South Carolina Legislature Earmarks $300K to Nonprofit Run by County Employee

Corruption in state government

South Carolina Legislature Earmarks $300K to Nonprofit Run by County Employee

A $300,000 slice of South Carolina’s budget has been earmarked to the Jeffrey and Harriet Lampkin Foundation, a nonprofit organization run by Jeffrey Lampkin, public information officer for the Richland County Coroner’s Office, and his wife, Sumter lawyer Harriet Lampkin. The appropriation was approved by both chambers of the state legislature and is now pending Governor Henry McMaster’s signature.

Remaining Transparent amid Sparse Details

The intended application of these funds remains vaguely outlined, explained only through a handful of sentences: to counteract food insecurity and sustain an arts camp effort. The request was tendered by Kevin Johnson, Democratic senator of Clarendon County, yet the accompanying documentation failed to provide more comprehensive insight into the project’s scope. Both Johnson and Fawn Pedalino, Republican representative of Clarendon County who supported the funding, vouched for the positive impact of Lampkin’s work within his community. However, the nature of this potential funding for a nonprofit with no website and <$50,000 in revenue has elicited fresh questions surrounding South Carolina’s earmark system.

Earmarks: Essential Funding or Opaque System?

Earmarks, alternatively referred to as community investment projects, channel state funds directly to projects advocated by individual lawmakers outside of public budget procedure hearings. The earmarks are passed directly to the entities administering the project, devoid of typical state agencies’ scrutiny, sparking debates about their transparency.

Supporters of the earmark system claim its necessity for funding small, beneficial projects vital to the state, while critics decry the potential for wasteful spending and backroom wheeling and dealing. In an effort to boost transparency, legislative rules were altered following The State’s 2021 series on earmarks; lawmakers must now submit request forms for earmarks, complete with a justification and additional supporting documents.

Where is the Money Heading?

Jeffrey Lampkin has worn many hats throughout his career; former contestant on American Idol, host of a talk show on a Columbia-area TV station, leader of several gospel choirs, and owner-operator of the Country Boy Kitchen, a soul food joint in Sumter. Alongside his duties at the Richland County Coroner’s Office, Lampkin also serves as the public information officer for his wife’s law firm.

The earmarked funds will go toward a project titled “Food Insecurity/Summer Camp.” Addressing food insecurity in Clarendon, Sumter, and Lee Counties and creating artistic opportunities for rural youth are listed as goals for this initiative. Senator Johnson highlighted the identified need for addressing child food insecurity during school recess. He confirmed that this program was not associated with Lampkin’s restaurants.

Questions Surrounding the Earmarks Continues

Both Jeffrey and Harriet Lampkin have significantly contributed to their community, launching initiatives such as clothing drives, turkey giveaways for Thanksgiving, toy distributions during Christmas, and an arts summer camp. However, public questions remain about the opaque nature of earmarked funding, particularly in cases where the recipient provides little information about their activities or finances, such as in this case. As this debate continues, the role and transparency of earmarks within South Carolina’s political landscape remain under scrutiny.

South Carolina Legislature Earmarks $300K to Nonprofit Run by County Employee

Author: HERE Irmo

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