Republican state Rep. Rita Allison announced Thursday she is filing a defamation lawsuit against an unknown person who sent out a flyer that alleged Gov. Mark Sanford awarded her a state job in exchange for sexual favors.
Allison, 69, represents a Spartanburg district in the General Assembly and is the communications director of the S.C. Commission on Higher Education.
According to the lawsuit, the flyer questions whether Allison, a former Sanford employee, was one of the women Sanford "crossed lines" with. Sanford admitted in June to having an extramarital affair with an Argentine woman and to having inappropriate contact with other unnamed women.
Also, the flyer falsely alleged that Allision is illegally double-dipping as a paid state lawmaker and a state employee of the CHE.
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"You can hold an office and be a (state) employee," said Mike Sponhour, spokesman for the state Budget and Control Board. "There's been many examples of it over the years."
Allison said she filed the lawsuit because more politicians should take a stand when they are falsely attacked.
She hopes the lawsuit will lead to information that will reveal the identity of the person responsible.
"A lot of people told me I should just ignore this and let it go away, but I thought if it were possible for me to make a difference that I should take a stand," Allison said in a statement. "This has been an incredibly hurtful situation for me and my family, unlike anything I've ever experienced in my years in public service. If we can find out who did this and prevent others from going through the same thing, it will salvage some good from this situation."
S.C. Republican Party chairwoman Karen Floyd and House Speaker Bobby Harrell, a Charleston Republican, joined Allison in Spartanburg on Thursday at the news conference.
Floyd also announced the formation of an S.C. GOP Legal Defense Fund to help other elected Republicans who are victims of defamatory attacks.
They said this lawsuit is meant to send a message that Republicans will not allow such anonymous attacks to go unanswered.
Next year is a big election year in South Carolina, as the state will elect a new governor and new constitutional officers. U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint is up for re-election, as are all members of the S.C. House.
"Making these false charges against someone is cowardly, and cheapens the political process," Harrell said.
"These types of attacks are one of the reasons why good people hesitate to get into politics. I am proud to stand with my good friend Rita against these unwarranted attacks. Rita and I came into the Legislature at the same time and during that time I have seen how she is a dedicated public servant and a devoted wife, mother and grandmother," he said.