Politics & Government

SC Supreme Court sides with Democrat Harpootlian over Senate GOP ads

Benjamin Dunn and Dick Harpootlian
Benjamin Dunn and Dick Harpootlian

S.C. Senate Republicans won’t be able to spend any more money to defeat Democratic state Senate candidate Dick Harpootlian.

In an opinion issued Thursday, the S.C. Supreme Court sided with Harpootlian in his lawsuit challenging spending by the Senate GOP Caucus on ads attacking him. Senate Republicans had asked the court to expedite its appeal of a lower court ruling that halted their spending.

The ruling likely means the caucus won’t be able to spend any more money on Harpootlian’s Nov. 6 Columbia-area Senate race against Republican Benjamin Dunn, said Harpootlian’s attorney Joe McCullough.

Harpootlian had argued the cost of the Senate GOP’s ads — almost $200,000 — exceeded the $5,000 limit on legislative caucus spending. Last week, a state Circuit Court judge agreed, issuing an injunction barring the caucus from buying any new ads in the race for the Senate’s District 20 seat, which represents parts of Lexington and Richland counties.

While the lower court will continue to study the issue before deciding if the caucus violated spending limits, the ruling could have wider implications for how groups of legislators spend money in the future.

“This is about a whole lot more than District 20 and this race,” McCullough told The State. “It will have an effect ... in the way caucuses have been doing business.”

Senate GOP leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, who chairs the caucus and directs its spending, said he was “disappointed and really a little surprised” with the high court’s decision.

But Massey said he remains confident the caucus will be vindicated when the court finishes its review.

“I am confident the justices will conclude the law allows caucuses to run campaign ads,” he said. “We disclose who contributes to the caucus. We disclose how we spend the money, and we put the caucus’s name on everything we do.”

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