It looks like a classic Democratic hit job … but could South Carolina’s Republican governor really be the driving force behind an attack on her own party’s newly-elected state chairman?

One of the worst-kept secrets in South Carolina politics is that S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley did everything within her power to defeat Chad Connelly in his bid to become chairman of the S.C. Republican Party earlier this year.

Why? One of Haley’s consultants – Maryland-based pollster Jon Lerner – wielded enormous influence over the SCGOP under the administration of former chairwoman Karen Floyd (a former client of Lerner’s). After Haley won a (much) narrower-than-expected victory in the 2010 gubernatorial race, she and her consultant were desperate to maintain their stranglehold over the party apparatus – and Connelly apparently represented a threat to their hegemony.

The true extent of Haley’s meddling in this spring’s incredibly nasty SCGOP chairman’s race is unknown, although she reportedly attempted to coerce (one source says “bribe”) several candidates into entering the race against Connelly. Obviously those efforts were unsuccessful – Connelly won in a landslide – but that doesn’t mean Haley has stopped scheming.

In fact, sources tell FITS that Haley’s minions recently launched another political attack against Connelly – this time using anonymous email addresses to route “incriminating” information on the SCGOP chairman to a network of Democratic sources. FITS has spoken with several Democratic operatives who confirmed that they were forwarded these anonymous emails – although they could not identify where the submissions came from (and declined to speculate on their origin).

Written in clipped legalese, one of the anti-Connelly documents attempts to portray the SCGOP chairman as nothing but a pawn of powerful libertarian-leaning activists.

“Chad Connelly’s election as Chair of the South Carolina Republican party reaffirms the GOP as the party of pro-voucher billionaires and their effort to defund and destroy public education in South Carolina,” an excerpt reads.

Later, the document claims that Connelly has “synthesized the right-wing Christian nationalism that motivates the anti-public education movement’s few grassroots supporters with … radical free-market libertarianism.”

The goal of this stealth email campaign is obvious: To make Connelly look bad while at the same time making it appear as though Democrats were responsible for the attack against him. The timing is also quite curious, as Connelly is scheduled to participate in a debate with Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian later this week.

Since Connelly’s victory in May, he has done his best to reach out to Haley – and defend her against incoming attacks.

In fact, the SCGOP asked Haley to serve as the honorary chair of its presidential primary task force – an offer she never responded to. Also, while other Republican officeholders have pledged to contribute campaign funds to help the SCGOP hold its “First in the South” presidential primary next year, Haley has refused to contribute to the cause.

Not only that, Haley flip-flopped on her prior support for public funding for the presidential primary.

Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey did not respond to our request for comment on this story. Meanwhile, SCGOP executive director Matt Moore declined to speculate on the source of the leak.

“We will not dignify this kind of garbage with a response,” Moore told FITS. “Apparently, someone has too much time on their hands. The SCGOP is focused on hosting a great Presidential Primary next year and expanding our historic majorities in the State House and Senate. Period.”

UPDATE: Connelly will square off with S.C. Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian on Thursday morning in a debate … err, forum … being sponsored by the S.C. Realtors. Wonder if this will come up?