COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – A South Carolina judge has ordered a political group spending heavily to promote Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley to pull its television ads supporting her campaign.
Spartanburg County Judge James M. Hayes issued the order Wednesday at the request of Haley primary opponent U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett and three donors to ReformSC….
Did you see that coming? I didn’t. I sort of thought the Mark Sanford allies at ReformSC were going to keep getting away with pumping $400,000 into Nikki’s campaign.
As for the legal issues involved, here’s an excerpt from an earlier story by The State‘s John O’Connor:
A rival of Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley said television ads featuring the state representative and purchased by an outside group might violate state election laws.
Terry Sullivan, campaign adviser to gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, said the campaign is studying whether the ads, featuring Haley and her signature issue of roll-call voting in the Legislature, violate state election laws. The chairman of the group running the ads, ReformSC, said he was “very comfortable” with their content….
Third-party advertising, such as that by ReformSC, a 501(c)(4) educational nonprofit, is a gray area in politics. Such groups are limited in what they can say about candidates, with a distinction drawn around ads using so-called “magic words” such as “vote for” or “vote against.” Those rules have been clouded by recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including a 2007 decision involving a Wisconsin right-to-life group. That decision requires issue ads “take no position on a candidate’s character, qualifications, or fitness for office,” among other requirements.
Such third-party groups are also forbidden from coordinating with campaigns.
ReformSC chairman Pat McKinney said the group has followed its attorney’s advice, and that the Haley campaign was not aware the group was filming or airing the ads. Haley spokesman Tim Pearson said the campaign did not know of the ads, or that the tea party rally was being filmed. Haley’s appearance at the rally had been advertised for several weeks.