LAKE WYLIE — Curtis Loftis asked a Lake Wylie group for help watching their own money, beginning with the next month’s election.
The South Carolina treasurer’s message was clear during his talk at the Clover-Lake Wylie Republican Women’s Club meeting at River Hills Country Club: If state residents don’t demand answers on how their money is spent in Columbia, it’ll be wasted.
“Cronyism and corruption is more present in state government than I ever could have imagined,” said, “and it’s up to people like you to stop it.”
Loftis began in his current role in 2011. He’s vice chairman of the state’s Budget and Control Board, overseeing the state retirement system, insurance programs and a variety of other functions. He’s chairman of the Board of Financial Institutions, supervising mortgage originators and lenders, finance companies, payday lenders and others. He’s also investor for the Local Government Investment Pool and Future Scholar 529 Fund.
On Friday, he focused mainly on the $27 billion retirement investment fund, a pot of cash larger than the state’s operating budget. But Loftis said a lack of government transparency makes almost any line item vulnerable to abuse. He said his office travels twice as much and spends a third of what the previous administration did. Loftis touted his online calendar listing and asked the audience to demand that first-time and incumbent candidates list where they are when and what’s being spent.
“Why shouldn’t you know where I am, what I’m doing, who’s paying the bills and how much it costs?” he asked.
Peggy Upchurch, who introduced Loftis, said that type of commitment is needed in Columbia.
“Curtis is the perfect example of what we need as an elected official,” she said, “a watchdog.”
A lack of accountability with public funds costs residents money but also roads, schools and other needs, Loftis said. It also is dangerous for his party, he told the largely Republican audience, since South Carolina generally is seen as a Republican state. If abuses in spending arise and light shines on them, the Republican Party could be seen as careless with public money.
But the main reason to ask more of politicians, Loftis said, is voters are the ones who earned the money in question.
“Why wouldn’t you demand that?” he asked. “There is huge money, and it’s yours.”
Also speaking at the meeting was Philip Land, outreach director for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham. Land called for guests to take to social media in hopes of unseating red state Democrats, something he said could impact anything from subpoenas on Benghazi to the president’s health care implementation.
He also told residents asking why they don’t see more of Graham in South Carolina that the senator is doing what voters picked him to do.
“You elected him to be your representative in Washington, D.C.,” Land said. “His full-time job is in Washington, D.C.”