House Ethics Committee Chairman Kenny Bingham has lawyered up and is suing S.C. political blogger Will Folks – the scribe behind the opinionated political blog Fitsnews.
Bingham’s lawsuit is the first against Folks since launching his website in 2006, the blogger said.
The Lexington Republican lawmaker filed a libel lawsuit in Lexington County last week accusing Folks of falsely publishing in December that libertarian activist Colin Ross had filed an ethics complaint accusing him of using his position for personal gain.
State Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, told Folks no ethics complaint was filed, but the blogger wrote stories anyway that included “false and defamatory” claims, the lawsuit said.
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Quinn told The Buzz that he asked Bingham, his desk mate, about the alleged ethics complaint after hearing from Folks. Bingham said no complaint was filed against him, Quinn said.
Bingham’s attorney John Parker said his client would know if a complaint was filed against him because he leads the House ethics panel.
Folks referred questions about the lawsuit to his attorney Pete Strom. The blogger has “back-up documentation” in emails and texts from Ross that supports what he published, Strom said.
The odds may be in Folks’ favor, however.
Bingham must prove Folks “either knew (the information he published) was false or had serious doubt about the accuracy of what was published, and published it anyway,” said Jay Bender, a media attorney who has represented The State.
It’s a “very high standard,” Bender said.
And if the court cannot settle the matter, Strom has another idea:
“Maybe we need to re-legalize dueling in South Carolina and let politicians and reporters fight it out on the courthouse steps.”
Clinton camps in Columbia
Hillary Clinton has a home in South Carolina.
The campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential front-runner has opened its South Carolina headquarters at 1529 Richland St. in Columbia’s Robert Mills District, The Buzz has learned.
An official neighborhood “open house” will be announced in coming weeks, but the first phone bank at the Clinton campaign HQ will take place Wednesday.
Clinton will make her first 2016-cycle campaign visit to South Carolina on May 27, holding roundtable events.
The former Secretary of State last came to the Palmetto State in 2008 for a Democratic presidential primary debate.
A fight for Hardwick’s seat, really?
S.C. Rep. Nelson Hardwick’s sudden resignation last week over allegations that he sexually harassed a female staffer was a low point for state Republicans this year.
But on paper, the GOP has little chance of losing in Hardwick’s Horry County district south of Myrtle Beach even as both parties prepare to fight for the newly open seat.
Hardwick’s colleagues seemed ready to move on. A news release sent by the House Republican Caucus last week started off like a statement issued from a corporate human resources department.
“I have been informed of Rep. Nelson Hardwick’s decision to resign from his seat representing House District 106,” House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, said in the release. “He served his district for 10 years following his first election in 2004.”
Then it was time to talk politics.
“S.C. Republicans can rest assured that the House Republican Caucus will mount an aggressive campaign to follow up our unblemished record of retaining Republican held seats from last fall’s general election,” Bannister said.
The Democrats say they are ready to battle.
“This is yet another embarrassing S.C. Republican Party scandal and resignation,” S.C. Democratic Chairman Jaime Harrison said in a statement Wednesday. “The S.C. Democratic Party looks forward to vigorously competing for this seat in Horry County and having a candidate who can serve the people in a respectful and dignified manner.”
Well, The Buzz says good luck with that.
Hardwick faced Democratic opposition only once in his six elections for the seat – and that was when he ran for the first time in 2004.
Plus, Republican challenger Mitt Romney topped Democratic President Barack Obama by a 2-to-1 margin in Hardwick’s district in the 2012 election.
That adds up to a lot of red to overcome.
Hardwick’s hurdle back to the House
Word that Hardwick’s attorney said the former state representative tried to rescind his resignation last week after he was confronted with sexual harassment allegations led to whispers that the Horry County Republican might enter the special election to regain his seat.
But if Hardwick declares an election bid, the House Ethics Committee would be waiting for him, the panel chairman said last week.
The sexual harassment accusation against Hardwick by a female House staffer was sent to the ethics committee as well as the S.C. Attorney General’s office by House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington.
Announcing a run would put Hardwick under the authority of the ethics committee, which could investigate any complaints from his previous service in House, panel chairman Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington, said.
For now, Bingham can hold off.
Hardwick has no plans to run, his attorney said, though the 63-year-old engineer is fighting the harassment allegations.
The ‘Huh?’ Move of the Week: Sen. Lee Bright, once called a “pro-life champion” by a Columbia advocacy group, took a stand Thursday that would more likely please abortion-rights backers. The Spartanburg Republican filibustered a bill that would ban abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy because it gave exceptions for rape and incest. Bright’s block hurts the bill’s chances of passing this year.
Clean Bill of Health of the Week: None of the seven interim appointees to the S.C. State University board contributed money to the campaigns of the politicians who appointed them, according to a review of state data by The Buzz.
Quote of the Week: “To all the mothers out there, if we wrecked your Mother’s Day, I apologize, but it was for a very good cause,” — Lonnie Carter, president of the Santee Cooper, on the electric utility’s board meeting last Sunday to vote on incentives for a Volvo auto plant in Berkeley County.
Tweet of the Week: “Sharia law debate continues with ‘ghost dances’ and the religious practices of plains Native Americans. Now about those road repairs . . .” S.C. Rep. Tommy Stringer, R-Greenville (@tommymstringer) on a lengthy debate as the House was ready to leave Thursday. And the fight over banning enforcement of foreign laws in South Carolina likely will continue. Lawmakers ended up postponing a vote after nearly three hours of debate.
Staff reporter Andrew Shain contributed.