Post & Courrier Q&A with Chip Campsen


Know your state lawmakers
By Yvonne Wenger (Contact)
Sunday, June 17, 2007

Campsen’s key issues: Coastal insurance, DOT, immigration

Campsen, 48, has served District 43, which includes parts of Berkeley and Charleston counties, in the Senate since 2005 and in the House from 1997 to 2002.

The Republican from the Isle of Palms is a member of the following Senate committees: Agriculture and Natural Resources; Fish, Game and Forestry; Invitations; Judi?ciary; Rules; and Transportation.

Campsen, an attorney, is also a busi?nessman. He graduated from Fur?man University and the University of South Carolina. He has his cap?tain’s license and is vice president of Fort Sumter Tours Inc. He also works as a commercial real estate broker.

Campsen served as Gov. Mark Sanford’s senior policy adviser from 2002 to 2003. He is a deacon and teacher at East Cooper Baptist Church. He and his wife, Lalla Lee, have two sons, George and Boyce.

Q: What is your top priority this year?

A: My legislative priorities this year have been reform in the areas of coastal homeowners’ property insurance, illegal immigration and the Department of Transportation.

Q: What is the most common complaint your constituents call about? What can you do to alleviate their concerns?

A: Complaints received from constituents help fashion my legislative priorities, so they are largely the same issues. People are concerned about property taxes, property insurance, illegal immigration and DOT reform.

Last year I served on the Senate Property Tax Reform Committee and we were able to reduce property taxes on primary residences by 40 to 50 percent, effective this year.

I am the Senate sponsor of the Omnibus Coastal Property Insurance Reform Act. Governor Sanford signed the companion House bill into law June 11. It should provide much-needed relief for the property insurance crisis ravaging the coast.

I served on subcommittees that fashioned DOT and illegal immigration reform bills, and co-sponsored these proposals. DOT reform is in conference committee and may still become law this year. Immigration reform has been stalled until next year.

Q: What are your political ambitions?

A: I draw inspiration from great statesmen in history. The intellect of Edmund Burke, principle of William Wilberforce and leadership of Teddy Roosevelt are worthy of emulation. A common theme among these statesmen is a sense of calling to advance great ideas and accomplish great things, not simply to hold office.

A prime example is William Wilberforce, who served in the British House of Commons from 1780 to 1825. Motivated by his religious convictions, Wilberforce waged a 20-year battle to abolish the slave trade and reform culture in the British Empire. When Wilberforce considered resigning in frustration halfway through his abolition battle, John Newton — a former slave-ship captain converted to Christian preacher, and author of the hymn, “Amazing Grace” — persuaded him to continue the fight.

Politically, Wilberforce paid dearly for his statesmanship. He was ridiculed for his convictions, almost defeated, and sacrificed an opportunity to become prime minister. Yet he received an even greater crown by changing the course of history. A contemporary prime minister said of him, “Millions unborn will bless his memory.”

My ambition in the political realm is to prove myself a statesman by following the example of men like Wilberforce. This is accomplished by remaining true to the values and principles that sustain our state and nation, regardless of the short term political consequences.

Q: How do you spend your Saturday nights?

A: I spend most Saturdays engaged in outdoor activities with my family. During hunting season we usually hunt on Saturday. In spring and summer we saltwater fish, inshore and offshore.

My boys and I love to surf as well. We opt for surfing above other outdoor activities when the surf is up, and compete in Eastern Surfing Association contests several weekends each year.

Saturday nights are generally spent engaged in or returning from these outdoor activities.

Q: What’s the most creative way you could propose to generate new revenue for the state?

A: The best way to generate new revenue for the state is to keep tax rates and regulatory compliance costs low. This fuels economic expansion, producing higher tax revenue.

However, I can’t characterize this concept as creative. It was expressed by philosophers as early as the 14th century, and clearly articulated by renowned economist John Maynard Keynes. University of Chicago economist Arthur Laffer popularized it in 1974 by allegedly scratching it out on the back of a napkin while advising Washington policy makers. Ever since it has been referred to as the Laffer Curve, and formed the basis of Ronald Reagan’s fiscal policies.

Q: What is the least effective government agency and how can it be made more effective?

A: The need for reform at DOT has certainly been accentuated lately. Yet I would not label it “least effective.” Its problems flow from its structure, not its people, and we are addressing its structure.

If I had to pick the least effective entity in state government, it would be the General Assembly. But this is by design. South Carolina’s constitution embodies the balance of powers doctrine, which diffuses political power among the three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial), and between the two chambers of the legislative branch (House and Senate).

This doctrine is one of John Adams’ great gifts to the American people, for he was the primary intellectual force behind embodying the doctrine in the U.S. and state constitutions.

This structure makes our General Assembly inherently inefficient. However, it prevents consolidation of power and assures legislation is advanced only when a degree of consensus is obtained.

Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-799-9051 or ywenger@postandcourier.com