Updated: 5:07 p.m.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn wants state and federal authorities to probe whether South Carolina Senate nominee Alvin Greene and Clyburn’s primary challenger, Gregory Brown, were recruited and funded as plants in the state’s Democratic primary.
Working with South Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Fowler, Clyburn, who handily bested Brown in Tuesday’s primary, said Thursday that he is calling on the U.S. attorney’s office as well as state and local officials to investigate a pattern of trying to “subvert the democratic process” to influence the outcome of the Tuesday election.
“I am particularly concerned about this issue because it is very clear to me during my campaign over the last two weeks that something was going on in South Carolina that was untoward,” Clyburn told reporters on a conference call.
Clyburn stopped short of saying he believed Republicans could be behind any shenanigans that might have gone on, but he said he was immediately suspicious when he first learned on June 4 that Greene, an African-American whom he’d never heard of, was seeking the Senate nomination. The more Clyburn said he learned about Greene, an unemployed political unknown who shocked the party establishment when he seized the nomination to face off against GOP Sen. Jim DeMint in November, the more convinced he said he was that something was amiss.
The Majority Whip urged law enforcement officials to investigate where Greene got the money to pay the $10,400 filing fee to enter the race and mount a last-minute bid.
“An unemployed person who has very little knowledge of what the duties are of a United States Senator … that’s suspicious enough for anybody to be concerned about where this money came from,” Clyburn said.
Clyburn said he also wanted authorities to investigate the source of Brown’s campaign funds. He noted that Brown has not reported that information to the Federal Election Commission — even though he ran television and radio ads — and suggested that Brown and Greene might have the same benefactor.
“There’s somebody, somewhere subverting the entire process in the Democratic primary,” Clyburn said.
He vowed to do everything in his power to disqualify Greene from the race and remove his name from the ballot. He also vowed not to vote for Greene in November if he remains the candidate, saying he would like to see another Democrat mount a write-in campaign.
“If he stays on the ticket, I’m going to write somebody in,” Clyburn said.
So far, Greene has not shown any indication that he will step aside.
Clyburn said the events surrounding Tuesday’s primary were eerily similar to a 1990 case in which a Republican party operative recruited Benjamin Hunt Jr., a unemployed black fisherman, to mount a primary challenge to GOP Rep. Arthur Ravenel Jr.
“I just felt that this was 1990 all over again,” Clyburn said. “This has just got to stop.”
South Carolina Democrats have been distancing themselves from Greene, 32, since revelations surfaced this week that he is facing a felony charge stemming from allegations that he showed obscene Internet photos to a University of South Carolina student.
Republicans are disputing any suggestion that the races were meddled with and charge that such suggestions are merely attempts to distract from Greene’s criminal record.
“The Democratic Party is grasping at straws and making absurd accusations to cover for their laughable incompetence in vetting candidates,” said Joel Sawyer, a spokesman for the South Carolina Republican Party. “If they’re not even going to bother doing basic things like checking to see if their candidates have pending felony charges, we’re feeling pretty doggone good about November already.”
The Greene and Brown allegations come after a whirlwind primary campaign season in South Carolina that also featured allegations of infidelity against GOP gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Haley.