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SC Politics

South Carolina Freedom Caucus Drama: Who Is Targeting Conservative Lawmakers?

“Dark money attacking real conservatives …”

Earlier this week, I reported on a Twitter war involving South Carolina’s “Republican” establishment and the conservative S.C. Freedom Caucus – a group of roughly twenty state lawmakers who were expelled from their party earlier this year after refusing to sign a ‘loyalty oath.’

Apparently this war is unfolding far afield of Twitter … on the anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War, no less.

Six figures are reportedly being dumped into the campaign, which is being waged under the auspices of the so-called Palmetto Truth Project, a Columbia, S.C.-based pro-establishment, dark money outfit.

In addition to its social media campaign, this group is sending mail pieces and text messages to constituents of Freedom Caucus members in multiple districts – on a massive scale. According to its website, the Palmetto Truth Project is “a group of South Carolina business and community leaders joined together to hold our elected officials accountable by telling the TRUTH about votes they take in Columbia.”

“We believe there is too much at stake to play political games and want our General Assembly to find real solutions to fix our real problems here,” the website continued. “The Palmetto Truth Project will serve as a resource for votes and policy decisions that impact all of South Carolina and will shine a light on those who are holding our state back.”

Wait a minute … “those who are holding our state back?”

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Last time I counted, the GOP held 88 out of 124 seats in the S.C. General Assembly – a definitional supermajority. Of those 88 GOP-controlled seats, twenty of them (at most) were held by Freedom Caucus members. While that number certainly constitutes a growing contingent of conservative lawmakers within the S.C. House “Republican” Caucus, it remains a decided minority – less than a quarter of the GOP votes within the chamber, to be precise.

How, exactly, is this group impacting “policy decisions?” To say nothing of “holding our state back?”

Last time I checked, it was status quo “Republican” lawmakers holding the state back … not the Freedom Caucus.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, the state’s economy is not moving in the right direction (see here and here). Nor are its schools (see here). Nor are its communities (see here). And nor is its court system (see here).

All of these atrocious outcomes have been “achieved” despite gargantuan new taxpayer investments … expenditures which have fueled the perpetuation of an antiquated, corrupt and duplicative bureaucracy which does a multitude of things government has no business doing (like running power companiesports and hospitals, etc.).

In addition to these incessant incursions on the free market at the bureaucratic level, GOP lawmakers have also supported rampant crony capitalism ... corporate welfare which diverts money from the individuals and small businesses which drive job creation in South Carolina.

Or should be driving it ...

Owing to these policies, the SCGOP-controlled General Assembly has ranked as the most liberal “Republican-controlled” state legislature in America three years running.

(Click to view)

Rep. Tommy Pope, left, House Clerk Charles Reid and Rep. Chris Wooten during a House session on Tuesday, March 14, 2023. (Travis Bell/STATEHOUSE CAROLINA)

That is what is "holding our state back” ... not the Freedom Caucus.

Clearly, though, this group has emerged as a threat to the powers-that-be in the Palmetto State capital ... hence the well-heeled, dark money campaign to take out its members.

"The S.C. Freedom Caucus is highlighting the public alliance between moderate Republicans and liberal Democrats in support of these dark money groups in attacking real conservatives,” Upstate conservative activist Stacy Shea told me. "There is no clearer picture of the uniparty in South Carolina.”

Shea recently published a guest editorial on this news outlet calling out GOP leaders for their failure to toe the conservative line. In her column, she referred to the Freedom Caucus as an up-and-coming conservative group aiming to be the "voice of the people.”

(Click to view)

Stacy Shea (Provided)

"The S.C. Freedom Caucus is putting forth legislation that is popular with South Carolinians,” Shea told me. "And not so much with the entrenched power structure that has ignored voters for decades now.”

Indeed ... which brings us to the rub. "Republican” leaders in the S.C. House are tired of being embarrassed as Freedom Caucus members keep introducing bills and amendments forcing them to honor their campaign promises and show how "conservative” they really are.

Which is "not very.”

"For the first time the lobbyists are actually feeling a threat to their power,” a tweet from the Freedom Caucus earlier this week noted. "And we’re just getting started.”

So who within the "entrenched” GOP power structure at the State House is opening the saddlebags against the conservative wing of the party? This news outlet has spoken with nearly a dozen top "Republican” political consultants this week - all of whom categorically denied having any involvement with the Palmetto Truth Project (or any of its recent campaigns).

Many of them were not shy about pointing fingers ... but as of this writing the organization of the group remains a mystery. And given South Carolina’s "wild west” campaign finance laws, following the mountain of money behind the barrage of tweets, texts and mailings won’t be easy.

Amidst the opaqueness, though, one thing is clear: The current fight is a mere foretaste of what is shaping up to be an all-out war for the heart and soul of the "Republican-controlled” legislature in South Carolina. Expect that war to escalate even further during the 2024 primary season as the Freedom Caucus seeks to defend its recent gains in the House - and potentially add to its numbers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR ...

Will Folks on phone
Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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10 comments

RC April 12, 2023 at 2:12 pm

““The S.C. Freedom Caucus is putting forth legislation that is popular with South Carolinians”

Yeah that death penalty for women receiving abortions legislation was super popular

Reply
Lynn Bowers Top fan April 12, 2023 at 2:24 pm

Agreed. SC Republicans need to listen to Nancy Mace on this one. She’s trying to save the republicans from themselves. This independent will vote accordingly.

Reply
Bob Jones April 12, 2023 at 6:46 pm

Wouldn’t surprise me if the freedom caucus made these themselves. Nothing stirs up the base like being a martyr.

Reply
Bob April 12, 2023 at 10:26 pm

lol

What is a “real conservative”?

The ones that want give the death penalty to women who get a legal abortion in another State or the ones that think Putin is great?

The election/reality deniers or the ones that cozy up to white-supremacists?

Reply
Susan Demchak April 13, 2023 at 6:21 am

Agreed. The ones who want permitless carry, except anywhere near themselves? LOL.

Reply
Nanker Phelge April 12, 2023 at 10:54 pm

THE CALLS ARE COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE

Reply
Bill April 12, 2023 at 10:55 pm

lol

What is a “real conservative”?

The ones that want give the death penalty to women who get a legal abortion in another State or the ones that think Putin is great?

The election/reality deniers or the ones that cozy up to white-supremacists?

Reply
Tom Stitt April 13, 2023 at 8:41 pm

I sent FITSNews an email about dark money 501 4c Social Welfare Non Profits Organization in Greenville SC called Better Greenville that spent over six figures to back loyal incumbents against the challengers for District County Council positions. Good news they lost 3 of the 4 incumbents they backed!
Worst part is the SC Secretary of State, IRS, SC and County GOP, and Ethics Commission, give these dark money deep pocket funding machines the credibility to keep voters and taxpayers in the dark.
There are postcard, social media, telemarketing, and eblasts ready to hit the GOP database against any Freedom Caucus like votes or behavior against the Establishment!
Keep up the great work!

Reply
Dave April 20, 2023 at 11:16 pm

SC Freedom Caucus- Stacy Shea

nut jobs

Reply
Anonymous September 26, 2023 at 12:08 pm

Kevin Hardy
After attending the 2023 SC-GOP state convention I saw how the RINO’s in the SCGOP run this state. The SC Freedom Caucus deserves all the support we conservatives can give them. They’ve been singled out and alienated by the other so called republicans because they were unwilling to sign the loyalty pledge. It takes someone with guts to stand up to the crowd. Obviously, few of our legislatures have the integrity to do what they tell their constituents they will do. My hats off to the SC Freedom Caucus.

Reply

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