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SC House Members Join Bid To Silence Political Speech




Liberal S.C. legislative leader Hugh Leatherman’s plan to silence dissent in the Palmetto State has scored some new allies in the S.C. House of Representatives.

Eight State Representatives – six Democrats and two Republicans – have sponsored a bill eerily similar to the speech regulation legislation introduced by Leatherman earlier this month in the S.C. Senate.

Like Leatherman’s bill, their proposed regulation – H. 3571 – would dramatically redefine what constitutes political speech in South Carolina.  Specifically, these lawmakers would redefine what constitutes an “election communication” – and then impose sweeping new reporting requirements on anyone engaging in such political speech.

Their goal?  To press the “mute” button on those who dare to question the increasingly costly, results-challenged rule of our state’s corrupt legislative leaders.

This website blasted Leatherman’s bill in no uncertain terms earlier this month, referring to it as “a constitutionally dubious attack on political speech.”

“Its purpose is simple: To suppress criticism of public officials by giving them the tools they need to retaliate against their critics,” we wrote.

Democratic leaders in the S.C. House apparently love the idea, though.  Current S.C. minority leader Todd Rutherford has signed on as a cosponsor of the House’s companion bill – which was introduced earlier this week by former minority leader James Smith.

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(Via Travis Bell Photography)

Four other Democrats – S.C. Reps. Beth Bernstein (above), Chandra Dillard, Cezar McKnight and Russell Ott – are currently listed as cosponsors of Smith’s legislation.  So far only two Republican lawmakers – Nathan Ballentine and Peter McCoy – have signed on to the bill.

Bernstein’s participation in this charade is especially disappointing given her prior credibility on ethics reform issues.

As we’ve previously written, though, this is not “ethics reform.”  Nor is it campaign finance reform.

It is about one thing and one thing only: Shielding accountability-averse lawmakers from the criticism they so richly deserve by silencing the very people who are getting screwed over.

That’s just wrong – and we will fight that sort of Orwellian repression with everything we’ve got.

One final note: In addition to introducing a terrible bill, these eight House members had terrible timing in rolling it out.  As their bill was being read across the desk of the S.C. House, this website published an exclusive report that exposed Leatherman using his Senate office to shake down special interests.

His objective in doing so?  Raising funds for a massive “dark money” campaign to raise the state’s gasoline tax.

Talk about hypocrisy …

(Banner via iStock)