Go read the whole piece for a good overview of how the Republican party operates at a national level. Remember the last Republican primary? McHenry never stopped the lying and dirty tricks. This spring, politics in the 10th District could be a blood sport if Lance Sigmon announces.
The dirty work of South Carolina politics is conducted by a small crew of operatives who studied at Atwater's elbow. "All of us in this state directly or indirectly trained under him," says Rod Shealy, a veteran GOP consultant not aligned with any campaign. Atwater instilled in his followers a sense of politics as a game with no rules -- one in which treachery was a virtue and not a vice. "People here wear dirty tricks like a badge of honor," says Ragley. They are an irascible lot, often rumpled and wearing garb like Hawaiian shirts and safari hats. "They're really unkempt and eccentric - not like Charleston white boys in boat shoes and bow ties," says one local Democrat. South Carolina operatives tend to congregate in joints with names like the Lizard's Thicket and the Back Porch (co-owned by the son of McCain's consultant Richard Quinn, in fact). Many also have sketchy histories. Shealy himself was once convicted of violating campaign laws after he convinced a black man facing felony charges to join a statewide campaign; the plan was to drive up white voter turnout in favor of Shealy's sister, who was a candidate. Quinn has his association with Southern Partisan. And, to some, the recent anonymous e-mails about Romney recalled a 2002 incident involving Quinn's employee, Trey Walker, John McCain's state campaign manager, who was caught sending an unflattering article about a local candidate from an e-mail address meant to seem like it belonged to Shealy. So goes the internecine world of South Carolina politics.Here's some more tidbits:
Shortly before a Republican presidential primary debate in Columbia, South Carolina, this last May, several conservative activists in the state received mysterious envelopes in the mail. The letters arrived anonymously, each one containing an eight-page document, a typewritten manifesto with a pseudo-academic title: "Mormons in Contemporary American Society: A Politically Dangerous Religion?" The letters depicted Mormonism as based on "hoaxes" and ridiculed the church's founder, Joseph Smith, as a "gold digger turned prophet." The mailing also provocatively dubbed Smith "the Mohammed of the West." "Like the prophet of Islam," it said, "Smith founded his religion upon prophecies and revelations which commanded him to become a polygamist and warlord. Many centuries apart, these two men became the focal point of large religions that blurred the lines between religion, war, domestic life and politics." The letters also suggested that Mormons take direct orders from church leaders. They didn't have to name him to make it clear whom they were targeting: Republican presidential candidate - and devout Mormon - Mitt Romney.This is just a small sample of the kind of stuff McHenry did to David Huffman in 04, to Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign when McHenry worked for Karl Rove, and what McHenry did to get his friend, Glenn Murphy elected as head of College Republicans. (Remember Glenn Murphy? He's the guy who gives unwanted blowjobs to sleeping visitors. He'd done it before McHenry tried to strong arm his election and he did it afterwards, too, and had to resign.)
This being South Carolina, the Romney camp assumed a rival campaign had sent the letter. After all, this wasn't the first subterranean attack on their candidate. Just before a March GOP straw poll in Spartanburg, someone using the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org mass-mailed a missive titled, "Mitt Romney has a family secret he doesn't want you to know." "Those dark suspicions you hide deep inside yourself about Mormonism are trying to tell you something, " it read. "Trust your instincts! ... The light of truth will burn through the smoke and mirrors of Mitt Romney's movie star looks and crafty words!" The e-mails arrived around the same time as another anonymous letter, a six-page diatribe titled "Mitt Romney: Say anything to get elected," which ripped the former Massachusetts governor for his positions on abortion, gun control, and "conservative values."
Romney is hardly the innocent victim, though. In September, just as Fred Thompson was preparing to enter the Republican presidential field, PhoneyFred.org appeared. The website was equal parts sophomoric parody and character assassination. Its home page featured an absurd image of Thompson in a period costume with a frilly scarf and gilded jacket (presumably from an acting role). Another photograph featured a grinning shot of the Tennessean surrounded, via Photoshop, by several women to whom he's been romantically linked. The site directed viewers to dirt on Thompson via links with such titles as HOLLYWOOD FRED, WASHINGTON FRED, TRIAL LAWYER FRED, MORON FRED, and PLAYBOY FRED. "[W]e figured it was about time that we did a little research into what Fred Thompson (not Arthur Branch) really stands for," explained a welcome message on the site, referring to the character Thompson plays on "Law & Order." But The Washington Post did a little research, too, and traced the site to the consulting firm of Warren Tompkins, perhaps the top political operative in South Carolina - and a consultant to the Romney campaign.