The Real Lee Bright

Lee Bright’s Financial Woes

  • Lee Bright has been sued at least 8 times for failure to pay employees and vendors.
  • Lee Bright’s business failure left him with staggering debt of $3.1 million owed to 29 creditors.
  • His business faced foreclosure over a $318,000 debt and was hit with two tax liens by the state.

Spartanburg County Clerk of Court
The State, December 12, 2013; The Associated Press, December 13, 2013
Anderson Independent-Mail, December 13, 2013; Herald Journal, March 6, 2012.

Nominating Campaign Supporters for Magistrate

In 2010, after Bright was criticized for “nominating one of his biggest campaign supporters as magistrate judge,” Rep. Harold Mitchell pre-filed a bill that would establish a screening committee of House members in each county to review the credentials of magistrate candidates.

A Spartanburg lawmaker wants to change the way magistrates are selected as the current method can give the appearance of rewarding campaign contributors. The proposed action comes in the wake of the appointment of two, and likely a third, supporters of Sen. Lee Bright to replace several long-time magistrates including John Rollins Jr. of Greer and David Snow of Reidville. Rep. Harold Mitchell has pre-filed a bill that would establish a screening committee of House members in each county to review the credentials of magistrate candidates. Such a panel would be similar to the commission that reviews candidates for all other state courts before they are voted upon by the legislature. Currently the senators from each county recommend magistrate court appointments with no public input. (Greer Citizen, January 6, 2010)

Appointing Friends for County Board Positions

In 2009, Bright was a part of one dueling Spartanburg County Legislative Delegation group that appointed four people to county board positions who “did not apply for the positions before they were appointed” and one “was appointed to one board even though she applied for another.” Three people named to county boards by four lawmakers did not apply for the positions before they were appointed, and a fourth was appointed to one board even though she applied for another, according to documents on file at the Spartanburg County Legislative Delegation office. In letters dated Dec. 11, 2008, Sens. Lee Bright, Shane Martin and Glenn Reese, and Rep. Joey Millwood appointed Jimmy Tobias to the Department of Social Services board; Cindy Church to the voter registration board; and Randy Pucetas and Linda Cox to the Whitney Fire District board. The four were among seven changes the four legislators made to a list submitted to Gov. Mark Sanford in August. Sanford declined to sign off on the appointments he received in August, saying he wanted to give the new delegation members an opportunity to “weigh in” on them. He also returned appointments from two other delegations with high turnovers. Sanford also refused to sign off on the new list after complaints from the nine remaining delegation members that they were not aware of the appointments. Bright, Martin, Reese and Millwood constitute a weighted majority and can legally make the appointments. The issue that has split the delegation since November is whether delegation officers are elected by a simple majority or by weighted voting rules. At the delegation’s Nov. 10 meeting, Rep. Lanny Littlejohn was elected chairman by a 9-4 vote. Bright, Martin, Reese and Millwood held their own meeting on Nov. 24 and elected Millwood chairman. Tobias and Pucetas’ applications were received in the delegation office on Dec. 15, according to delegation Administrative Assistant Carol Crowe. Martin hand-delivered the application for Tobias, his Democratic opponent in the November election. Cox’s application was received on Dec. 18, according to Crowe. Church applied in January 2008 for the election commission, but was appointed to the voter registration board. The four also appointed a fifth person, Brantlee Fulmer, to the election commission, but had to pull the appointment after realizing they did not have the authority to make it, Martin said. The appointment requires a majority of the Senate delegation, which they had, and a majority of the House delegation, which they did not. Crowe said she did not have an application from Fulmer on file. Martin said he had received an application from her, and Fulmer said she mailed one to the delegation office, as well. When asked how people could be appointed before they applied, Reese first said he “hadn’t had time to check on that,” — even though he signed the appointment letters. He later said that because the appointments in question were from August, all of the applications were received before the August meeting. Martin said the letters were not delivered to Sanford until Dec. 16, and that the date on the letters could have been wrong. Bright and Millwood did not return a phone call seeking comment. Rep. Keith Kelly said the appointments should not have been made without the applications being on hand for all members to review. “It doesn’t appear to be in accordance with the Spartanburg County Legislative Delegation’s policies and procedures manual,” Kelly said. Millwood has called a meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday in County Council chambers to address the appointments. Kelly said Millwood doesn’t have the authority to call a meeting, and said the appointments will be handled at the next regular meeting on Feb. 2. (Spartanburg Herald-Journal, January 7, 2009)

Senate Medical Affairs Committee Crony Capitalism

In addition to Bright’s ineffective legislative record, some worry about the motives behind the bills Bright has advocated for. In 2014, while running for U.S. Senate, Bright disclosed he earned more than $5,000 over the past two years from Charlotte, North Carolina-based Novant Healthcare. However, Bright did not disclose Novant on his state-level disclosure forms. At the time, Bright was a member of the Senate’s Medical Affairs Committee – which “has jurisdiction over this company [Novant] (and its competitors).” Additionally, Bright has “been a consistent vote – and voice – against the [certificate] program” and, in 2012, Bright engaged in a high-profile effort to kill funding for the certificate program – allowing the government dictate when and how hospitals are allowed to expand their facilities and services – which would benefit Novant, who “was involved in a bitter, decade-long battle to build a new hospital in Fort Mill, S.C. – but dropped out of the running last year due to issues with the state’s “certificate of need” program.”

(FITS News, August 11, 2014; U.S. Senate, Lee Bright’s Financial Disclosure Statement, Filed May 16, 2014; Post & Courier, May 8, 2014)

Bright Made Money from a Consultant his Campaign Paid

Bright’s federal disclosure conflicted with a voluntary state disclosure he submitted to South Carolina Policy Council’s “Project Conflict.”

In a recent interview, Bright told The Nerve that he wasn’t hiding anything when he voluntarily submitted his Policy Council income-disclosure form last year. “I formed the corporation (BBD LLC) but didn’t have any income until later in 2013,” he said. “Sadly to say, it was zero in 2012.” The Policy Council’s income-disclosure form requests officials to list their private income sources, though not actual income amounts, generating at least $1,000 in income from Jan. 1, 2012, to the date of when they filled out the form. Bright’s federal income-disclosure form lists income sources and amounts of at least $200 from Jan. 1, 2012, until the official start of his U.S. Senate candidacy on Aug. 12 of last year. Bright told The Nerve that his company didn’t “start making money” until June of last year. He submitted his Policy Council form on May 23. Bright said he would be willing to file an updated Policy Council form this year. BBD LLC was registered with the state on Sept. 27, 2012, records at the Secretary of State’s Office show. Bright said his company does “some credit-card processing,” as well as provide trucking “brokerage and logistics” services. “It’s kind of like a catch-all that I can run income through,” he said. “Really, it’s just sales.” The company was registered under the name of Michael Stevens, who Bright confirmed is his campaign consultant for his U.S. Senate bid. Bright said Stevens doesn’t have any ownership interest in the company and currently doesn’t provide any services to the firm, adding that Stevens “hasn’t made a dime” from the business. “He is someone I trust, and I just listed him as the processing agent,” Bright said. Bright’s federal campaign-disclosure form for the most recent quarter, filed in October, shows that Stevens received $2,358 during the period, mainly mileage reimbursements. Bright, 43, who was elected to the S.C. Senate in 2008, said Stevens worked on his 2012 state Senate campaign, though he noted that when BBD LLC was registered with the state, there was “no campaign” then for his U.S. Senate bid.

(The Nerve, January 2, 2014)