We did not want to write this column. At all. Two weeks ago – when our news outlet was among the recipients of explosive, leaked information about S.C. Senate candidate John Gallman – we bluntly told our sources that publishing such information would be unfair unless we were also able to obtain (and report on) sealed divorce records of veteran state senator Luke Rankin, Gallman’s opponent in next Tuesday’s election.
Frankly, we would rather not report on either domestic drama. The race between these two candidates (assuming it comes off as scheduled) should be decided based on their respective views – not their respective dirty laundry.
But the fact that one candidate in this race is able to bury his dirty laundry (and in fact, appoints the shovelers who bury it) – while the other must watch as his soiled linens are littered all over the front pages of local newspapers – strikes us as a disturbing double standard.
Don’t get us wrong: The allegations against Gallman (that he physically abused and stalked his former wife) are serious. And, if true, they should absolutely cause any voter to pause before tapping the touch screen next to his name. Furthermore, this news outlet has written unfavorably about Gallman in the past – questioning his commitment to some of the reforms he has championed on the campaign trail.
We are not fans of the guy …
In fairness to Gallman, though, he was never arrested or charged in connection with any of the allegations included in the court documents we were provided – which lends at least a modicum of credibility to his denials.
Also, the alternative on the ballot next Tuesday for S.C. Senate District 33 (.pdf) is a known commodity when it comes to pure status quo subservience … a candidate whose record of anti-taxpayer, anti-free market advocacy and slavish devotion to special interests has had disastrous consequences for the people of the Palmetto State.
And that’s just what we know about Rankin …
We don’t know what else might be in his past because he won’t let us see it.
Whatever your view on this election, the fact that reporters David Weissman and Tyler Fleming of The (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Sun News saw fit to publish the allegations against Gallman without even mentioning Rankin’s high-profile divorce case is very telling … and very troubling.
Weissman and Fleming also failed to mention that Rankin’s divorce case was sealed … and that the powerful Senate judiciary chairman, more than any other lawmaker in Columbia, S.C., is responsible for appointing the judges who ultimately decide which files get sealed.
And which ones remain open and accessible to the public …
All relevant facts, right?
We certainly think so. In fact, we have written often (here, here, here, here and here) about how powerful, politically connected South Carolinians – like Rankin – are able to habitually hide their bad behavior from public view.
“The sealing of public records for influential individuals is standard operating procedure in South Carolina … yet another example of the preferential treatment received by those in power (or those with proximity to power) in the Palmetto State,” we noted in a story we published back in March.
It works like this: When normal people screw up … everybody gets to read about their dirty laundry. When those with “connections” screw up, the sordid details of their dirty deeds are kept under lock and key … zealously guarded by judges who clearly have no conception of the notion of equal protection under the law.
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Which is precisely why Horry county residents are reading alleged details of one candidate’s failed marriage this afternoon … but not the other’s.
To the disappointment of many of our readers, this news outlet is not delving into any of the sordid details allegedly tucked away in Rankin’s sealed files. Nor are we going to traffic in related rumors that have circled around the S.C. State House for years. We understand other media sites on the coast may decide to publish (or speculate) as to certain raunchy alleged particulars – and we will certainly review those reports just as we have reviewed The Sun News’ report on Gallman.
But we do not believe such salaciousness has any place in the public forum – even for an elected official as demonstrably despicable as Rankin.
If he has failings in his personal life, that is really not for us to judge … barring of course some criminal behavior or abuse of his position of public trust.
Similarly, in the absence of an arrest or indictment based on probable cause, we do not believe the domestic allegations against Gallman should have been submitted to voters … certainly not in the one-sided fashion The Sun News chose to submit them less than seven days before an election.
But hey … clicks, right?
Stay tuned … clearly, the final week of campaigning for this Senate seat is going to get very interesting. And while we have no intention of traipsing through the mud with either of these campaigns (certainly not Rankin’s), this situation does amplify allegations made against the veteran lawmaker on another front – namely that he leverages his influence over the judges he appoints to his favor.
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