John Crangle Says More Arrests Likely
Online records show the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber used $60K in tourism tax dollars to pay money launderer accused by Solicitor Pascoe.
S.C. Representative Jim Merrill was indicted this past week on 30 counts of ethics violations by S.C. Special Prosecutor David Pascoe. Pascoe told a judge that S.C. Representative Jim Merrill’s case involves taking money at the same time he was acting as a lawmaker.
As reported by the S.C. Post and Courier: Another area Pascoe mentioned as he listed some of his evidence is an alleged money-laundering scheme involving Merrill, his business, and his brother John Denver Merrill’s company Pluff Mud LLC. Pascoe said $148,693.27 was laundered to Merrill from the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to influence budget dollars appropriated from parks, recreation and tourism-related subcommittee Merrill chaired. “(It was) then laundered back to his company, every penny, even down to the 27 cents,” Pascoe said.
The Post and Courier reports: Pascoe’s comment came as a Richland County judge set a $146,000 personal recognizance bond for Merrill, R-Charleston, in his first court appearance since he was hit with 30 ethics-related charges last week. Merrill faces a maximum 65 years in prison if convicted.
Records pulled by MyrtleBeachSC.com show that Pluff Mud Public Affairs was also paid $60,031.00 of TDF (Tourism Development Fees) tax monies by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. These TDF funds are paid by tourists who purchase goods and services inside the city limits of Myrtle Beach. The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber gets over $25 million annually in TDF funding from the city of Myrtle Beach. Laws that are written by the S.C. General Assembly indicates these funds can only be used for out of market advertising. All of the transaction registry entries online show that tax dollars were paid by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber to Pluff Mud. These entries were listed as “Research”, “Regional Tourism Research”, or “Market Research – Holiday Travel” by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber registry.
We reached out to Brad Dean of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber by text, email, and phone as to an explanation of these payments to Pluff Mud owned by John Denver Merrill, the brother of indicted Assemblyman Jim Merrill. Mr. Dean did not return our call, texts, nor emails.
We reached out to Myrtle Beach City Councilmen Wayne Gray, Randal Wallace, Mike Lowder, and Mayor John Rhodes. We also texted Mayor John Rhodes. As of this date, none have returned our emails nor texts to explain these payments.
MyrtleBeachSC.com has been made aware that detailed registry records of these TDF fund payments are on file with Solicitor David Pascoe.
Said Skip Hoagland, an S.C. Chamber of Commerce watchdog, “ [This is] just the tip of the iceberg. All the theft of our public monies, members dues, violations to SC laws, all the corruption connected to Chambers CVbs DMOs is coming to an end. Brad Dean has made the top 5 list. Add Bill Miles Hiltonhead, Helen Hill Charleston, Ted Pitts SC Chamber, Blakely Williams Beaufort, the executive director employees of our largest tourism Chambers and State chamber. They all could not be any more crooked. Again once a deep investigation and forensic audit are complete, prison will be the result, like Palm beach CVB.”
“They (lawmakers) put pressure on special interests to give the caucuses money and the next thing you know the money is converted into (campaign) fund money,” said John Crangle, executive director of government watchdog group Common Cause of South Carolina. Crangle indicated that, while it was likely Merrill will fight the matter, it is just as likely that he could flip and turn on others. Records now show these others include members of the General Assembly, as well as Brad Dean, President of the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce and CVB, as well as the Charleston CVB.
EDITORS NOTE: As a community courtesy, MyrtleBeachSC.com did make WPDE, WBTW and WMBFnews aware of our findings of TDF payments from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber to Pluff Mud Media Affairs. Each of the corporations who own these media outlets receive millions from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber annually. As of this publication no local media outlet has chosen to cover any articles concerning the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber used $60K in tourism tax dollars to pay money launderer with accused connections to former Representative Jim Merril.