New Defendant Added to Lawsuit Gallman v Rankin et al. Bringing New Revelations

By Paul Gable

Earlier this year, John Gallman filed a lawsuit against Luke Rankin and a host of others who supported Rankin’s 2020 reelection for actions that took place during the primary runoff including libel/slander, invasion of privacy and civil conspiracy.

The initial complaint raised questions about what is protected political speech and how far do those protections extend.

The lawsuit is based in part on mailer and television attack advertisements against Gallman paid for by the “South Carolina Industry Project, a project of the American Industry Project, 2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, No. 3009, Washington, D.C.”, as stated on the advertisements.

Horry County Council member Tyler Servant was listed on the Form 990 filed by the American Industry Project with the IRS in 2018. Servant was named as president of the American Industry Project in that filing and was included as a defendant in the lawsuit based on his association with the organization.

Servant’s answer to the complaint stated he was not associated with the American Industry Project since 2018 and asked for the complaint against him to be dismissed.

That answer led to further investigation by Gallman’s attorney. The Form 990 filed for tax year 2020 was filed by the American Industry Project after the initial complaint was filed. That Form 990 lists William Taylor, a S. C. House representative from Aiken, a board member of the American Industry Project for 2020. As a result, Taylor was added to the lawsuit as a defendant in an amended complaint.

How did a state representative from Aiken get listed as a board member of an organization based in Washington, D.C., which paid for attack ads against Gallman in an election race in Horry County for a state senate seat?

One clue may be that Taylor’s political website was created by Julie Emerson of Lagniappe Communications Group, according to Taylor. Both Emerson and Lagniappe Communications Group were listed as defendants in the lawsuit in both the original and amended complaints.

Emerson is a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and founder of Lagniappe Communications Group, according to her biography.

Emerson ordered television time for the television ads attacking Gallman with WMBF and WBTW on behalf of the American Industry Project, according to the NAB PB-18 forms submitted to the television stations and signed electronically by Emerson. Both forms are exhibits filed with the lawsuit.

David Hucks of the news website myrtlebeachsc.com called Taylor to get his comments about his association with the American Industry Project and the lawsuit. Hucks had two recorded phone conversations with Taylor. Both conversations can be heard on his myrtlebeachsc.com website.

Taylor’s initial reaction to his inclusion in the lawsuit and association with AIP was, “It’s laughable. I’ve never heard of the PAC. I’m not familiar with this lawsuit. I don’t know the complainant in the lawsuit. Mysteries of the legal profession.”

However, 16 minutes after the first conversation ended, Taylor called Hucks back with a different story.

Taylor said, “I am a board member on it (American Industry Project) and we have an executive director. It’s not a PAC it is a C-4 {501(c)(4) under the IRS code for non-profits}.

Taylor said he was not aware of the ads attacking Gallman, “The C-4 has an executive director in that organization, that Louisiana firm, and therefore board members aren’t privy to the strategic things that they do.”

“Can you tell me who that executive director is by name?” Hucks questioned.

“Well, I believe she’s cited in the lawsuit. Julie Emerson,” Taylor responded.

Taylor said he was not the board chairman of AIP and did not know who the board chairman was.

One wonders why Taylor was not initially aware of the American Industry Project and that he was listed as a board member. Why did he call it a Louisiana firm when its home office is listed as Washington, D. C.? Who did he talk to in the 16-minute lapse between phone calls?

Servant is not completely clear by claiming not to be involved with AIP since 2018. His name is listed as a board member on the PB-18 form filed on June 17, 2020 with WBTW. Why the discrepancy with that form and the Form 990?

Is the American Industry Project just a name attached to advertisements or is it a real organization? The lawsuit states over $77,000 was paid to television stations to run the various ads submitted. In addition, there would be the cost of producing television spots and the cost of printing and mailing the printed pieces. Where did the money come from?

How involved was Emerson with the ads? Was she involved in content and production of the television ads and the mailers?

Who called the shots for the American Industry Project and its ads attacking Gallman?

Civil conspiracy is one of the causes of action in the lawsuit. These new revelations appear to substantiate that claim and makes potential proof of malice aforethought with respect to the television ads and mailers more likely.

The definition of civil conspiracy includes, “A conspiracy may also refer to a group of people who make an agreement to form a partnership in which each member becomes the agent or partner of every other member and engage in planning or agreeing to commit some act. It is not necessary that the conspirators be involved in all stages of planning or be aware of all details. Any voluntary agreement and some overt act by one conspirator in furtherance of the plan are the main elements necessary to prove a conspiracy. Even when no crime is involved, a civil action for conspiracy may be brought by the persons who were damaged.”[1]

Leave a Comment