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.
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