Report Says Media Paid Kickbacks to Myrtle Beach Chamber
News reports from a Columbia, SC online news organization states evidence it has obtained that the SC Department of Revenue is looking into alleged paid kickbacks to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce from corporate media.
The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber receives over $25 million annually in a 1% tax charged in the city to all tourists and locals on purchases. By state law, these monies can not go into the general funds of the Chamber of Commerce. They must be used explicitly for “out of market” advertising. These funds often go to the corporate heads of local media that include: WBTW CBS (Nexstar Corporation – formerly Media General), WPDE ABC 15 (Sinclair Broadcasting Corporation), WMBFnews (Raycom Corporation), WRNN and associated radio stations (Alpha Media Corporation).
Newsgroup FitsNews reports the S.C. D.O.R. has been made aware some media concerns are paying the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber 20% in kickbacks once they receive millions annually in 1% tax monies. These kickbacks then go into the Chamber of Commerce’s general funds or one of the Chamber’s four Political Action Committees. Those kickback funds are then unencumbered from any advertising expenditure rules. The Chamber of Commerce can then spend these funds as it chooses. If found true, this process would amount to money laundering under current state and federal statutes.
MyrtleBeachSC.com has reported ongoing about concerns that many of these local station managers have sat and continue to sit on the board of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. WMBFnews’ previous manager, Ted Fortenberry, went as far as holding the highest possible Chamber board position, Chamber of Commerce Board Of Directors President.
While no public audit has ever been done on the Chamber of Commerce’s tourism tax expenditures, estimates are that corporate media purchases run in the millions annually. If the funds amounted to only $1 million per station corporate parent annually, the kickbacks from the four corporations above would amount to $800,000.00 annually. A cursory online examination of expenditures shows those figures to be extremely conservative. Estimates MyrtleBeachSC.com were given indicate the kickbacks could be as much as $1.8 million. Those numbers, however, are estimated upon the gross of all funds paid to local media corporations. Those estimates assume that all corporations are paying the 20% kickback. Only an S.C. D.O.R. investigation can determine who is and who is not paying kickbacks, if any at all. MyrtleBeachSC.com has no documentation showing any corporate media concerns are paying these. Reports of such have only been made public by Fitsnews to date.
Such is the problem. Through laws written and sponsored by S.C. legislators, including Senator Luke Rankin and Assemblyman Alan Clemmons, no statewide audit of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber’s spending of 1% tourism tax dollars is required. In short, laws were written to ensure that no state nor local government agency would be minding the store.
The Fitsnews report states, “In my mind, the only way to put these concerns to rest is to conduct a forensic audit on some of the most suspect agencies,” the author added, specifically requesting that such an audit be conducted on the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (MBACC). MyrtleBeachSC.com is highly doubtful the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber could conduct an honest audit on itself. We would hope that those we elected would ensure such an audit occurred on a state level by a credible government agency.
As an aside, when our story was being prepared for publishing, it was noted that the source of our story was an online watchdog news source. In the era of ongoing claims of “Fake News” touted by mainstream media, members of our team questioned such sourcing. The question was then asked if any of the mainstream media corporations in our area would ever consider running this news story “outing” themselves.
Local reporting, by locally owned news organizations, remain unencumbered from suspicious alliances like those found in corporate media. The numbers of locally owned news organizations continue to decrease in the landscape of corporate owned everything.
Read more on the trend towards Media Kickbacks Nationally.