It's far from the first time I've talked about their tactics this fall. In previous postings, I've looked at their shady tactics and distorted messages in the race for House Seat 115 and House Seat 119, both in Charleston County.
One of the targets of the SCRG is GOP State Rep. Bill Cotty in the Midlands, who faces a tough race with perennial candidate Michael Letts waging a petition candidacy on his right, and Democrat Anton Gunn on his left.
Outlasting such a squeeze play, in any event, is a tough proposition, but normally, a show of party unity bleeds a petition candidate on the right enough for the GOP candidate to make it through. But the direct mail attack campaign being waged by the SCRG is attempting to damage Cotty.
While their motives remain murky, many observers feel they are trying to aid Gunn's candidacy. We lean toward this theory, given Lett’s history of being repeatedly trounced in bids for this seat, as well as the history of petition candidates prevail in three-way races. To date, Letts has lost three races for this seat, as well as getting 38% in the GOP runoff for County Council two years ago. If Letts is a proven loser, then who else could they be trying to stack the deck for?
Their recent attack mailing against Cotty, entitled “Ethics Matter”, makes a number of questionable claims about Cotty:
Relationship with schools: As an attorney, Cotty provides legal counsel for a local school district. On the Education Oversight Committee, he is involved with overall policy review for the state. Two different bodies at two levels of government - so where's the conflict?
As a member of the SC Bar, Cotty is bound by their Rules of Conduct - http://www.scbar.org/member/conduct.asp to avoid conflicts of interest. Ass a public official, he is governed by the Rules of Conduct of the South Carolina Ethics Commission. http://ethics.sc.gov/rulesofconduct/. Acting in his own financial interest is expressly forbidden:
A public official, public member, or public employee may not knowingly use his official office, membership, or employment to influence a government decision to obtain an economic interest for himself, a member of his immediate family, an individual with whom he is associated, or a business with which he is associated.
That his opposition has chosen to make a campaign issue about it, rather than seeking an investigation, does much to suggest these charges are hollow, or at least they’re more concerned about winning elections than seeing any allegations of wrong-doing addressed.
Liquor contributors: Again, more blurring. Many legislators receive contributions from individuals associated with groups or companies who are on the bad end of state policy-making. So long as there are no offers of "pay for play", there is nothing illegal. In fact, Cotty was opposed to keeping mini-bottles, a position strongly opposed by the liquor industry.
Again, if there really WAS a conflict, we refer back to the above quote from the Ethics Commission regarding acting to benefit one’s contributors. If they had something, they could have just turned him in. They didn’t – which says plenty.
Legislative Allowances and Expenses: The mailing attempts to claim that Cotty received allowances and expenses while residing nearby, which he does, as does any legislator who incurs expenses on the job.
For that matter, it is common for most people in their jobs to be reimbursed for expenses. So what? I'll bet employees of the SCRG expect to get paid too ...
Also, the footnote “5” in that claim refers to the Mapquest website. One who visits it will not find any information about South Carolina legislators there, only directions and travel time and distance estimates.
Based on their continual attacks, it seems a safe bet to expect there will more of the same being piled on Cotty.
It's a shame this is the best this bunch could do.