MEANWHILE, A MACHIAVELLI SMILES IN THE SHADOWS …
The race for the next chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court was thrown into further chaos this week when the administration of U.S. president Barack Obama nominated Donald Beatty to be a federal judge.
Beatty – who is next in line to become S.C. chief justice by order of seniority – was nominated by Obama for a U.S. district court position over the explicit objections of the state’s junior U.S. Senator, Tim Scott.
This website exclusively reported in November 2014 that Beatty was being vetted by the White House. We were also the first to report on Scott’s refusal to assent to his nomination.
Obama nominated a compromise candidate in an effort to appease Scott – but later withdrew the nomination.
Beatty, a liberal black Democrat, wants the federal job Obama is offering him because it pays more – and is a lifetime appointment. Accordingly, he has accepted Obama’s nomination. Meanwhile “Republicans” at the S.C. State House want him to have the federal job because it means they wouldn’t have to break tradition and award the chief justice’s post to a less senior (i.e. more white, more conservative) member of the court.
Given growing electoral pressure being applied by an increasingly rowdy conservative base, GOP leadership was planning to break with tradition and elect justice John Kittredge to the top spot on the court. But Kittredge threw them a curveball last week – announcing that he wouldn’t run for the post against Beatty.
That sent “Republicans” back to the drawing board – searching frantically for a candidate they could put up against Beatty for the chief justice’s position.
Now they’ve been bailed out … by an unlikely ally.
Obama? Yes … but with a capable assist from a local Machiavelli.
Sources familiar with Beatty’s nomination tell us the whole process has been orchestrated by former two-time S.C. Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian – a prominent Columbia, S.C. attorney who has extensive White House connections.
Harpootlian has no love for Beatty – and has relished playing the role of puppet master regarding his fate over the last few weeks.
After all, it was Beatty – then a Democratic state lawmaker – who cut a deal with “Republicans” at the S.C. State House in the 1990s to give them control of the chamber. As part of the deal, GOP leaders agreed to continue redrawing district lines in such a manner so as to preserve “majority minority” seats in the S.C. General Assembly.
That deal guaranteed black Democratic seats in perpetuity – but eviscerated white Democratic districts and cost the party control of the S.C. House. It also guaranteed something else … Beatty’s election to the S.C. Supreme Court in 2007.
Harpootlian was infuriated over Beatty’s deal with the “Republicans” because it torpedoed his efforts to maintain Democratic control over the legislature. Now he appears to be paying Beatty back by giving the GOP leadership the excuse it needs not to make him the next chief justice.
After all, how could lawmakers elect Beatty to that post seeing as he has already accepted a nomination to another position?
Here’s the genius of the plan, though: Due to the toxic judicial appointment environment created by the death of U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia – it is highly unlikely any of Obama’s judicial nominees will be considered anytime soon.
Certainly there is no way in hell Beatty will get confirmed to the bench prior to this spring’s election for chief justice – especially not with a Senator from his home state actively opposing his nomination.
He is in no man’s land …
Which would appear to be right where Harpootlian wanted him.