Can Boozy, Televised Sexcapades Fuel a Political Comeback?

Thomas Ravenel may use his “Southern Charm” to challenge Lindsey Graham.

MIAMI BEACH, FL - APRIL 26: (L-R) Thomas Ravenel and Rouge Apker attend Miami Beach Polo Event at W South Beach Hotel & Residences on April 26, 2013 in Miami Beach, Florida.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms
March 12, 2014, 5:40 p.m.

This fall, a dis­graced South Car­o­lina politi­cian could find him­self on the bal­lot, hop­ing to stage a polit­ic­al comeback years in the mak­ing.

No, not Mark San­ford.

Former South Car­o­lina Treas­urer Thomas Rave­nel, who resigned from of­fice in 2007 and spent sev­en months in pris­on on a co­caine con­vic­tion, is hop­ing to stage a polit­ic­al comeback as soon as this Novem­ber. “I did my time. And there will be a polit­ic­al fu­ture. I’m not done yet,” he re­cently told a loc­al ra­dio show.

The fallen pol is work­ing with a polit­ic­al con­sult­ant and mak­ing an ef­fort to al­ter his im­age in the Pal­metto State, us­ing a new real­ity TV show to re­in­tro­duce him­self to voters. But his op­tions are lim­ited. Around the time Rave­nel was ar­res­ted, South Car­o­lina passed le­gis­la­tion bar­ring felons from run­ning for state of­fice with­in 15 years of a con­vic­tion.

“I’d like to re­deem my­self in the eyes of the pub­lic, but as a con­victed felon I can only run for three of­fices: the U.S. House, the U.S. Sen­ate — or pres­id­ent of the United States,” he says, wink­ing, in the first epis­ode of Bravo’s new real­ity series South­ern Charm.

“T-Rav,” as he’s known loc­ally and in a column he writes for the Char­le­ston City Pa­per, has floated the pos­sib­il­ity of a re­turn to polit­ics this fall, telling the Char­le­ston Post and Cour­i­er earli­er this month that he may mount an in­de­pend­ent bid against Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham. Gra­ham is already locked in a four-way primary for a re­turn bid to the Sen­ate, which is he is ex­pec­ted to win.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Gra­ham said, when asked about a pos­sible chal­lenge from Rave­nel, not­ing that he and his team are fo­cused on the primary. “He comes from a fine fam­ily,” Gra­ham ad­ded.

Asked if he’d seen South­ern Charm, Gra­ham laughed. “I’ll wait to read the book,” he said.

Rave­nel’s be­ha­vi­or on the show thus far hardly meshes with a man plan­ning a polit­ic­al comeback. In the first epis­ode of the series, the 51-year-old drinks heav­ily with his friends while hit­ting on a bevy of wo­men half his age, search­ing for the per­fect polit­ic­al wife, be­fore bed­ding one of them. “I nor­mally don’t have a thing for red­heads,” he re­flects the next morn­ing. “My in­tu­ition said “‘no,’ but maybe my little head was say­ing ‘yes’ be­cause she was hot.”

He fol­lows up later at the din­ner table with a joke about his co­caine ar­rest. “I didn’t have a prob­lem with co­caine. What I real­ized later is I just really liked the smell of it,” he says.

After a friend pulls him aside to talk about get­ting more ser­i­ous about his polit­ic­al fu­ture — in­sist­ing, “Bro, no more coke jokes” — Rave­nel re­sponds that he has to be true to him­self.

“If I want to be out there and swim with some cute girls, I’m go­ing to do it…. I say f—k pub­lic per­cep­tion,” he says. “To thine own self be true and as night fol­lows day, thou canst be false to an­oth­er man. That’s Macbeth.” (It’s ac­tu­ally Ham­let, and while not a per­fect quo­ta­tion, the man had been play­ing polo and drink­ing all day, so points for the at­tempt.)

“Macbeth would nev­er be elec­ted today with that f—king ad­vice,” friend and fel­low cast mem­ber Whit­ney Sudler-Smith re­torts.

“Well, then I won’t be elec­ted,” Rave­nel says.

His friend and polit­ic­al con­sult­ant, Will Folks, who also ap­pears on the show, says that’s just Rave­nel. “There is no ob­fus­ca­tion when it comes to in­ter­act­ing with Thomas Rave­nel. There is no con­fu­sion over where he’s com­ing from,” Folks told Na­tion­al Journ­al.

That kind of hon­esty ap­peals to voters, and par­tic­u­larly con­ser­vat­ives, he ar­gued, call­ing Rave­nel a “South­ern Bul­worth.”

“The guy is ideo­lo­gic­ally in line very much with the grow­ing fisc­al-con­ser­vat­ive, so­cial-liber­tari­an move­ment. His ideo­logy is right. His per­son­al life is a little bit out there, but he al­ways says he’s got two out of three and two out of three ain’t bad,” Folks said.

It should be noted that Folks, a former San­ford press sec­ret­ary, is the con­ser­vat­ive Pal­metto State blog­ger who earned his 15 minutes of fame when he claimed in 2010 that he had had an ex­tramar­it­al af­fair with now-Gov. Nikki Haley. Haley has al­ways denied the ac­cus­a­tion, and the claims were nev­er proven to be true.

Should Rave­nel mount a bid for of­fice this year — and that’s far from a cer­tainty — Folks said that he won’t walk away from his ar­rest re­cord. Both men are liber­tari­ans and be­lieve that what Rave­nel did should not have been il­leg­al in the first place. “I think his view is what he did was cir­cum­stan­tially wrong — mean­ing, it was a lapse of judg­ment based on his po­s­i­tion — but that it is an ac­tion that is not in­her­ently wrong and should not be po­liced by the gov­ern­ment­al au­thor­it­ies. And I agree with him a hun­dred per­cent on that,” Folks said.

Rave­nel’s cru­sade against the na­tion’s drug laws could find sup­port among liber­tari­ans. But it could back­fire on a man who so re­cently was ejec­ted from state of­fice, said Joel Saw­yer, who served as com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or for San­ford’s suc­cess­ful re­turn cam­paign to Con­gress and worked with both men as the gov­ernor’s spokes­man. “There’s no sense of con­tri­tion what­so­ever,” Saw­yer said, adding that “he’s ba­sic­ally say­ing “‘the only thing I did wrong was get caught.’”

In ad­di­tion to the co­caine in­cid­ent, there are oth­er obstacles to Rave­nel’s polit­ic­al fu­ture.

In 2011, he threatened to give up his U.S. cit­izen­ship after learn­ing that, as a con­victed felon, he could no longer leg­ally pur­chase a fire­arm. Folks’s blog picked up the story. But Rave­nel’s ini­tial an­nounce­ment, made via Face­book, has since been de­leted.

Just this past Ju­ly, he was ar­res­ted on a drunk-driv­ing charge in East Hamp­ton. He has dis­puted the charges, ar­guing that he had only two drinks that even­ing be­fore get­ting be­hind the wheel. The case was re­cently pushed back un­til May 8.

Saw­yer put Rave­nel’s chances of win­ning fed­er­al of­fice at “some­where between zero and snow­ball’s chance in hell.”

“I don’t see that there’s any way on this Earth that someone who acts like Thomas Rave­nel has a polit­ic­al fu­ture,” Saw­yer said. The dif­fer­ence between the two Pal­metto State un­der­dogs, he ar­gues, is that San­ford ran his cam­paign “with a very sin­cere sense of hu­mil­ity” while, “on the oth­er hand, you have a per­son who is a liv­ing monu­ment to hubris.”

If there’s one thing that’s clear from South­ern Charm, however, it’s that Rave­nel is in­deed charm­ing. While play­ing bocce ball with a young wo­man, he ac­tu­ally man­ages to pull off the line, “You know when the first time I played this game was? In pris­on.”

And that, coupled with his wealth and fam­ily name (Rave­nel comes from a fam­ily that’s ruled Char­le­ston’s high so­ci­ety since the 1680s), could give the former treas­urer a shot, however small, at re­turn­ing to polit­ic­al life. “Ninety-five per­cent of the elect­or­ate, all that they know about you is what they see on TV, your com­mer­cials,” Saw­yer said. “He does have enough per­son­al re­sources to make people pay at­ten­tion to him. Hope­fully, at the end of the day, he’ll get his “‘look at me’ from the TV show.”

Al­though Rave­nel wouldn’t be the first real­ity TV star to make it to Con­gress — Rep. Sean Duffy of Wis­con­sin was on The Real World in the 1990s — the prox­im­ity of the tap­ing to a polit­ic­al cam­paign an­nounce­ment could be a li­ab­il­ity. “A lot of people view him as ar­rog­ant, a lot of people view him as con­des­cend­ing,” Folks said. “I think if you spend a day with the guy, I think you walk away lik­ing him.”

Asked if he would have sug­ges­ted that Rave­nel go on South­ern Charm be­fore an­noun­cing a cam­paign, Folks de­murred. “I mean, the beau­ti­ful thing about Thomas is you can tell him whatever you want, but he’s go­ing to do what he wants.”

What We're Following See More »
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Variety Looks at How Michelle Obama Has Leveraged Pop Culture
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

“My view is, first you get them to laugh, then you get them to listen," says Michelle Obama in a new profile in Variety. "So I’m always game for a good joke, and I’m not so formal in this role. There’s very little that we can’t do that people wouldn’t appreciate.” According to writer Ted Johnson, Mrs. Obama has leveraged the power of pop culture far beyond her predecessors. "Where are the people?" she asks. "Well, they’re not reading the op-ed pieces in the major newspapers. They’re not watching Sunday morning news talk shows. They’re doing what most people are doing: They are watching TV.”

Source:
RUSSIAN HACKERS LIKELY BEHIND THE ATTACKS
New York Times, Other News Organizations Hacked
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The FBI and other US security agencies are currently investigating a series of computer breaches found within The New York Times and other news organizations. It is expected that the hacks were carried out by individuals working for Russian intelligence. It is believed that these cyber attacks are part of a "broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations, the officials said."

Source:
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY STUDENTS PETITIONED
NLRB: Graduate Students Can Unionize
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a 3-1 decision, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of Columbia University graduate students, granting them the legal right to unionize. The petition was brought by a number of teaching assistants enrolled in graduate school. This decision could pave the way for thousands of new union members, depending on if students at other schools nationwide wish to join unions. A number of universities spoke out in opposition to this possibility, saying injecting collective bargaining into graduate school could create a host of difficulties.

Source:
DIFFERENT KIND OF CONVENTION BOUNCE
Cruz Approval Ratings Underwater
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Following Texas Senator Ted Cruz's controversial decision not to endorse Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, instead telling voters to "vote (their) conscience," a new poll out today shows that his approval ratings have sunk. The poll from Public Policy Polling shows that 39 percent of Texans approve of the job Cruz is doing, compared to 48 percent who don't approve. Additionally, despite winning the GOP primary in the state, the poll found that if the primary was held today, Trump would garner 52 percent of support to just 38 percent for Cruz.

Source:
×