Multiple stories have broken recently in Charleston, South Carolina about the Southern Republican Leadership Conference failing to pay a $227,872 bill at the luxury Charleston Place hotel, which it had rented out as part of its efforts to showcase presidential candidates before the South Carolina primary.
The hotel has sued the SRLC and its signatory, South Carolina political operative Robert C. Cahaly over the money dispute. The Charleston City Paper wrote a long feature about the issue.
In its federal complaint, the hotel says in March it originally entered into an agreement for the booking which ran from Thurs. Jan. 19 through Sun. Jan. 22. South Carolina political operative Robert C. Cahaly, who is named as co-defendant in the lawsuit, served as the group's signatory. The contract was amended on Dec. 20, 2011.
In the complaint filed in the Charleston County Court of Common Pleas, the hotel says it has come to believe that the SRLC "was grossly undercapitalized, failed to observe corporate formalities, was insolvent, and was mere[ly] used as a façade for the operations of the defendant Cahaly." In addition it says, "Cahaly, an individual businessman, has sought to hide from the normal consequences of carefree entrepenuring by doing so through a corporate shell.
"Due to their incompetence, the defendants failed to properly plan or manage the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, and it was poorly attended," the hotel says. "The conference was so poorly attended as to cause one Republican candidate, Newt Gingrich, to cancel his appearance.
"Poor attendance caused many of the conference sponsors to leave the conference," it continues. "Poor attendance left the defendants responsible for a significant payment to the plaintiff under the terms of the contract."
The article continues by saying, "at 3:01 p.m., the time when the defendants were due to check out of the hotel, the defendants emailed [hotel] management and cancelled the meeting at which they were supposed to settle the bill." In the email, the SRLC allegedly accused the hotel of difficulties with refunds or adjustments, poor overall treatment and a hotel manager instructing an SRLC staffer to engage in illegal activity, according to the City Paper article.
Sounds more like bitterness over the poor attendance of their conference than mismanagement by the hotel.
I attended some of the events at the SRLC and I can assure you they were not well attended. The Conference held multiple events at a large basketball arena on the College of Charleston's campus. The arena was cut in half with a drop-cloth to make it smaller, but even with this addition it seemed like the people inside had gathered for a City Council meeting, not presidential candidates. Of the speeches I attended, there were no more than 100 people there, including one by Rick Santorum.
The AP/ABC4 News in Charleston managed to get a statement from the SRLC over the dispute:
After prepaying over $235,000 to the Charleston Place Hotel, we at SRLC 2012 had an unprofessional experience that directly and indirectly breached our contract causing great harm and distraction to our attendees, sponsors, and staff. The Charleston Place's attempt to mischaracterized this legitimate dispute as the SRLC's walking away from a bill is in keeping with the pattern of deception and misrepresentation that is a significant part of our ongoing disagreement.
Naturally, the Republicans have blamed the issue on a "pattern of deception and misrepresentation." Never heard that one before.
The City Paper story, which is worth a read, reported that Calahy is described as an advisor to Gov. Nikki Haley and had previously worked with Lee Atwater, Carroll Campbell and Strom Thurmond. According to the SRLC website, the group hosted breakfasts, a banquet and multiple panel discussions at Charleston Place.
With this story, South Carolina is proving to be a front-runner for weirdest Republican primary state. They voted for Newt Gingrich. They held a raucous debate in which they booed John King of CNN for asking Gingrich about his adultery. And now, one of their Republican organizations may have failed to pay their bills.
All this from the party of fiscal responsibility and moral values.