To paraphrase Shakespeare, something is rotten in the State of South Carolina.
On Friday, May 4, 2012, hundreds of candidates who were challengers to powerful incumbents were taken off the ballot because of a series of events that is shameful.
The South Carolina Supreme Court said that these challengers failed to produce a paper statement of economic interest (SEI) form even though no such form existed. In fact, as of May 4, 2012, the South Carolina Ethics Commission web site continued to show that this form “must be filed electronically.” Yet all non-incumbent candidates who neglected to file this non-existent form were thrown off the ballot.
Non-incumbents who happened to guess that the SC Ethics Commission and Election Commission were wrong and turned in printed copies of their SEI electronic forms (despite being told by officials that wasn’t necessary) lucked out and got to stay on the ballot. Or were the establishment-approved candidates tipped off?
The Court also threw out challengers who turned their forms in after a March 30, 2012 deadline despite the SC Election Commission publishing an incorrect April 15 deadline.
So, let’s recap. The SC Ethics Commission (appointed by the legislature) told the candidates incorrect filing information. The SC Election Commission (appointed by the legislature) told the candidates an incorrect filing deadline. Then, the SC Supreme Court (appointed by the legislature) ordered the political parties to throw out all the non-incumbents who did exactly what they were told by those state agencies (appointed by the legislature). But who was not affected by any of this? Members of the legislature. Why not? Because, elected officials are “exempt” from this law.
Take, for instance, Senate district 2 where former state Representative Rex Rice was challenging Senator Larry Martin. Rex Rice filed his statement of economic interest form on April 9. Senator Larry Martin filed his one day after on April 10 — and did so electronically. While Senator Martin both filed the form late and did not file it by paper, he was not thrown off the ballot because members of the legislature are exempt from the law. Rex Rice, on the other hand, was thrown off the ballot even though he complied with all the instructions given to him by state agencies and filed his SEI form no differently than his opponent.
Sen. Jake Knotts of Lexington is, shall we say, a little bit lacking in his conservative credentials. His challenger, a “Tea Party” candidate, Katrina Shealy, was thrown off the ballot because she followed the instructions of those legislature-appointed government agencies.
On the other hand, more conservative incumbents like Sen. Lee Bright and Sen. Mike Rose just coincidentally had challengers that happened to luck out and submit paper SEI forms at the time of filing even though the Ethics Commission and Election Commission said that wasn’t necessary.
Did somebody tip off the more moderate challengers of conservative opponents? It’s impossible to know. But we wouldn’t even be in a position to second-guess that if our state had one standard for everyone. But we don’t. We have a blatant double standard.
The legislature created a trap to catch anyone who ran against them while exempting themselves. And who pays the penalty when a candidate falls victim to this trap? The voter. South Carolina voters are being denied a choice and prevented from challenging the status quo.
There is a chance to fix this but we have no time to waste. We can demand our legislature give the candidates a second-chance to file their SEI forms. Click here to contact all members of the South Carolina Senate (all at once) and Click here to contact all members of the South Carolina House of Representatives (all at once).
By using those links, you can quickly send an email to every Senate and House member at one time. But hurry. If this doesn’t happen early next week, it won’t happen at all. Also, please consider joining or donating to the Republican Liberty Caucus so that we can continue to fight for liberty and against the establishment in South Carolina. Don’t let the establishment deny you a choice at the ballot box.