Judge orders advocacy group to pull pro-Haley ads - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Judge orders advocacy group to pull pro-Haley ads

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Gresham Barrett and Nikki Haley Gresham Barrett and Nikki Haley
A frame of the ad in question A frame of the ad in question

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - 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, saying the $400,000 spent on the ads may violate campaign laws.

Spartanburg County Judge James M. Hayes issued a temporary restraining order at the request of Haley primary opponent U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett and three donors to ReformSC.

Judge Hayes said the Barrett campaign's complaint showed "a coordinated scheme" by ReformSC "intentionally designed to unlawfully evade accountability measures required by South Carolina law."

[Read the full restraining order]

The Charleston-based political group bought $400,000 worth of airtime on TV stations across the state and has been airing ads statewide that laud Haley as a conservative leader.

The ad includes images of Haley speaking at a tea party rally and calls Haley the state's new conservative leader. It says people should support her efforts for on-the-record votes at the State House. The push for roll-call votes has been a central issue for Haley.

Barrett's campaign has complained since the ads began airing two weeks ago that they don't mesh with state law limiting how outside groups can promote candidates and were coordinated with the Haley campaign.

The order issued Wednesday tells ReformSC to stop airing the ads until a hearing can be held in the next 10 days.

"Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm if the Candidate's campaign is allowed to benefit from illegal and/or prohibited contributions," the judge wrote. "Given the shocking nature of the verified allegations ... this Court feels it lacks the ability not to act."

"It's sad, but not surprising, that the entrenched powers in Columbia will do whatever they can to keep taxpayers in the dark," responded Haley spokesman Tim Pearson. "Nikki appreciates the efforts of the tens of thousands of South Carolinians who have added their voices to the fight to get legislators to vote on the record, and she urges them to keep up the fight."

In an e-mail Wednesday, ReformSC chairman Pat McKinney continued to defend the legality of the ads and assailed the Barrett campaign for attacking them.

"The ReformSC ads are completely legal. We will prove that in court, if necessary. And we will have the ads back up on the air. The fact that Gresham Barrett is willing to go to court to stop the transparency and accountability that will come when legislators have to vote on the record tells you all you need to know about what kind of governor he would be," McKinney wrote.

All three of ReformSC's board members have given Haley the maximum $3,500 campaign contribution.

The three ReformSC members who joined Barrett's challenge are each large Republican donors, but only one of them has donated money to Barrett's campaign.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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