There’s a bit of what happily wayward Yankees like myself would call a “Good Ole’ Boys” network here in the Palmetto State when it comes to the Republican Party, and it has been no secret that GOP gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley has faced organized and fierce opposition from those who are used to politics as usual–read: gridlock–in the State House in Columbia.
Recently, though, the advertisements from one particular group, Conservatives for Truth in Politics, have been getting more and more malicious as the election grows closer and closer with each passing day. This morning, on the eve of tomorrow’s election, I heard the most recent spot while creeping along I-26 on my way into work. In it, the Conservatives for Truth in Politics went beyond maligning Haley on taxes and the typical campaign fodder and actually did what no Democrat across the country has been willing to do — run on ObamaCare.
Generally, the format of the spots run by the group are similar in nature to the old Country Crock commercials, featuring male and female voices who masquerade as a husband and wife who have scripted political discussions over fresh, hot buttered biscuits or something. In the most recent ad, the ever-present couple staging the contrived conversation point out that Haley was outspoken in her criticism of Obama’s health care reform bill and yet she and her husband enjoy taxpayer-subsidized health insurance.
“Isn’t that just like ObamaCare for her and her family?” the woman asks.
“I suppose you’re right,” says the man. “Pretty darned close, if you ask me.”
The ad ends with the pair insisting that Haley and her husband either “drop her own taxpayer-subsidized insurance or support a plan that gives every working family the same break.” That’s right — this group of so-called “conservatives” are so desperate to tear down Nikki Haley that they actually go after Haley for opposing Barack Obama’s radical health care reform law, legislation which is turning up more and more unforeseen (to liberals, anyway) consequences with each passing news cycle. Even the very congressional Democrats who worked so hard and so strenuously against the will of the American people so as to force-feed health care reform know enough to avoid campaigning on it, yet the Conservatives for Truth in Politics have no problem braving political toxicity if it means knocking down a Republican frontrunner less than a day before polls open.
Furthermore, what the advertisement does not mention is that Michael Haley, Nikki’s husband, is employed in a Department of Defense job with the Army and serves as an officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard. So, according to the Conservatives for Truth in Politics, it is somehow now shameful to provide military health insurance for your family through service to the country? The Conservatives for Truth in Politics to claim to espouse conservative values with one hand and then assail a political candidate and military wife for being covered under military health insurance because of her servicemember husband with the other? Lin Bennett, chairwoman of the Charleston County Republican Party, said that she was disgusted by it.
“This advertisement is particularly appalling in light of the fact that Michael is in the Army and it is only through his service that Nikki and her family are covered by the military medical system,” Bennett told me this morning. “How outrageous — this man is serving our country. These people have no shame.”
On Friday, Bennett was among more than a dozen South Carolina GOP leaders who came together to question the veracity of the conservative principles purportedly espoused by Conservatives for Truth in Politics. And certainly, whether it be the mantra of “we don’t need another leader who says one thing and does another” or the language seeking the same “breaks” for working families, the Conservatives for Truth in Politics only seems to parrot the official talking points from either the Vincent Sheheen for Governor campaign or the Democratic Party as a whole. So, who are these people?
Well, according to the group’s Web site, Conservatives for Truth in Politics is a 501(c)(4) advocacy nonprofit. It states that the mission of the organization is “to press the Republican nominee [Nikki] Haley to specifically address many questions that have arose on her candidacy,” and notes that the organization “does not and will not endorse or oppose a candidate,” and that “we are interested in transparency and the truth and serve to educate and advocate.”
According to federal law, however, in order to retain tax-exempt status and the ability to conceal sources of funding, a 501(c)(4) group may not be formed with the primary purpose of influencing elections, and may not advocate on behalf of a particular candidate. Yet, on the Conservatives for Truth in Politics’ Web site, a quick look beyond the materials linked to other outlets–such as FITSNews, a new media outlet run by Will Folks, who has for nearly a year now been assailing Haley and her campaign with unsupported claims of an extramarital affair with Haley–to the original work drawn up by the group itself will delineate exactly who the group is advocating for. For the sake of example, here’s one:
“TIP Truth Alert: Hypocrisy in New Haley Ad.”
Conservatives for Truth in Politics announces a “Truth Alert” for the people of South Carolina. “TIP is appalled at the recent actions of the Haley campaign to mislead the people of SC on very important issues facing our state,” said co-chairs Cyndi Mosteller and David Woodard.
Specifically, TIP is referring to a negative ad paid for by the Haley campaign that criticizes Sheheen on two votes: one raising the tax on cigarettes by 50 cents a pack and the other on Act 388, the property tax relief act, that is very controversial because it did not address commercial property and second homes.
“The hypocrisy of Ms. Haley might be her most transparent characteristic,” said Mosteller. “Haley is critical of Sheheen for supporting a cigarette tax but she herself has said she would support a tax on groceries? Enough is enough. She will not pull the wool over our eyes anymore.” Ms. Haley claims to be an outsider but her actions tell a different story. What we do know is that Ms. Haley is in the back pocket of big tobacco. She was part of a small minority that worked to defeat the cigarette tax—the tax that was the lowest in the country.
“She carried the water for big tobacco but she won’t carry the water for working families of SC,” said Woodard.
When is the last time you heard a conservative–any conservative–say that any particular candidate was “in the back pocket of big tobacco?” Or big anything, for that matter?
At the end of the piece, Conservatives for Truth in Politics co-chair David Woodard is quoted as saying “[a]s the campaigns come to an end with Election Day just around the corner, TIP will increase its efforts to call anyone out that is distorting the truth.” Yet not a single advertisement for television or radio has been released that has been critical of Vincent Sheheen. Yet the actual mission statement for the organization points out that its focus is on attacking Nikki Haley and Nikki Haley alone. Impartial educational organization worthy of 501(c)(4) tax exempt status? You decide.
To me, though, the most egregious of problems with Conservatives for Truth in Politics is that they claim to carry the mantle of conservatism, and yet trumpet the talking points of Vincent Sheheen and the Democratic Party. It almost seems Alinsky-esque, and smacks of the reports from New Jersey that a fraudulent Tea Party candidate was actually planted in a congressional race by Democrat John Adler in order to siphon votes from conservative Republican candidate and former Philadelphia Eagle offensive lineman Jon Runyan.
The motivation is what gets me. Cindy Mosteller and David Woodard are the founders of Conservatives for Truth in Politics, and from their credentials look to be the last people you’d think would be parroting Democratic Party talking points in order to derail the candidacy of a Republican gubernatorial nominee–not to mention someone whose candidacy has drawn favorable national attention to a state that often receives anything but–and thus pave the way for a Democrat to sit as the state’s chief executive in Columbia. To be honest, I simply do not know enough about the political innerworkings and infighting of my new home state to understand completely, but given the apparent conservative bona-fides of people like Mosteller and Woodard coupled with the timing of the repeated scathing attacks on Nikki Haley, I can only assume that the animus manifested by the work of Conservatives for Truth in Politics is personal and virulent. That hundreds of people would join with the group at a time when it can be said that emotion has unequivocally trumped common sense and even the good of the Palmetto State as a whole makes it all the more disappointing to me.
“There is something to be said for Republicans and conservatives policing their own,” says Anthony LaMantia, III, a Charleston-area domestic law attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination in State House District 116. “Certainly, on a national level, that’s something that all of us are going to need to be focused on following tomorrow’s election. And it’s great on a local level as well. That’s what the primary process is for. So, for Republicans and conservatives to scrutinize other Republicans and conservatives in order to make each other better in April, in May and in June … that’s fantastic — but to do so not only after the primary but after the runoff and even in the days and hours before the election is just inappropriate and wrong. It serves no good.”
Indeed, what Conservatives for Truth in Politics is doing serves no one but Vincent Sheheen. The actions of that group, regardless of whether they are appropriately deemed a 501(c)(4) or anything else, are completely self-serving and serve only to harm the people of this state — people who are already struggling with record unemployment and, for the most part, stunted economic growth. Claiming to be a conservative while subsequently going on to viciously dismantle the candidacy of a conservative gubernatorial hopeful for the sake of personal animus alone is akin to claiming to be a vegan while chewing a mouthful of veal.
There is something else at work here. Something fishy. I plan on finding out what it is.