myrtle beach

Chamber Campaign Related Scandal Trial Begins

By David Hucks
Published 22 minutes ago

Trial began today for what has been one of the most controversial stories of the past few years in Myrtle Beach.  In recent months,  the story has also become one of highest interest stories across the nation.  A $30 million annual tax on tourists was passed by Myrtle Beach City Council in 2009 to benefit the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.   Lobbyist Mark Kelly is suing a local news reporter who investigated the scandal.  Lobbyist Mark Kelly was present at a luncheon with two men he termed today as two good friends,  Brad Dean (President, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber) and Gresham Barrett (who was running for Governor of S.C at the time) when Dean passed Barrett $84,000.00 in suspicious campaign funds.

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Dean passed $84,000 in suspicious funds to Barrett

Kelly is suing the Sun News and reporter David Wren for suggesting he was involved in passing those suspicious funds, paid in cashiers checks from questionable sources.  Kelly says he did not know the funds would be passed nor did he know they were in the form of cashiers checks.  In court today,  Kelly said if he had known cashiers checks were involved he would have said something,  because, in his words “that might have looked kinda funny.”

Kelly is also suing asserting he was not at that time nor has he ever been a lobbyist for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber.  He says instead that he was a lobbyist for the Grand Strand Business Alliance.  This matter does become confusing as the Sun News reported

Ted Fortenberry<br>  WMBFnews  & Chamber Board Chairman<br>Investigation into Chamber Campaign Scandal Requested

Ted Fortenberry
WMBFnews & Chamber Board Chairman
Investigation into Chamber Campaign Scandal Requested

on June 30, 2012,   “A group that funded the Grand Strand Economic Improvement Alliance also lists the chamber’s telephone number as its point of contact and uses the same post office box … That group – called the MBLC Legislative Committee – also has listed the chamber’s physical address at 1200 N. Oak Street as its headquarters on tax returns.” Several such groups with similar names exist as the Sun News has reported in that same June 30 article “Steve Chapman – a former chamber board chairman whose wife, Shelley, appeared in and narrated one of the commercials – is president of the MBLC Legislative Committee.”  Steve Chapman is also a cousin of Matthew Brittain,  owner of Brittain Resort Corporation, whose brother was very involved in the early planning of the Tourist Tax and a past Chamber Chairman of the Board.

Kelly insists the group that he lobbies for is called the Grand Strand Business Alliance.

Prominently displayed on the Chamber of Commerce website is the following: *MBACC stands for Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Grand Strand Business Alliance Grand Strand Business Alliance
P.O. Box 8082
Myrtle Beach, SC 29578
Note: MBACC directs a portion of it’s membership dues, based on an established dues formula, to this affiliate.
The chamber also contributes to the statewide PAC affiliated with this organization.

The plaintiff laid out evidence today that Dean did hand over $84,000 in suspicious funds to Barrett,  but Kelly was simply at the table at that time.  Kelly says the meeting was set up by Dean entirely and he was not involved in setting the meeting up in any way.

In April,  Councilman Randal Wallace claimed the real story behind this tax involved himself, the Mayor and one “brilliant friend”.  The current Myrtle Beach Chamber Board Chairman and WMBFnews Manager,  Ted Fortenberry,  who was highly involved during that period,  has not yet corroborated the councilman’s claim.

Over $324,000.00 in suspicious cashiers checks written on the same bank at the same time on the same day in sequential numbers written on businesses which did not have the resources to write such checks. These cashiers checks were passed out to local politicians through a clearing house set up by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce after the tourist tax was passed into legislation.  With these new revelations,  we are asking Ted Fortenberry,  Chamber Board Chairman,  to initiate an internal investigation into the Chamber Campaign Scandal.   As of this reporting,  the Chamber Board Chairman has not responded to this request.

The tax was passed by City Council and now costs tourists as much as an additional $40 per family per vacation, an additional $30 million in annual costs to our readers.  The Myrtle Beach Peoples Rally will be held August 8th and 9th to protest this scandal.

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!!! REWARD !!!

A 5 million cash reward is being offered to anyone who can help us get IRS to make Chambers/CVBs stop violating 501-c6 non profit tax codes as written and fully collect from our 100 whistle blower filings on taxes, back taxes and penalties owed by Chambers/CVBs. This was caused by Chambers /CVBs selling advertising with millions of unrelated income and paying no corporate taxes. We believe this will also lead to class action lawsuits and damages to small business owners by Chambers/CVBs violating for years harming many small business owners knowingly and unknowingly been unfairly competed against and violated as members. Many of us join chambers as member looking for support under the mission of a chamber, not an ax in the back.