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SC Lawmaker Accused Of Attempting To Bribe Local Candidate

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CANDIDATE CLAIMS SHE WAS OFFERED JOB TO DROP OUT OF ELECTION

A South Carolina lawmaker running for reelection is being accused of trying to bribe a candidate for local elected office.

S.C. Rep. Samuel Rivers – who is seeking his third term representing S.C. House district 15 (map here) – has been accused of offering Berkeley County, S.C. county council candidate Elaine Barnette a job if she stopped her campaign against one of his political allies.

Text messages obtained by FITSNews show Rivers discussing the matter with Barnette this spring.

“If you pull out of the race, trust I will work in your favor and for your good,” Rivers wrote in one of the messages. “You’ll have much to gain and will lose nothing.”

“There’s a way you can get the filing fee back,” Rivers wrote in another message to Barnette, referring to the $480 Barnette paid to file for the office.

Take a look at the messages …

(Click to enlarge)

(Pic provided)

Barnette is a candidate for Berkeley County’s third district seat – which is currently held by Kenneth E. Gunn, Jr., an ally of Rivers.

Gunn is doing “a good job” and is “a friend of mine,” he wrote in one of the text messages.

“He’s campaigned for me and helped me raise money,” Rivers added.

In another message to Barnette, Rivers referenced an “offer” allegedly made by Berkeley County administrator William W. Peagler III.

“I hope you would consider Peagler offer,” he wrote.

In yet another message, Rivers referenced Berkeley County deputy supervisor Tim Callanan.

“Tim will call you,” he wrote. “It looks very good for you.”

In addition to his post with the county, Callanan is also the chairman of the Berkeley county “Republican” party.

Rivers told us the text messages are being taken out of context.

“I have known Elaine for years,” he said. “If you read those messages, there was no offer of a job.  Nothing was ever promised to Elaine Barnette.”

Barnette disputed that contention – claiming that Rivers made multiple offers to her regarding jobs.

“It’s clear there are offers,” she said, referring to the messages. Barnette also said she recalled Callanan calling her at Rivers’ behest and rattling off a list of available job openings with the county.

Additionally, Barnette claimed Rivers told her he would support her candidacy over Gunn if she waited to seek the seat in 2020.

“He said (Gunn) would pass his people over to me,” Barnette said.

Rivers denied making such statements.  He also claimed the messages were being leaked to the media by his opponent – Steven Smith – in an effort to undermine his reelection bid.

“It’s honestly a desperate attack with no credibility,” he said. “My opponent has no campaign so he is trying to get press any way he can.  He is stooping to an all-time low.”

“He shouldn’t blame his opponent,” Barnette replied. “These are his actions.  I didn’t even know his opponent when this situation was happening.”

Rivers remained emphatic that Smith is responsible for the allegations.

“My opponents’ comments are liable,” Rivers added.  “You can put that in all caps.”

Okay, we will … L-I-A-B-L-E.

(We’re pretty sure Rivers meant to say “libelous” but hey … his skill with words is legendary, so we’re not going to correct him).

Our view?  Usually these sorts of stories forever remain “he said, she said” matters, but the fact there are text messages seeming to confirm one account over the other could make matters interesting.

Bottom line?  This saga may not cost Rivers his upcoming election, but it certainly seems like it could develop into a long-term headache moving forward.

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