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House Majority Leader Blamed For “Memogate” Scandal August 2, 2007

Posted by fitsnews in SC Politics.

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FITSNews – August 2, 2007 – The ongoing fraud and sexual harrassment scandal that has engulfed State Rep. Converse Chellis in his quest to become South Carolina’s next State Treasurer morphed late this afternoon into a full-fledged crisis for one of his most powerful legislative supporters. It also brought back memories of one of the biggest political scandals ever to hit South Carolina and may have answered one of the state’s most notorious unsolved political mysteries.

House Majority Leader Jimmy Merrill, one of Chellis’ most vocal supporters, was named today by four current or former State legislators as the secret author of an overtly-sexist “Men’s Caucus” memorandum written six years ago to young female State House pages. The memo encouraged these college-aged State House errand girls to wear short skirts with no panties and submit to being called “babe,” “honey,” “sugar” and “little missy” by male legislators.

Needless to say, the provocative document erupted into the “Memogate Scandal,” which rocked South Carolina’s political establishment to its very foundation during the summer of 2001 and resulted in dozens of front-page stories, sensitivity awareness training for legislators and at least one formal investigation. Until today, however, the identity of the memo’s author remained a tightly-guarded State House secret.

Two of the legislators who identified Merrill as the author of the memo also told FITSNews that former House Speaker and current U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins knew all along that the Charleston Representative was the guilty party, but chose to lie to the press in an effort to cover-up the scandal.

Each of these current and former Representatives spoke with FITSNews on the condition of anonymity, but their allegations offer amazing new details into one of South Carolina’s most infamous political firestorms.

For example, accordingly to one of our sources, SLED agents who searched the hard drive of Merrill’s state-owned computer at the request of the House Ethics Commission narrowly missed being able to retrieve the document, which another source says the Representative deleted immediately after it had been printed.

The printed copy of the memo, which Merrill is alleged to have tossed into a wastebasket, was ultimately retrieved by former State newspaper reporter Valerie Bauerlein. It read as follows:

“Having recently received an improper memo regarding appropriate dress in the House chamber, the Men’s Caucus does hereby rescind the previous memo and propose the following regulations:

Dresses should be no longer than four inches above the knee.

Pages will receive additional merit pay for economizing and saving valuable materials used in blouse construction.

Hose is clearly optional.

The terms ‘babe,’ ‘honey,’ ‘sugar’ and ‘little missy’ should be accepted as compliments and terms of endearment.

Undergarments are – need it be said – optional.

Finally, any future memos from the Women’s Caucus concerning attire can hereby be ignored.”

Merrill, who could not immediately be reached for comment, was allegedly assisted in drafting the memo by former State Representative and Sanford staffer James Law.

“Making comments such as these hurts young women who take their jobs in the legislative process seriously, by suggesting that they’re mere sex objects,” then-Commission on Women member Leon Ginsberg said at the time. “It’s not very different from humor that degrades minorities, older people and other minority groups.”

Each of the current and former legislators we spoke with this afternoon volunteered the information about Merrill in response to questions about the current fraud and sexual harrassment scandal involving Chellis.

“We’re in a bad way right now on character issues and we need to be acting like Caesar’s wife, not a bunch of skirt-chasing slimeballs,” one of the legislators said. “But this morning Jimmy’s out there in the newpapers as our leader saying he doesn’t think a sexual harrassment suit against Converse is a big deal. Maybe to somebody who wrote trash like that ‘Men’s Caucus’ memo it’s not a big deal, but some of us actually care about the quality of the people we elect to fill these positions.”



1. Breaking News: State House plauged by Misogyny « SCHotline Press Releases - August 2, 2007
2. G.L. - August 2, 2007

I went back and read some of the articles on that memo to refresh my memory. Everyone made a big deal out of nothing then, and hopefully they won’t again. The letter was an obvious joke, and as a former House page, the girls do seem to dess in a provocative manner and seem to appreciate the attention given to them (although they appreciate it more from some than others).

3. JZ2745 - August 2, 2007

Governor Sanford sent out an e-mail today saying that he wants Tim Scott or Greg Ryberg as State Treasurer. I would like to see Greg Ryberg get it.

Now, about this ‘Memogate Scandal’ article. A story with unnamed sources is not a story. It’s a rumor and some rumors are true and some not. But, if you tell it loud enough and long enough there are a lot of people who will repeat it and believe it. That’s probably the purpose of the article.

I may be entirely missing the point here but it looks to me as though the memo was never sent. If you read the first paragragh it looks as though somebody, (The Women’s Caucus mentioned in the final paragraph?) sent them something silly and they were responding in the same vein. The note was thrown in the trash for crying out loud, not distributed. It was some guys behaving badly. Men often do that, get over it.

I don’t know Converse Chellis. He may be the low-life we are expected to believe but give us facts, not allegations and unnamed sources.

Actually, I looked at the Charleston County site briefly to see what the Chellis suit was about and really couldn’t tell from the information on there. If I really wanted to smear him I would get that information and if it’s bad put it out for everybody to see. If not too bad I’d leave it off and start rumors.

4. Yahoo - August 3, 2007

The slime oozzing out of the Governors office is really begining to stink.

“Sanford Gate” is a low point in Mark Sanford’s tenure as a politician.

5. John Steinberger - August 3, 2007

SC Club For Growth scored Rep. Chellis an “F” on fiscal issues. That concerns me more than anything. Gov. Sanford needs a true fiscal conservative on the Budget And Control Board to restore sanity in state spending.

6. VistaVixen - August 3, 2007

Greg Ryberg is part of the slim oozzing out of the Governors Office an alot of other places, he is a carpetbagging low life – can we not find a fiscal conservative that does not have a personal agenda. The State of Affairs in Columbia just smells, stink stink to the high heavens.

7. Marie Davis - August 3, 2007

I am a 75years old female that has always lived in this state. It is time to CLEAN THE HOUSE. We do not need anyone with the morals of an ‘ALLEY CAT’ in office. These people have showed their morals. Now get rid of them.

8. Alley Cat - August 3, 2007


Will has lower morals than an alley cat. What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?

9. FITSNews - August 3, 2007

Awwww … cute little kitty.

10. Reefer - August 3, 2007

Guess what? Lies and Nazi-style intimidation didn’t work. Converse Chellis won anyway.

At least Chellis has a job.

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