South Carolina’s fiscally left-of-center “Republican” majority took it on the chin again in federal court this month, with a U.S. district court judge ordering it to pay nearly $80,000 to the Palmetto State’s Freedom Caucus in connection with a free speech lawsuit the establishment lost earlier this year.
That’s nearly $210,000 in legal fees and court costs tied to this case – all so the S.C. House “Republican” Caucus could defend a law that clearly violated both the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
“They trashed our Constitution and spent how much to do it?” a fundraising email from the Freedom Caucus noted, blasting the GOP establishment as full of “career politicians desperate to maintain their grip on power.”
“The South Carolina Freedom Caucus was forced to sue when we were threatened with fines, arrest, and even removal from office if we dared (to) donate to or endorse conservative candidates running for office,” the email from the group noted.
Freedom Caucus leaders filed their lawsuit back in March, accusing legislative leaders of unconstitutionally suppressing their speech and subjecting them to “discriminatory disclosure requirements that apply to special interest caucuses but not legislative caucuses.”
In June, U.S. district court judge Cameron Currie ruled decisively in their favor – finding that GOP leaders were enforcing one set of contribution rules for a handful of “protected class” caucuses and another set of rules for everyone else.
“The court has found the challenged statutes violate the Constitution and are unenforceable,” Currie wrote in her order (.pdf) granting the Freedom Caucus summary judgment over ten individually named members of the S.C. House Ethics Committee.
Currie also granted a permanent injunction against the enforcement of these discriminatory statutes – arguing Freedom Caucus members would “suffer irreparable injury by having (their) speech restricted by law.”
Multiple members of the Freedom Caucus were expelled from the GOP earlier this year after refusing to sign a “loyalty oath” crafted to muzzle them from calling attention to the atrocious voting records of their moderate colleagues. They have since been targeted in their districts by shadowy special interest groups.
The group’s leaders have kept up the pressure, though.
“We are grateful for yet another win as we work to restore respect for the Constitution and battle the swamp,” the group’s fundraising email noted. “But this victory for conservatism and free speech hasn’t come without its cost. Just this month, Freedom Caucus members across the state have been targeted with even more mailers full of lies and smears paid for by dark money groups with ties to the Columbia Establishment. The swamp is livid that we are threatening their gravy train by bringing transparency and accountability to state government – especially as it regards the budget. They’re now saying they are willing to spend any amount of money to get rid of legislators in the Freedom Caucus.”
Multiple Freedom Caucus legislators are expected to draw primary challengers in the 2024 election cycle, however there are multiple incumbent “Republicans” who are likely to face credible Freedom Caucus opponents – including lawmakers like Neal Collins of Pickens County.
Oh … while the scramble is on for seats inside the S.C. State House, thanks to our friend and longtime photojournalism partner, Travis Bell, for sending us that awesome new pic of the S.C. State House.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
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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