- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Treasurer Curtis Loftis‘ primary opponent says the first-term Republican is a hypocrite for appearing in the same kind of TV ads he hammered his predecessor on in 2010.

Brian Adams questions how Loftis can appear in Future Scholar ads when he pledged four years ago he would never do such a thing.

“It goes to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the man,” said Adams, a Spartanburg computer technology consultant. “It poses a challenge to him to rationalize how he can commit in 2010 to never running an ad like this and now he’s all over TV.”

Loftis‘ office said Monday the difference is in how a third party funded the ads.

Loftis won his first political office in 2010 partly by criticizing then-Treasurer Converse Chellis as using the college-savings program to promote himself at no cost to his campaign. In his own TV ads, he called it an example of “exactly what’s wrong with state government.”

Loftis railed against the ads then as publicly funded, though the ads were actually funded by the investment firm that managed the program. Bank of America was required to spend $692,000 yearly on marketing Future Scholars, under its state contract signed in 2001.

On his 2010 campaign website, Loftis called the ads with Chellis “self-service at its worst.” Chellis “found the holy grail of politics, free statewide television ads,” Loftis said. His release called the funding “derived from public contracts.”

Loftis signed a new management contract in 2012 with Boston-based Columbia Management Investment.

It requires Columbia Management to directly pay for marketing, as opposed to providing the money to the state to distribute. The agreement “leaves the marketing program in the private sector,” his office said in a statement. “Public funds should not be comingled with private dollars.”

That difference is also how Loftis explains withholding part of the contract. Loftis‘ office blacked out marketing sections before providing a copy to The Associated Press, initially citing “trade secrets.” But that exemption doesn’t apply under the state’s public records law. On Monday, his office called the dollar amounts proprietary, saying how the company spends its private dollars to market the state program is confidential information.

“That’s just an absurd notion,” media attorney Jay Bender said about the explanation.

Future Scholars TV ads featuring Loftis have run since at least last fall, when their airing included on the video board inside Williams-Brice Stadium.

The AP has asked Loftis‘ office for details on the ads and the contract since December, following reports that Loftis handed out iPads at more than a dozen schools. His spokesman said then the iPads were funded through a pool of money Columbia Management sets aside yearly to market the college savings plan.

Loftis, who campaigns on government transparency, hammered Chellis in 2010 using information he received through Freedom of Information Act requests to Chellis‘ office, including an un-redacted contract. Loftis‘ office has yet to respond to similar questions the AP has asked via email since Dec. 17. A formal FOIA request was submitted April 25.

Chellis‘ deputy treasurer, Scott Malyerck, said the reason his office collected the money was to put contracts through the state bidding process.

“The money to produce the commercials comes from the exact same source. No taxpayers’ dollars were ever used,” he said.

Loftis had more than $151,000 available toward his re-election bid as of March 31, according to his latest campaign disclosure report. He has a loan balance of nearly $690,000, after largely self-funding his 2010 race. Adams jumped into the race March 28. He said he entered late after realizing no one else was challenging Loftis. As in 2010, no Democrat is running for the job.


Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

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