On Tuesday, February 28th, the South Carolina Freedom Caucus filed a lawsuit against the House of Representatives Legislative Ethics Committee and its ten members in their official capacity.
The SC Freedom Caucus has received a lot of press recently and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. They received a lot of coverage when 16 of the 20 members refused to sign the loyalty oath proposed by the Republican House Caucus which resulted in the 16 being kicked out. Since then, key members of the Freedom Caucus have been targeted by false text ad campaigns, claiming that they voted to keep abortion legal or voted to allow felons to open carry.
In this lawsuit, The SC Freedom Caucus is seeking recognition as a full legislative caucus, since they are limited as a special legislative interest caucus. According to SC Code of Laws, caucuses that are based on a party, race, and gender can campaign, raise money, participate in political speech and “engage in any activity that would influence the outcome of an election or ballot measure” S.C. Code ann. § 2-17-10 (21). For example, The Republican Caucus and Women’s Caucus can speak openly, while the Freedom Caucus and Progressive Caucus cannot. Otherwise, the members face criminal prosecution.
The filed complaint list two violations of the First Amendment and one of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Press Release and Complaint is attached at the end of this article.
But while we are here, let’s take a look at WHO makes up the Ethics Commission and their freedom index based off the U.S. Constitution in comparison to their 2021-2022 legislative scorecard. Just for kicks.
|Ethics Commission Committee Member||District (County)||Party||Freedom Score|
|Wallace H. Jordan, Jr. (Chairman)||District 63 (Florence)||R||50|
|J. David Weeks (Vice-Chair)||District 51 (Sumter)||D||20|
|Beth E. Bernstein (Secretary)||District 78 (Richland)||D||17|
|Paula Rawl Calhoon||District 87 (Lexington)||R||25|
|Micajah P. Caskey, IV||District 89 (Lexington)||R||40|
|Neal A. Collins||District 5 (Greenville & Pickens)||R||30|
|John Richard C. King||District 49 (York)||D||17|
|Robby Robbins||District 97 (Colleton & Dorchester)||R||100|
|J. Todd Rutherford||District 74 (Richland)||D||25|
|Leonidas E. Stavrinakis||District 119 (Charleston)||D||20|
An observation: While Micajah P. Caskey IV’s score is higher than the majority (which isn’t saying much), he is extremely devoted to his Twitter account and regularly attacks the SC Freedom Caucus, its members, and any of his constituents that challenge or question his/the Republican narrative. It’s not a good look for an elected representative of Lexington County, to say the least.
However, these scores are despairingly low for individuals that are supposed to be the ethical police of the South Carolina House of Representatives. While this lawsuit raises many questions about our legislature, it also raises a magnifying glass to our legislators. If they are not in line with the Constitution, why are they in the Ethics Commission at all?