By far the most contentious campaign of the 2020 Republican primary season in South Carolina was the race between powerful Senate judiciary chairman Luke Rankin and pro-life activist John Gallman for S.C. Senate District 33 (.pdf).
The race got incredibly personal, to say the least … with details of Gallman’s messy (and allegedly abusive) marriage getting splashed all over the newspapers in Horry county.
Meanwhile, Rankin’s own messy divorce files remained hidden from public view.
We rebuked that double standard, incidentally …
“We would rather not report on either domestic drama,” we noted at the time. “The race between these two candidates 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.”
Anyway, in the aftermath of his victory Rankin has been seeking revenge … including his ongoing bid to short-circuit Florida-based NextEra Energy’s attempt to purchase Santee Cooper, the Palmetto State’s debt-addled, government-run power provider.
(Which is at the heart of another Rankin-related scandal …)
This week, though, Gallman fired back …
In a letter to this news outlet, an attorney for the former GOP challenger submitted a request for materials that we received in May or June of 2020 – materials related to Gallman’s divorce.
According to Columbia, S.C. attorney Tucker Player, he has been retained by Gallman to “investigate the defamation of his character by certain parties during the runoff election” for Senate District 33.
“From our investigation, the origin of the defamatory campaign arose from (a) packet of information (FITSNews) received on or around June 2, 2020,” Player’s letter wrote.
“I would request that you provide this information voluntarily to avoid legal compulsion,” Player wrote. “I would appreciate a response within five business days. If (we) do not receive one, we will move forward with other means of obtaining the records from your organization.”
Take a look …
(Click to view)Fits-news-letter
To be clear: We have no issue whatsoever when it comes to providing Gallman and his attorney with copies of the public records furnished to us last spring. After all, the anonymous sources who provided us with this information did so with the expressed hope we would publish these documents – which we declined to do.
So the contents of the package are fair game …
Worth noting, though, is the fact that one of the anonymous providers of this information expressly referenced our founding editor Will Folks “past history of source protection” as it related to the transmission of the documents.
Readers will recall Folks takes source protection quite seriously … and was willing to go to jail several years ago when he defied a S.C. circuit court judge who ordered him to break confidentiality.
Why would an anonymous source need protection, though?
Good question …
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Perhaps they were concerned there was (as there often is) identifying information contained in the materials they provided to us? You know … clues as to the identify of the sender buried within the means of transmission?
At any rate, as mentioned above we have no problem providing Gallman’s attorney with the documents we received. Again, they are a matter of public (court) record – and as mentioned they were provided to us with the expressed intention of publication on our news outlet.
However, we will be instructing our attorneys to take whatever steps are necessary in order to fulfill our source protection obligations regarding the transmission of this information – especially as the anonymous provider of this information (who remains unbeknownst to us) explicitly requested such protections.
We believe Gallman was treated unfairly. And we believe the source of these documents deserves to be unmasked publicly. Still, we cannot be a party to such an attempted unmasking.
Nor will we …
We wish Gallman’s attorneys well in their case (and we look forward to reporting on this matter as it moves forward), but source protection is sacred – even when the source is anonymous or unknown to us (or in this case, both).
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