SC politics: Federal court tosses out SC ban on robo-calls

Posted on June 23, 2014 

Federal court tosses out S.C. robo-call ban

A U.S. District Court in Greenville has ruled that an S.C. law that bans political robo-calls is unconstitutional.

The order, signed by U.S. District Court Judge Michelle Childs June 10, is part of an ongoing lawsuit that Robert Cahaly, a former campaign consultant to ex-Lt. Gov. Ken Ard, filed after he was arrested in 2010 for robo-calls, or automated phone calls, traced to him.

After the charges against Cahaly were dismissed, he filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated.

Cahaly was accused of targeting six female Democratic candidates for the S.C. House in the call, according to the court order. One call asked listeners if a Democratic candidate should invite U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to campaign with her. The listener was prompted to answer yes or no by using the telephone key pad.

The court order says the state attorney general previously had interpreted the law to allow political robo-calls as long as they are delivered to an answering machine or conducted a survey.

The court ruled state law unfairly singles out political speech, agreeing with Cahaly that the law violated the First Amendment. The ruling only applies to political robo-calls, not to automated commercial phone calls, which also are restricted by state law.

“This ruling in favor of free speech isn’t just a win for me,” Cahaly said. “It’s a win for the Constitution and most especially the Bill of Rights.”

Attorney general, House speaker head to court

Two of South Carolina’s most powerful politicians — the state’s attorney general and speaker of the S.C. House — square off Tuesday afternoon in a hearing before the S.C. Supreme Court.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, R-Lexington, will argue he has the authority to investigate House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston.

A circuit judge ruled the House Ethics Committee must first consider allegations that Harrell used his powerful position for personal benefit before the Attorney General’s Office gets a crack at the case.

Harrell has decried the charges and investigation as “politically motivated.”

•  Look for coverage of Tuesday’s court case online at thestate.com and in Wednesday’s State.

Governor’s schedule, activities

Gov. Nikki Haley’s publicly announced schedule for this week, released Monday by her staff, is:

Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. — Vote in the GOP runoff in Lexington

Tuesday, 9:30 a.m. — Join state Agriculture Department commissioner Hugh Weathers and S.C. Parks, Recreation, and Tourism director Duane Parrish to introduce the “S.C. Chef Ambassador Program,” State House

Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. — Visit and tour the Office of Executive Policy and Programs, State House grounds

Wednesday, noon — Attend the post-runoff GOP Unity Lunch, Columbia

Wednesday, 4 p.m. — Hold constituent meetings, State House

Thursday, 12:30 p.m. — Speak at the Columbia Kiwanis Club meeting, Columbia

Thursday, 6:30 p.m. — Speak at the Fairfield County Chamber of Commerce’s 69th annual banquet, Ridgeway

Friday, 2 p.m. — Speak at the graduation ceremony for the S.C. Highway Patrol’s Basic Class 94, Columbia

According to her office, Haley’s activities last week included:

6 — Economic-development activities, including job announcements in Richburg and Fort Mill, and a speech to the Mount Pleasant Business Association

3 — Legislative calls or meetings

2 each — Media interviews; also, meetings concerning state policy; also, meetings with state employees, a tour of the Department of Revenue and an appreciation lunch for Cabinet agency employees

1 each — Budget and Control Board meeting; also, bill signing; attending the Medal of Honor ceremony for Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter of Gilbert at the White House

Busiest day — Monday, with five activities

Slowest days — Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with three activities each

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