COLUMBIA - Lee Bright, a state senator who is running for the U.S. Senate, is reporting at least $1.4 million in debt, according to financial disclosure documents. The long-delayed personal financial disclosure form was filed this week and lists Bright's debts in ranges, not precise amounts. The documents show Bright's debts could total as much as $3.1 million. A copy was obtained by The State newspaper . Bright said a large portion of the debt comes from his failed trucking business, including loans to himself and two other shareholders in On Time Trucking Inc. He said he will likely pay that off last. He also said he wasn't sure he needed to report all of his business debt.
"I may be disclosing more than I have to, but I would rather be transparent," Bright said.
Bright is one of four challengers that have announced to run against U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in June's Republican primary.
Bright asked for at least two extensions to file his disclosure form. It wasn't expected to be a rosy report. News that his trucking firm was failing has been around for years, and the Republican state senator from Spartanburg County talks about his financial struggles in his speeches, blaming federal rules and regulations, including those dealing with workers' compensation, for making it almost impossible for a small business like his to thrive.
He also put a post on his blog explaining that the final blow was having to follow stricter environmental regulations on diesel engines.
"In business you make many decisions. Sometimes they turn out to be smart and sometimes they go sour," Bright wrote. "Of course, I take full responsibility for the decisions I made but, if you're not directly involved in the private sector, you may not realize exactly what our government - federal, state and local - is doing to American business."
In the disclosure, Bright has 29 separate liabilities. They include two mortgages, a 401K loan, 13 promissory notes and $10,000 to $15,000 owed on a Discover credit card.
Bright's chief income during the past two years is $42,800 in salary and benefits as a state senator. He also made about that much from a business development company and a contract labor deal. Bright also disclosed his wife made more than $1,000 from giving piano lessons.
Two of Graham's other challengers appear to be in much better financial shape. Orangeburg County attorney Bill Connor hasn't filed a disclosure form because he entered the race later.
Lowcountry businesswoman Nancy Mace reported making over $200,000 from her marketing firm The Mace Group in the 20 months before she filed her disclosure form in September. She also reported she made $1,040 from sales of her book "In the Company of Men," which told the story about how she became the first female graduate from The Citadel.
Mace also reported receiving $18,000 for her stake in FITS News, a conservative gossip website whose founder may be best known for accusing the governor of an affair, an allegation she has vehemently denied.
Mace reported no debts.
Anderson businessman Richard Cash reported making more than $70,000 in a year from his ice-cream truck business and a used car lot. He also reported assets and dividends from a number of investments. His only listed debt was a mortgage of less than $15,000.
The only debts listed on Graham's report are mortgages on a rental property in Washington and his primary residence in Seneca.