Rudy’s South Carolina chairman indicted

Republican Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani’s South Carolina state chairman stepped down Tuesday after a federal grand jury indicted him on cocaine charges.

Thomas Ravenel, South Carolina State Treasurer, is a former real estate developer and a rising star in southern politics.

The indictment came as a second blow to Giuliani’s troubled campaign for President this week, hard on the heels of revelations that the former New York mayor who became a symbol of the city’s struggles in the 9/11 terrorist had quit the Iraq Study Group panel to hit the lecture circuit and earn millions.

Reports Newsday:

Rudolph Giuliani’s membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel’s top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.

Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.

He cited “previous time commitments” in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why — the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani’s lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months.

Giuliani failed to show up for a pair of two-day sessions that occurred during his tenure, the sources said — and both times, they conflicted with paid public appearances shown on his recent financial disclosure. Giuliani quit the group during his busiest stretch in 2006, when he gave 20 speeches in a single month that brought in $1.7 million.

The Associated Press reports on Revenel’s problems:

Ravenel has stepped down from his volunteer responsibilities with the campaign, according to a statement released by Mark Campbell, Giuliani’s political director.

Campbell said the campaign has no information about the accusations pending against Ravenel.

The millionaire is accused of buying less than 500 grams of the drug to share with other people in late 2005, U.S. Attorney Reggie Lloyd said.

Ravenel, 44, is charged with distribution of cocaine, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The investigation into Ravenel arose from a drug case last year in Charleston, Lloyd said.

State Law Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stewart said his agents were aware of the allegations before Ravenel was elected in November, but they didn’t have enough information to pursue criminal charges. The case was turned over to the FBI in April.

“The investigation is just beginning,” the federal prosecutor said.

The man accused of selling Ravenel the drug, Michael L. Miller, is in custody on the same charge.

Ravenel will be allowed to turn himself in, authorities said. The treasurer’s office referred all questions to Ravenel’s lawyer Joel Collins, who did not return a message left at his office.

Gov. Mark Sanford suspended Ravenel immediately based on the serious nature of the charge. The governor said he would name an interim treasurer soon.

“These are obviously very serious allegations that we’re constitutionally bound to act upon, and they’ll ultimately be decided by the courts.” Sanford said in a statement.

Ravenel started his political career in 2004, funding his own campaign for a U.S. Senate seat. He finished a close third in the Republican primary.

Ravenel was founder of the Ravenel Development Corp., a commercial real estate development company. His father, Arthur Ravenel Jr., was a powerful politician from Charleston who served eight years in the U.S. House and is a former state representative and state senator.

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