Converse Chellis/Mick Zais: Potential Campaign Ethics Violations

On May 20, 2010, Strategic Media Services placed a joint statewide advertising “buy” for the campaigns of State Treasurer Converse Chellis (re-election) and Mick Zais (candidate for Superintendent of Education). This joint buy began on May 25, 2010 and is scheduled to run through June 8, 2010 (Primary Day).

When you look at the public files of the tv stations Zais/Chellis WIS media buy, the collaboraation is clear.


There are strict state ethics guidelines – detailed below – that prohibit “coordinated expenditures” of the Chellis/Zais variety.

Six stations across the state (see below) refused to run the joint ads because of concerns regarding their legality per state and federal law.

This isn’t the first time the Chellis campaign has run into ad placement problems. According to campaign sources, Time Warner has removed Chellis’ ads because they were considered false and misleading.

The Mick Zais connection is particularly curious. In his campaign, Zais has contended it is necessary to working with the legislature and has been critical of those who hold that body partially responsible fot the state’s poor educational system.

Converse Chellis is the legislature’s personal droid in the Treasurer’s office. Zais’ teaming with Chellis on these ad buys suggests – loudly – that the two are simpatico and cut pretty much of the same cloth.

Collaboration with Chellis to the extent listed below is a clear sign of Mick Zais’ alignment with the forces of South Carolina’s status quo. His campaigns extensive disregard for the spirit and, very likely, the letter of campaign laws and ethics violations should give voters pause. Will a Zais administration be working for students, parents, teachers and taxpayers or, like Converse Chellis, serve the will of the state legislature?

As for the joint venture ad buys, the

S.C. Code of Laws § 8-13-1340(A) states,

Except as provided in subsections (B) and (E), a candidate or public official shall not make a contribution to another candidate or make an independent expenditure on behalf of another candidate or public official from the candidate’s or public official’s campaign account or through a committee, except legislative caucus committees, directly or indirectly established, financed, maintained, or controlled by the candidate or public official.

With these joint ad buys, both the Chellis and Zais campaign committees are contributing to each other. Without coordinating their respective buys, each campaign would pay more for a stand-alone fifteen (15) second ad.

The respective campaigns stand to gain a substantial advantage from obtaining advertising time at a reduced rate which would not otherwise be available

Following is a list of television stations to which the joint ads were submitted and each stations decision on airing them.


WYFF – Running Chellis/Zais

WHNS – Running Chellis/Zais

WSPA – Refused Chellis/Zais Split


WCIV – Chellis/Zais on order form, but not on the placement form

WCSC – Running Chellis/Zais

WTAT – Refused Chellis/Zais

WCBD – Refused Chellis/Zais


WIS – Running Chellis/Zais

WLTX – Running Chellis/Zais

WACH – Running Chellis/Zais

WOLO – Refused Chellis/Zais

Myrtle Beach:

WMBF – Running Chellis/Zais

WBTW – Refused Chellis/Zais

WFXB – Refused Chellis/Zais

WPDE – Running Chellis/Zais


36 thoughts on “Converse Chellis/Mick Zais: Potential Campaign Ethics Violations

  1. Odds of Jay Ragley commenting on this post – very high. He’s well on his way to becoming the next Scott Malyerck. A taxpayer-funded mud slinger.


  2. Now that the spotlight is on Chellis he is in trouble all the time. Chellis can’t be trusted to tell the truth or keep up with our money. Read the below as the Spartanburg paper busted him for lying on 3 different occassions. Zais needs to hang with a better class of people.

    Now he is gaming the system concerning political ads. He is a bad dude, in the bad way. I say dump Zais and Chellis.


    • A long time ago….

      In the Sec. of Ed race, beware of Zais. He has NO public school experience that I can find, either as a teacher or administrator. His background is 30 or so years in the military. If you want your children treated like privates in the army, consider Gen. Zais.


  3. Converse is in free fall and is going ALL negative. He is the most desperate candidate I have ever seen. Evidently Katon Dawson convinced campaign co-chairmen David Wilkins and David Beasley that to have a chance to win they would have to go nuclear on Loftis. Katon is saying it is going to be the dirtiest week ever in SC politics.
    These guys play nice Christians until their back is against the wall, then they act like the low brow guys that they really are. No wonder the SCGOP is in such bad shape.


  4. And this is why nobody should have considered Zais in the first place. I highly suspect Zais will drop out no matter how much JW want to fight this.
    There was a better candidate in the race before Zais and there will be after Zais drops out. His name is Brent Nelsen and he is South Carolina’s next State Superintendent of Education. Go check him out at


    • Hmmm. Except Nelsen and Zais have been complicit on the stump and @ debates. There is but one candidate the good ol’ boy legislature doesn’t want – is afraid will upset their sweet deals, and it isn’t I’ll-run-for-governor-no-superintendent-of-education Nelsen. It’s Kelly Payne.

      Which begs the question: “Who convinced Nelsen to drop his run foer governor, and why?”


      • Ive heard from multiple GOP folks in the state who told me that after seeing Nelsens passion and expertise in education last summer they approached him to move races because they believed he could have a more effective impact in that race and office. Demints backing convinced me in this race to vote for him.

        And everyone who reads anything should know that Nelsen and Payne are far different than the establishment Zais who doesnt seem to want to shake anything up.


  5. Freddy is right. “We the People” decided what we want and actually demand in those who step up to run for public service. High standards! Acrostic spells SAD…

    Sabotage opponents’ signs Fail

    Ad buy conspiracy Fail

    Deceptive practices lacking transparency Fail again!

    Our Mission Statement tells it like it is “We the People, in order to have our voices heard, are committed to a winning strategy by proclaiming truth, emphasizing integrity, encouraging conservatism, educating the electorate and promoting unity.”

    We will see how the Anderson Mill Elementary School Precinct Club of the Spartanburg County Republican Party ~ former famous name West View-B Precinct decides to vote.

    1, 2, 3 strikes you’re out in my “play” book!

    But I endorsed Kelly Heart Payne for State Superintendent of Education because she’s the one with a HEART for your kids and South Carolina’s resources.

    Kelly doesn’t live in a childish fantasy world rationalizing “do overs” on the “playground” of playing politics. Class is in session. Kelly Payne is in charge and has class! She will take our children and spending to a much higher standard – one that passes the transparency test and prepares youth for the 21st Century.

    I vote Kelly Payne!



  6. As lawyer I can tell you there are significant legal conflicts concerning the as purchase and placements. The contribution issue is just one. Surely the SC Ethics commission will weigh in on this one, and fast.

    I understand the Chellis campaign has purchased time with Jeff Duncan, a candidate for Congress. This brings in a whole different set of troubles as the fed/state rules are different in many respects.

    Chellis always is on the grey side of the legal issues. But I am surprised and Zais (and perhaps Duncan, if that rumor is true)


  7. D:

    Garnet Spy did the research–read the article again.

    He did much more than read a blog.

    But, please, do not let that dissuade you from making such “profound” statements of disagreement.

    In fact, I’m sure we all wait with ‘bated breath for your next declaration!


    • Well excuse me while I like to do my research. According to you, we should all take Willie’s word because he wrote about it on his blog about Nikki. Well no thank you. I didn’t like it when they did it to Nikki. You declare all you want. What do you have against someone RESEARCHING! If we had all done a little more in the past, we might not be in the mess we find ourselfs in today.


  8. “D”: Based on your email address, this is at least the 3rd alias you’ve used to post comments here at The Garnet Spy. And in the past, you’ve made quite a few unsubstantiated charges. Check with the stations listed to see if they are running the ads. If not, ask why not.

    Thanks for being SUCH a loyal reader, “D.” (Wink)

    Oh, you should know that the Nelsen campaign is also tracking this and issued a statement a couple of hours after this post was published.


    • Well how did you get your name “SPY”? This is a tough decision because there are two that I actually like. Excuse me while I like to do some RESEARCH so that I can narrow it down to ONE. Last I checked this is still a free country and I think we will agree we want it to stay that way.


      • No I have not made any “unsubstantial charges”. What you don’t get is I tend to listen when someone speaks. Then, I ask many tough questions about was heard. You might find it as what you called it.

        *Wink* I tend to ask the TOUGH questions to the ones I might want to vote for. Otherwise, I have already decided not to vote for them. Kelly is still one of the two.


  9. Converse Chellis doesn’t have a chance in hell at winning re-election. Curtis Loftis is the man for the job. Regarding the legal issues, I would have to do some research before I can make a judgement on this matter. However, I am a supporter of Jeff Duncan and his legal advisors have reviewed the joint ad buy with chellis and have deemed it legal. I will defer on this one to those who hold law degrees.


  10. I had this same stuff peddled to me via anonymous email. When I asked the author to contact me to discuss, I got no response. Talk about lack of disclosure.

    How do you know the ads were turned down for their content? I asked the same question and got no response.

    I think this opens a question of the ability of campaigns being able to also serve as vendors. This argument may only apply if the campaign buys the ads and gets nothing in return, which is not the case here – presuming payment is made from one campaign to another.

    But I could understand stations turning down the buys as they were packaged. This is the kind of stuff that lawyers can get rich off of.


    • Earl: I checked this out with other sources, from which I got the list of stations and the WIS documentation.

      The Time-Warner refusal was based on content rather than legal concerns, although they may have those as well: I don’t know.


  11. The cable system that turned down the ads did so after reviewing the documents concerning the charges. Several systems are reviewing the ads, but you must remember that the law allows a candidate to say most anything about each other and the TV station is not held liable. Any action would be against the candidate and that would take months/years to manage.

    The cable system did not reject the ad on legal grounds, they did so on ethical considerations. Good for them! More people should stand up to dirty, negative politics like that of the Chellis campaign.

    As far as the Zais/Chellis ads are concerned, of course it is illegal. But thesee guys are establishment politicans, and they could care less about that. They only want to get elected.


  12. Wow if you guys had half a brian you would almost be dangerous. I look forward to seeing any proof of anything. There is nothing illegal or unethical about this. It is 100% legal. The problem we have is people who don’t know what they are talking about making up stuff all the time. Half a truth is a whole lie and you are lying about this. You are lying about Mick Zais, Converse Chellis and Jeff Duncan.


  13. Get a life: At least 6 stations have turned these ads down. The stations are PAID to air these ads. They WANT to air these ads, but they know they can’t. That tells you there is a real problem.

    Chellis is going super negative on Loftis and the Chellis’ numbers are falling like a rock because people are tired of negative campaigning. I can’t see how Zais benefits by being dragged into that race as it will get very nasty in the next week. Lots of money will be spent by Chellis to smear and Loftis to rebut. Zais will be caught in the crosshairs. Not good for Zais who is in a tight race already.


    • Yes they are paid, but at what rate, there is a political rate they must offer to all political candidates, But if a candidate wants to get a specific time slot they are willing to pay the “going” rate. So if they are at the cheaper “political rate” they might be willing to reject them if there is a hint of any controversy, it does happen from time to time.

      Also Is there a story from the News Orgs or a press release stating that they will not run the ads and the reasons. I have checked 4 of them on their websites and cannot find a statement? Maybe I have missed it somewhere.


  14. Loftis is going to be the next Treasurer that is for sure. Why Zais would want to partner up with someone as unpopular as Chellis is beyond me. It must be his campaign managers brilliance! Zais has 2 strikes.

    1. Jay W Ragley as his campaign manager
    2. Buddies with Converse Chellis (the ultimate insider)


  15. I have never seen such a nasty campaign as the Chellis one. The over the top TV ad makes me ill. It is why good people don’t run for these offices.

    Loftis says he can beat the good old boys by capturing their command of the state money. Considering how hard they are fighting I think he must be right. Problem the good old boys have is that Chellis is the weakest candidate in memory. I think Chellis loses this one in a big way. I know many of his Citadel brothers have abandoned him as he shown dishonor in his campaign especially when he lied to the Spartanburg Herald. That ought to tell you something.


  16. I am sick and tired of the political corruption, and all that goes
    with it. I believe in the constitution, bill of rights, and MY
    Country. I take my hat off and bow my head to all of our nations
    hero’s who gave all to allow us to live in a free country. I am
    a patroit, a believer in the tea party, and all candidates that
    want to take back our country. That does not start with keeping
    the same old polititians ( who had a chance to make a difference ),
    in office. They have shown who they are and what they can do or
    should I say what they can’t do. I was a Marine and will fight
    for the right for anyone to believe and choice as they please.
    That also gives me the right to elect conservative, God Fearing
    Men, who will stand up for what is right, no matter what. If
    we don’t take our country back, and change our direction, we are
    calling down the judgement of God…..You don’t have to agree
    or believe, just stay the status quo. What do you think about
    the oil spill, you don’t think it can happen in other areas….
    II Coronicals. 7:14

    Rick Smith


    • Rick Smith,

      I agree with you. God is who we all need to turn toward. He is the alpha and the omega. I ask tough questions that many see as an attack. When all I want too is the best God Fearing person who will do what is right for children, Americans, and our country. That is what God expects his children to do. Which means those God’s children we are brothers and sisters in Christ. OK I am through my preaching for now. 🙂


  17. If I understand what is going on here, I am pretty certain there is no violation of the law. The campaign would have the expenditure by paying the consulting firm that put the ad buys together, they still have to disclose that info, and I would imagine that both will do so. Just because the consulting group sent one check to by time on TV or Radio for multiple campaigns does not on its face make it against the law.

    The two campaigns are not automatlly guilty of improper comingling of funds or even of helping the other campaign just because they use the same consultant. Each campaign paid their bill separately, and the consulting firm then paid the bill for the advertising they purchased on behalf of each campaign. I don’t see an ethics violation here unless you can prove that the two campaigns used this method to pay part of the others bill.

    From what I know about the law and the ethics rule there is no violation here, all this proves is that they use the same consultant. In fact there is no connection between the two campaigns proven by this except that they use the same company to make their ad buys and possibly make their ads. I understand that you are supporting a candidate , but let’s not impugn the candidates and the campaigns because they have the same consultant who does some work for a campaign of another candidate with whom you don’t like. Remember these consultants cannot have clients in the same race(Or at least they shouldn’t) and many times the candidates may not even get the consultant they want because that group is already working for someone else, or may have a conflict in that race. Believe me I know I have worked on many campaigns and have had to get a second choice for a consultant and mail house before. Happens a lot, especially if your candidate gets in late or is the underdog, or the even if the firm does not to work for the campaign for what ever reason.


  18. While I’m beginning to have my doubts about Dr. Zais’s judgement, I’d like one of you who think he is a “establishment politician” to explain exactly how he is an “establishment politician” having never held political office and currently leading a private university.


    • Colonel – I think the charge that Zais is an “establishment candidate” refers to the feeling/ thought that he aligned himself with the inner Columbia consultant class.

      I think the SC6 blog called him the candidate of the SC GOP, as in the candidate from the group out of the GOP office in Columbia.

      Not necessarily to his political experience or lack thereof.


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