Candidate lives outside district he seeks to represent

September 23, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. – A candidate for the South Carolina General Assembly does not reside within the district he filed to run for office in.

Devon Long, a Democratic candidate for House District 60, confirmed Saturday morning that he does not live within the district. House District 60 includes western Florence County and southeastern Darlington County. The district is represented by Republican Phillip Lowe, who is Long’s opposition in the race.

“No, I live at the address that’s listed on my license,” Long said. “I live there, and we’ll just leave that there.”

The address on Long’s license, according to court records from a traffic ticket Long received in 2017, is in House District 59. House District 59 includes northern Florence County and eastern Darlington County. Democrat Terry Alexander is running unopposed to keep his seat in that district.

On the Statement of Intention of Candidacy and Party Pledge that Long filed when he paid to run for office, he listed the address of his church. The form notes that the address field does not require the candidate to list his residential address on the form.

It’s not clear what the legal requirements are for residency for South Carolina political candidates.

There also are potential problems with how Long paid the filing fee to run for office.

Records provided to the Morning News show that the $208 filing fee for Long to run against incumbent Lowe was paid for by a check written on March 28 from the account of Prayer Tabernacle Holiness Church, the church where Long is a pastor.

“I had my account, but I don’t write checks personally, and they, as I was told, they only accept checks,” Long said. “So, I said, ’Well, I have this check [from the church] and so I’ll go on and sign. [I] paid and just put the money back with my personal [funds].”

Long said he received a phone call on Sunday, March 25, before filing closed at noon on Friday, March 30, that caused him to consider running for office.

“At that time, when we started this campaign, there were no funds,” Long said. “As a matter of a fact, it was a call on a Sunday night ... that led me to even consider running. The date to jump into the race was that Thursday.”

After paying the filing fee with the check from his church, Long said, he went to the South Carolina Democratic Party, which returned his check. Long said he then paid the filing fee in cash.

“And so that’s how we took care of that,” Long said.

He added that he believed in full disclosure and the decision to pay with a check from his church was an error on his part.

It is not clear whether paying the filing fee with a check from his church is a violation of the campaign finance laws of South Carolina.

As a candidate for the South Carolina House of Representatives, Long is under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee. There apparently is no precedent within the records of the House Ethics Committee on the issue presented in Long’s situation.

No consent orders or rulings have been announced or made public by the committee regarding his situation. However, matters like these are investigated by the South Carolina Ethics Committee, and then the information gleaned from the investigation is presented to the House Ethics Committee. Before the committee is ready to announce its findings, information on such matters is not publicly available. Also, there is a 50-day prohibition on public announcements before the election.

Violations of the ethics chapter of South Carolina law are misdemeanors and are punishable by a $500 fine, one year in jail or both.

Using the church’s account to pay Long’s filing fee also would appear to jeopardize the church’s status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

A link shared by a member of the IRS’s media relations team states that 501(c)(3) corporations are prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for elective public office.

“Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity,” the link continues. “Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”

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