On January 19th, less than a day after our article announcing that the members of the Freedom Caucus were kicked out of the Republican House Caucus for not signing a three page ‘loyalty oath’ contract, Majority Leader Davey Hiott confirmed in a press conference that these members “chose not to join.” 

That’s not the story told by those that were removed from the caucus led by Davey Hiott himself.

Members of the Freedom Caucus have reported multiple attempts over the past two months to negotiate terms of this ‘loyalty oath’ due to its limitations of free speech. Learn more about these negotiations, their similarity to the SC GOP, and how Davey Hiott physically barred at least one representative out of a Republican luncheon

Representative Jay Kilmartin of Lexington County, a business owner and newly elected member of the House, specifically had issues with the loyalty oath’s rules against campaigning for a challenger to an incumbent in the primaries and the verbiage of the signature line.

Read the Republican House Caucus loyalty oath contract here:

“I hereby acknowledge my receipt, review and understanding of the Rules of the South Carolina House Republican Caucus dated November 16, 2022 specifically including but not limited to the rules on Confidentiality and Decorum and agree to adhere, abide by and comply with the same.”

The verbage of the last paragraph is interesting, especially compared to the newly updated SC GOP rules (see Rule 2, 14, and 16 for an example.) These rules were updated after a sham of a convention was held in July 2022 where the Establishment GOP and Rep. Tommy Pope (who served as the “unbiased” parlimentarian) forced through several new rule changes as a “package” that weren’t explained to the delegates voting on them.

Take a close look at Rule 2, subsection A:

(a) These Rules shall be interpreted and applied so as to substantially accomplish their objectives. All records and lists required by the Rules shall be in writing. The spirit and not the letter of each Rule shall be controlling. Substantial compliance with a Rule shall be sufficient.

So the SPIRIT of the rule, not the words of the rule shall be the control of the South Carolina GOP. That explains a LOT of their dictatorial-like decisions of the past two years, including their mulitple attempts to overthrow or dissolve county parties that didn’t elect pre-approved GOP establishment leaders.

In a previous article, I recalled how the rule imposed upon Republican House Caucus members (where they cannot campaign for a challenger of an incumbent in the primaries) is similar to the unwritten rule passed around county GOPs where they barred challengers of incumbents to speak to their members before the 2022 primaries.

“It’s insane how tribal it is,” Rep. Kilmartin commented, referring to the clique that is the Republican Party in the General Assembly. “RINOs are fighting the most because they have the most to lose. They know that the Freedom Caucus has the grassroots support and they are scared of losing their jobs.”

When asked if any other Republicans are standing up for them, Rep. Kilmartin explained that these Republicans only privately tell the Freedom Caucus members that they are proud of them for standing up to the Establishment Republicans. However, these same Republicans do not stand up for themselves or the members that have been removed when they are in the Republican House Caucus.

This hasn’t stopped the Freedom Caucus members from making their opinions known. Instead, they are just getting started. “The beauty of being kicked out is being able to talk,” Rep. Kilmartin excitedly commented. 

On January 19th, the same day Davey Hiott delivered his press conference, The Freedom Caucus held both established Democrats and Republicans of the House accountable in session for the 586 million dollars of “Biden Bucks” that was being given to a South Carolina government agency by the South Carolina House of Representatives with no direction of how it should be spent and no oversight. The Freedom Caucus decided to attempt to pass multiple amendments that would provide transparency and limitations on how this money was spent and had to argue it on the House floor rather than in private behind closed doors in the Republican Caucus. These various attempts for a transparency amendment had both the Democrats and Republicans in an uproar, stating that even though they were in favor of transparency, these “extra rules” were not needed and would “water-down” current laws…Wait, what?

The longer the session lasted, the more ridiculous the majority of the House legislators became. One Republican legislator from Lexington stated in session that he was shocked the Freedom Caucus didn’t run this amendment by him before putting it on the House floor…which they couldn’t do since they were kicked out of the Republican Caucus. 

I highly suggest watching this session by downloading the “SC Legislature” app, click on “Archive” in the “Video” tab, and watch the House of Representatives session dated 1/19/23.

Those that have been removed from the Republican Caucus have voiced their relief of liberation after being muzzled the past two months. As Representative Jay Kilmartin says, “When you’re telling the truth, you have nothing to worry about.”