political process that I find suspicious," Clyburn said. "I believe there's a coordinated effort to circumvent state and federal laws and seriously subvert the electoral process. Something needs to be done."
Greene, who says he left the military last August after 13 years in the Army and Air Force, has said he paid the $10,440 filing fee by saving up two years of his service pay. On Thursday, Clyburn said he's skeptical Greene paid the fee himself and demanded that federal authorities investigate where the money came from.
Clyburn said state law makes it illegal for candidates to let someone else pay their filing fee if their candidacy is intended to damage another candidate.
Party officials asked Greene to sit out of the race after The Associated Press reported he faces a felony charge, which stems from a University of South Carolina student's complaint that he showed her a pornographic website, then talked about going to her room at a university dorm.
But Greene insists he's staying put.
"I am a legitimate candidate," Greene said Thursday, in response to questions about Clyburn's investigation request. "There's no need for it."
Arriving for interviews at a Columbia television station Thursday afternoon in a dark suit, driven in a hired car, Greene marked a stark contrast to the day before. On Wednesday, Greene greeted a reporter at his childhood home in Manning, clad in a T-shirt and sweat pants.
Greene would be required to report campaign spending to the Federal Election Commission, which regulates federal campaign finances. But the cash for the filing fee itself is given directly by candidates to the state party they wish to represent, and that money isn't subject to FEC filing requirements, officials with the agency said Thursday.
That answer doesn't satisfy Clyburn, who suspects there is more to be learned about Greene's pursuit. Clyburn also raised concerns about the possibility of a whisper campaign to encourage voters to pick the ballot's first name, which happened to be Greene's. He wants anything "untoward" in the race to be investigated.
"He's been paid to stay in it, by somebody," Clyburn said. "I just think this is a ploy by someone to dishonor and embarrass the Democratic Party."
Joel Sawyer, executive director of South Carolina's Republican Party, said Clyburn's allegations are evidence that the state's Democrats know they can't defeat DeMint.
"The Democratic Party is grasping at straws, and making absurd accusations to cover for their laughable incompetence in vetting candidates," Sawyer said. "That being said, if they're not even going to bother doing basic things like checking to see if their candidates have pending felony charges, we're feeling pretty doggone good about November already."
In Washington, the head of the committee to elect Democrats to the Senate tried to distance himself from the South Carolina primary results.
"South Carolina is not a place I'm focused on a lot," said Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "I'm simply saying the DSCC is not engaged."