On the same day South Carolina’s fiscally conservative Freedom Caucus unveiled its 2024 legislative agenda, the Palmetto State’s ruling uniparty made it abundantly clear what it thinks of the group’s members – and the lengths it is willing to go to in order to shut them down.
During a panel discussion hosted on Tuesday (January 16, 2024) by the Carolinas Natural Gas Association, assistant S.C. House majority leader Jay West assailed members of the Freedom Caucus as “crazies” – and urged a roomful of special interests to assist him and other uniparty leaders in recruiting candidates to run against them (and raise money to defeat them) in this year’s legislative elections.
“Y’all need to help us get rid of them,” West told the group, according to multiple sources who attended the panel discussion.
West proceeded to urge the assembled special interests to “raise more money” to defeat fiscal conservatives in the upcoming legislative races so as to elect “more normal people in Columbia.”
West’s remarks were echoed by two other panel participants – S.C. Senate minority leader Brad Hutto and Democratic representative Joseph Jefferson. According to our sources, Hutto actually told the lobbyists in attendance they needed to “do a better job” of raising money to help uniparty leaders get rid of “the crazies.”
Jefferson was not quite as bold as his two colleagues, but he reportedly concurred with their remarks and told the panel “we need more normal people to run.”
The remarks attributed to West, Hutto and Jefferson were made in the presence of at least two members of the Freedom Caucus – lawmakers who both support expanded natural gas infrastructure, incidentally, which was the ostensible focus of the association’s hearing.
“We were standing there in shock,” Magnuson said. “It just confirmed everything we’ve been saying about GOP leadership in the House overtly campaigning with Democrats against conservative members.”
Pace called the comments “the most emblematic picture I’ve seen of the uniparty at work,” decrying “moderate Republicans and Democrats demanding that these lobbyists throw more money their way to get rid of the most conservative members of the Republican party.”
Magnuson added that it was highly inappropriate for West and Hutto – two influential legislative leaders – to tell lobbyists they needed to do a better job recruiting and financing State House challengers.
“It was really an order, that was the vibe,” Magnuson said. “The insinuation was if you don’t do what we say, you’re not going to get what you want.”
To the credit of the association, its representatives reportedly spoke with Pace and Magnuson after the event and made clear the comments from legislative leaders were not reflective of the group’s views. Also, both of the Freedom Caucus members in attendance targeted by West and Hutto told me they spoke with several energy industry lobbyists after the event – all of whom made it clear they would not be supporting the uniparty leadership’s jihad against them.
“I think they were blindsided,” Magnuson told me.
Pace told me he supported expanded natural gas infrastructure in South Carolina – he just opposed reckless, unaccountable federal spending. He also told me the federal money West and his colleagues were railing about “had nothing to do with natural gas.”
Magnuson also indicated his support for new natural gas projects; however he made it clear he does not support funding any projects in-state with borrowed federal money.
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“We’re paying for it with the national debt,” Magnuson said. “I don’t think that’s morally right. They’re putting this on the backs of people who are already having a hard time putting food on the table. For me this is a moral conviction. I’m not for taking money from future generations for my own convenience.”
Of interest? Within hours of the latest rhetoric from uniparty leaders, Pace and other Freedom Caucus lawmakers were hit with the latest attack ads from a group that’s been slamming them for months.
The ads also regurgitated some of the same language the uniparty leaders used at the association event.
The emergence of the Freedom Caucus represents the first true test of uniparty dominance in South Carolina – a state which has continued to fall behind its regional peers despite massive new investments in its unaccountable, antiquated bureaucracies and crony capitalist subsidies.
From 1878-1994, generations of corrupt, self-serving white Democrats were exclusively to blame for the myriad problems plaguing the Palmetto State. Since 2001, however, legislative power has been held exclusively by white “Republicans” – many of whom simply flipped parties (albeit not governing philosophies) as a means of maintaining their power. In fact, West – ostensibly a GOP leader – ran for office as a Democrat as recently as 2004.
Since obtaining their numerical supermajority following the 2022 elections, House GOP leaders have done everything in their power to neuter the conservative wing of their party. That includes last year’s decision by GOP establishment leaders to kick conservative Republicans out of their caucus after they declined to sign a “loyalty oath” to the establishment. It also includes recent efforts to bribe challengers to run against Freedom Caucus members in the upcoming 2024 primary election – as well as a controversial new rules change intended to silence dissent on the floor of the S.C. House by putting the power over amendments to bills exclusively in the hands of GOP and Democratic House leaders.
With West likely to inherit the majority leader position soon, Magnuson said, “If he’s the one controlling debate during cloture, he absolutely would shut out conservative legislators.”
“It’s no surprise that a former Democrat would revert to his old ways and work with special interest and fellow liberals against conservatives,” the Freedom Caucus noted in a statement responding to the uniparty attack. “What is shocking is that this former Democrat (and current RINO) happens to be the sitting assistant majority leader. This damming evidence should cause any conservatives left in the Republican Caucus to call for the immediate removal and replacement of embattled assistant majority leader Jay West.”
I concur …
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 and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven (soon to be eight) children.
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