Multiple defendants were named in a lawsuit aimed at exposing the network that helped reelect powerful South Carolina Senate judiciary committee chairman Luke Rankin to his seat last spring.
The suit is much broader than we were expecting it would be, too …
In fact, Rankin himself was named as a defendant in the lawsuit – which has the potential to throw a significant monkey wrench in his ongoing efforts to disrupt the proposed sale of government-run utility Santee Cooper to Florida-based NextEra Energy.
Rankin has been pushing NextEra to disclose a trove of documents – believing the company was involved in the campaign to oust him. Now it would appear as though the tables have been turned … with scrutiny falling squarely on the special interests which helped Rankin stave off defeat last spring.
According to a copy of the lawsuit (.pdf) obtained by this news outlet, pro-life activist John Gallman – whom Rankin defeated in a GOP runoff last June – has sued the politician and numerous individuals and entities involved (or allegedly involved) in the latter’s reelection campaign.
Also named in the suit? Pollster Robert Cahaly, Horry county councilman Tyler Servant and political strategists Raegan Quinn Smith and Rebecca Quinn Mustian of the Columbia, S.C. based firm, Spring Strategies. Various corporate entities tied to these strategists are also listed as defendants – including consultants and companies as far away as Louisiana.
Curiously, the lawsuit did not name veteran GOP consultant Richard Quinn, who was reportedly part of Rankin’s 2020 reelection bid. Quinn is still facing perjury and obstruction of justice charges in connection with a sprawling pay-to-play investigation that brought down his political empire in 2017.
Reporter Christian Boschult of MyHorryNews.com and Waccamaw Publishers – the website’s parent company – are also named in the pleading, which was filed this week in the S.C. fifteenth judicial circuit by Columbia, S.C. attorney Tucker Player.
The suit accuses the defendants of multiple campaign finance violations, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and civil conspiracy.
It seeks “nominal, actual, general, special and consequential damages” as well as “punitive damages.”
(Click to view)
The defendants – collectively referred to in the lawsuit as “the Rankin group” – are accused of engaging in a multi-platform campaign to defame Gallman (above) in the days leading up to his runoff election with Rankin.
Regular readers of this news outlet no doubt recall this campaign – as well as Rankin’s ability to keep his own dirty laundry hidden from public view during the contentious Republican election.
As part of the Rankin group’s efforts, a dossier was allegedly prepared which included “the confidential mental health records of (Gallman)’s ten-year-old daughter,” according to the lawsuit.
The dossier – which the lawsuit claims was “paid for by Rankin” – was allegedly “distributed to numerous media outlets around the State of South Carolina.”
As noted in a previous post, this news outlet received some of the information disseminated against Gallman – but our founding editor Will Folks declined to publish it owing to the fact that Rankin’s divorce file had been sealed by a South Carolina court.
“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 – (is) a disturbing double standard,” Folks noted at the time.
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Other news outlets chose to publish the information, however.
On June 16, 2020, Boschult referenced the dossier in an article he wrote for MyHorryNews.com. Once this article was published, the Rankin group “directly referenced (the) defamatory and illegal article in its campaign advertisements,” according to the suit.
“Despite knowing that the allegations were untrue, Defendants flooded the airwaves, mail services, and social media sites with direct quotes from (the) Boschult article disclosing the confidential mental health records of a ten-year-old girl,” the lawsuit alleged.
The suit further alleged that the “Rankin group” continued to run its defamatory advertisements even after being informed that they contained information obtained from confidential mental health records.
Furthermore, the “Rankin group” is accused of illegally coordinating campaign activities as it related to the production and dissemination of the advertisements.
“The actions of defendants qualify as ‘coordinated communications’ under the Federal Election Commission’s regulations and should have been disclosed to the South Carolina (State) Ethics Commission,” the lawsuit alleged.
Obviously, this news outlet will be keeping a very close eye on this case – especially the responses submitted by those individuals and entities named in the complaint. As is our policy, this news outlet’s microphone is open to them all.
But this much is clear: Rankin is no longer playing offense as it relates to his ongoing vendetta.
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