State election panel member denies campaign allegation

147874 articles in the archive and more added every day

State election panel member denies campaign allegation

By MICHAEL WELLES SHAPIRO mshapiro@islandpacket.com 843-706-8142
Published Thursday, October 16, 2008 in The Island Packet  |  334 Words  |  news/local

A liberal political blog has accused a Hilton Head Island resident who serves on the South Carolina State Election Commission of campaigning for Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, which would violate state law.
The Web site, Indigo Journal, which describes itself as "dedicated toward building a strong progressive community in South Carolina," got access to an e-mail seeking volunteers for McCain that had been sent to the Beaufort County Republican Party's e-mail list with the names of Commissioner Cynthia Bensch and her husband, Gary, on it.
Cynthia Bensch said the allegation against her is false and stems from the fact that she and her husband share an e-mail account. Her husband sent the McCain ad to Tom Hatfield, who runs the Republican e-mail list, and in August, Hatfield forwarded it to GOP members.
"I knew absolutely nothing about this until (Tuesday night)," she said, "but I do understand how people might seek to disparage commissioners at such a critical time."
"I never campaigned for Sen. McCain, never worked on his campaign, donated any funds, or attended any meetings, or made any phone calls," she added.
Bensch, who was appointed by Gov. Mark Sanford to the Election Commission in 2007, also has made sure her fellow commissioners and the governor's office -- which appoints and, when necessary, removes commissioners -- were aware of the allegation and her response to it.
Joel Sawyer, spokesman for the governor's office, said "obviously, using a shared e-mail account is an ill-advised thing to do, but we don't think there was any ill intent."
Hatfield called the allegations against Bensch baseless.
"I got a piece of information sent from Gary Bensch to Tom Hatfield, and I decided to forward it along, so if anybody's at fault for being partisan, it's me," Hatfield said. "Somebody decided to take advantage of it, and shame, shame, shame on them."
Cynthia Bensch said she'll strictly use an individual e-mail account in the future.