Written by Joshua Cook
Last week in Summerville, S.C. State Senator Lee Bright told a 912 group that he was considering running against Sen. Lindsey Graham in 2014.
Bright is not new to politics. He won a seat on the school board in Spartanburg, S.C., where he also built his business from the ground up. From there, he ran for State Senate and won by wide margins. In the 2008 primary, Bright was endorsed by then Governor Mark Sanford and endorsed by current Governor Nikki Haley in his 2012 primary winning every precinct in his district.
I caught up with him last week and asked him a few questions about a possible run for the U.S. Senate seat.
The Post: I wanted to get your comments on the recent revelations that have been uncovered regarding the IRS targeting conservative groups. Recently, it was uncovered that Christine O'Donnell's tax records were breached and were used against her in her campaign in Pennsylvania. Senator Bright, is this a good time to repeal the 16th Amendment?
The Post: Can we really have an honest government when the IRS is used as a political weapon? It appears to be the “new norm.” You have all these scandals, so the question is why are we not investigating this or why are we not getting answers from this administration?
Bright: Well, the power to tax is the power to control and to destroy. When the government gives IRS agents the authority to exert that power through force, we shouldn’t be surprised that our government would abuse that power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I think that we should get rid of the IRS. They don’t need to know every aspect of our lives and getting rid of it would lead to a freer society.
The Post: Regarding tax policy, what is your view on the fair tax?
Bright: I think it’s a good idea though I would rather go to a straight consumption tax. Politicians always want to redistribute wealth. They make the argument that if you make more, you should pay more in taxes. It should be if you spend more, you will pay more taxes. So you are still going to have revenue from taxes, but by going to a consumption tax, you take away the power from Washington. It eliminates the tax loopholes and prevents the lobbyist from controlling the government.
The Post: Sen. Graham along with Sen. John McCain voted for a new internet sales tax, a $23 billion increase in taxes. Sen. Ted Cruz and our own Sen. Tim Scott voted against it. What are your thoughts?
Bright: Holistically, if you look at the entire tax system, it’s better to go to consumption tax, but I wouldn’t support just adding new taxes. I would not have voted for the bill. I am for leveling the playing field by going to a fairer tax system.
The Post: Americans are worried about national security. Americans want their government to keep them safe, but don’t want the government to infringe on people's individuals rights and liberties. So please explain your philosophy regarding national security and how the U.S. can keep Americans safe.
Bright: I think the federal government is a lot more dangerous to our liberties and our freedoms than some radical Islamist coming in. What you got to do is be vigilant. We know the countries who hate us, and we shouldn’t allow all these student visas. That is where a lot of our problems are coming from.
We can’t even control our unprotected border from the south. So first, we need to secure our border and pay attention to who we are allowing to come into this country.
But I do not think American citizens should lose their rights. Look, now we have got a government who wants to tell folks that they need to get approval from their government before they can basically use their 2nd Amendment rights to protect themselves.
The Post: Recently Sen. Graham had some pretty provocative statements about surveillance and snooping on American’s cell phone records. He said he would be fine with the government searching his Verizon phone records because he knows he is not a terrorist and has nothing to hide. What are your thoughts on that? Are we giving the fed too much power?
Bright: Well, he’s got more faith and trust in the federal government than I do. I think that government should be represented by “we the people,” and I think he is more geared towards a central government approach.
The Post: You have been leading the charge in South Carolina for pro-gun rights legislation. You led the charge in an open carry/constitutional carry bills, and supported the restaurant carry bill. You also wanted to nullify any type of potential federal ban on assault rifles. Why are you so passionate about the 2nd Amendment?
Bright: Well if you lose the 2nd Amendment then we will lose all the rest of our rights. We have to defend ourselves from other foreign forces and from a radical government in defense of our freedom. That is what the 2nd Amendment was all about. It is to protect ourselves and our rights from a tyrannical government.
The Post: There is also something else that you are passionate about, and that is right to life. I know that you sponsored S.204 this year, and this bill was similar to the one passed in Mississippi that actually closed down the last abortion clinic in the state. Unfortunately it died in the subcommittee. After 40 years of abortion since Roe vs. Wade, we still have abortion on demand. What needs to be done in the Senate to protect the unborn right to life?
Bright: Well, we shouldn’t allow anybody to sit on the court that does not believe in the 5th Amendment. The 5th Amendment plainly gives us the right to due process, and if a Supreme Court justice or potential Supreme Court justice does not believe in the Bill of Rights and denies those rights to Americans, it’s obvious they are not qualified to be on the Supreme Court. I would not have supported those Supreme Court nominees that Graham supported. I would have fought them.
Graham has let us down on so many issues. A lot of folks thought he would follow in the footsteps of Strom Thurmond (R), but instead, we got another Fritz Hollings (D). Except I would argue that Hollings was more conservative on fiscal issues than Lindsey Graham is. He has not done what we thought he would do. He is not the Graham that went after Bill Clinton at the impeachment hearings. He is the Graham that has fallen under the tutelage of John McCain.
The Post: Speaking of John McCain, it seems like Senator Graham and McCain criticized Senators like Mike Lee, Ron Paul and Ted Cruz, and McCain even referred to them as “wacko birds” but later apologized. How do you view them, and do you think they are doing a good job?
Bright: I think they are doing a great job. I think they have given us an opportunity to see that there is another direction in this country. I hope they will get some help and believe we need real conservatives right now, and we don’t have enough of them.
The Post: Why do you think there is so much passion nationally to replace Lindsey Graham with a true conservative?
Bright: Conservatives feel that South Carolina should be a state that helps and not hurts. And they expected a U.S. Senator from a “Red State” to help the conservative cause and not be an impediment to it. And we let them down on that front.
The Post: Any candidate that is going run against Lindsey Graham, against this major political machine with millions of campaign dollars and political connections is going to face a major challenge. What does one need to do get their message out? There have been talks of using the Ted Cruz model to fire up the conservative base in the grassroots. What is it going to take to defeat Lindsey Graham?
Bright: Ideally you would want a congressional candidate, but those guys are not stepping up. It does take a statewide grassroots effort. We have supporters throughout the state.
The Post: You know recently there was a big meeting a few weeks ago called a “unity meeting” where 100 grassroots leaders met, representing activists throughout the state. They met for one purpose: to find a way to replace Lindsey Graham. So what are your thoughts on that? A 100 leaders coming together is a powerful message right there. What are your thoughts on that?
Bright: I’m glad that there is a movement out there. I’m glad that they’re on the front lines. No one should be surprised at the money that Graham is going to have. The challenge is Lindsey Graham has a lot of supporters, and when you serve for that long in Washington, you make a lot of friends and connections. There are a lot of favors to be called in, and I’m sure he will call every one of them.
Sen. Bright told me that he will be considering a run for the U.S. Senate seat; he said “it will be a family decision.” You can find more information at Sen. Lee Bright’s webpage and Facebook page below:
Joshua Cook currently lives with his wife and son in Travelers Rest, SC. He is currently a sales manager. Joshua Cook graduated with a BA from Southeastern University and is a MBA graduate from North Greenville University.