Tea party turns 5

The tea party movement turned five this week, with South Carolina supporters pointing to a cold wet gathering in Greenville where some say the first rally was held.

Half a decade later, what's clear is that the conservative rebellion movement is still alive in the state but also politically fractured. For instance, Allen Olson, a founder of the Columbia Tea Party, said he wants nothing more to do with the group.

Olson said he backed the effort when the main target was fiscal responsibility and limited government.

But he said his local chapter has since expanded its efforts to include immigration reform and other social issues - something he said led the message off the rails.

"It's not what was intended," he said.

While there are tea party groups around the state that still draw well, there have also been spin-off movements, such as the 9/12 effort started by radio and TV pundit Glenn Beck. That group's stated mission is to unite communities and bring them back to where the country was on Sept. 12, 2001, the day after the terror attacks. Several chapters are up and running in the Charleston area.

Dianne Belsom, of the Laurens Tea Party, downplayed the divisions.

"The reality is, we probably agree on at least 95 percent of things," she said.

Shutdown donations made good

During the 16-day federal government shutdown last year, hundreds of lawmakers in Congress said they'd either give up or donate their taxpayer-funded salaries to charity.

And based on a Washington Post study of the 237 lawmakers who originally said they wouldn't accept their pay, members of South Carolina's delegation apparently fared well in following through with their pledges.

Based on Post tabulations:

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston, donated $5,000 divided among the Spanish Moss Trail; Lowcountry Open Land Trust; Nemours Wildlife Foundation; the local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts; MUSC Children's Hospital; Volunteers in Medicine; ALS Association of South Carolina; Lowcountry affiliate of Susan G. Komen.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., gave $600 to US Vet Corps Resources, the Lowcountry Warrior Connection; $3,000 to Life Changers International Church in North Charleston; $1,000 to Be a Mentor in North Charleston.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., gave $4,723.46 to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Ads coming more frequently

Republican TV commercial buys are expected to increase in the coming weeks as the races start to intensify.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., ran his first TV ad last month. He's raised about $7.6 million in cash for his re-election.

One of his GOP opponents, Orangeburg attorney Bill Connor, ran an anti-Graham attack ad earlier, while another challenger, Nancy Mace, is starting out with a radio spot.

In the governor's race, outside groups are also taking to the airwaves. Television viewers in Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Columbia and Greenville this week will see an early $200,000 Republican Governors Association buy that's expected to target Democratic challenger, Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden.

Democrats say they see weakness in the fact there's a large advertising buy so early in the race.

Gov. Nikki Haley is "deeply vulnerable and clearly the RGA knows it," said Kristin Sosanie, a state Democratic Party spokeswoman.

RGA spokeswoman Gail Gitcho declined to confirm the ad buy, but she did have an opinion on Sheheen.

"Vincent Sheheen's unyielding support for ObamaCare despite warnings of the damage it would cause in South Carolina proves that his support for liberal policies are out of step with the people of his state," Gitcho said.

S.C. Democrats to stump in Berkeley

On March 15, Berkeley County's Democratic Party will hold its biannual county convention, and some of the party's biggest candidates are expected to speak.

These include Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Vincent Sheheen, U.S. Senate candidate Rick Wade, and Secretary of State candidate Ginny Deerin. Others have been invited.

The convention begins at 9 a.m. at Berkeley Middle School in Moncks Corner, and it will be followed by a fish fry (tickets to which are $7 apiece). The public is welcome.

To read more about South Carolina politics, go to http://blog.postandcourier.com/palmetto-politics.