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Governor uses $100,000 in campaign cash to take aim at Energy Department policy

Tuesday, May 7, 2002

Of The Post and Courier Staff

     Gov. Jim Hodges is spending $100,000 of his re-election cash to blast the Energy Department's plan to move tons of radioactive plutonium to the Savannah River Site near Aiken.
     In a 30-second ad now airing statewide, Hodges attacks the federal government for what he calls "breaking their promise" not to make South Carolina a permanent dumping ground for weapons grade plutonium.
     The ad features a picture from Hodges' visit to last week's practice blockades outside the SRS gates and an Energy Department telephone number for viewers to call.
     "Stand with Gov. Hodges," the announcer says, and "tell Washington: no plutonium dumping in South Carolina."
     Hodges felt compelled to use campaign funds for the commercial because of the urgency of the issue, his office said.
     "The governor is using every tool available to turn up pressure on the Department of Energy," said spokesman Jay Reiff, who called the showdown a case of "David vs. Goliath."
     State Ethics Commission Executive Director Herb Hayden said the use of campaign funds for position advocacy is legal under state law if the expense is done in connection with the official's duties as an officeholder.
     Reiff also denied that the ad was designed as a Hodges re-election message or was meant to dilute attention from the wave of campaign commercials being run in_ greater frequency by some of the seven Republican candidates for governor.
     Hodges would have run the ad no matter what season it was, Reiff said. "It is issue advocacy," he added.
     Last week, Hodges sued the federal Energy Department and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to stop plutonium shipments from coming into South Carolina. The shipments are scheduled to begin leaving Rocky Flats, Colo., later this month. Hodges, who has vowed to lie in the road to keep plutonium out of SRS, wants a legally enforceable agreement that the material won't remain in the state indefinitely.
     Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Lindsey Graham, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, has also filed a bill in Congress that would allow the shipments - provided that the plutonium is converted into fuel for commercial reactors.
     Graham said his bill is safe for the state because it would require fines, progress reports and mandatory removal if deadlines are missed.
     Hodges contends the bill is weak, and says the Energy Department might ultimately find it cheaper to pay the fines and leave the plutonium in South Carolina than to actually convert it or move it.
     Hodges' complaint could come up later this week before U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie in the federal court division near SRS.

     Schuyler Kropf covers state and local politics. Contact him at or 937-5551.

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