by William Moultrie
Columbia – Ending years of speculation and accusations, Will Folks’ influential South Carolina blog, FITSNews.com, has finally been revealed to be secretly financed by a previously undisclosed source.
FITSNews has a well-earned reputation for playing favorites among palmetto state politicians. The slant is unapologetically conservative, but frequently launches scathing attacks on Republican candidates and office-holders, leading to speculation that his opinions are for sale.
While all of the political consultants theDiscust interviewed for this story were anxious to talk about Folks, none of them were willing to go on the record. Also some or all of those consultants may or may not be behind WhatTheFolks.com, a website devoted exclusively to revealing the sources of FITSnews’ funding.
“There’s no question his opinions are for hire,” said a Democratic consultant who preferred not to be named. “He’s never said anything nice about any of my clients and they’re all great guys. I mean come on, really, maybe just a ‘he has nice hair’ or ‘if I was a Democrat maybe I’d vote for him.’ It’s frustrating because he’s gets so much more traffic than anyone else around here.”
The number of visitors Folks is able to bring to his site seems to be the source of most of the conflict. A posting on the blog last month claimed over four million page views over the prior five months, which is even more than an established site like theDiscust brings in.
“He’s basically like the Drudge Report in miniature,” said Navin Johnson, a communications professor at the University of South Carolina. “There’s no reason why this man should be so influential, but he is. The Drudge Report’s Matt Drudge’s only experience working in the legitimate media was delivering the Washington Post until he started a blog of links to stories on other sites and, BAM, he’s now one of the most influential media figures in the world. Folks is a former insider in South Carolina politics, but so are a lot of other bloggers out there — it just happens he’s the one with the traffic so everyone is either kissing his ass if he likes them or accusing him of being on the take if he doesn’t.”
“What’s amusing about the haters,” continued Johnson, “is that their outrage is invariably aimed at his obvious bias. And yes, he is biased, but he admits as much in roughly 87% of the posts on his site. Frankly, just because he has a website that delivers headlines doesn’t make him a journalist, therefore I think even if he were being financed by some secretive underwriter(s), I’m not sure it would even be unethical, much less illegal — at least not for him. If a campaign was paying him, they would have some disclosure issues, but for legal purposes, he may as well be Kinkos. There’s no implied obligation for him to disclose anything at all.”
“It’s just not fair,” said a Republican strategist who preferred not to be named. “He liked my candidate last time and now, nothing. Come on Will, throw me a bone here.”
In an effort to get to the bottom of the mystery (and not necessarily to find additional sources of income for ourselves), theDiscust has been engaged in an undercover investigation for several weeks. We stopped shaving, put on a Peyton Manning jersey, and started wandering around campuses on warm days when the coeds were less-fully dressed.
A couple weeks into the investigation, we were walking past the Green Quad on the campus of USC when a gangly young man ran up to us from behind saying “Hey Will, I’ve got that check I owe you.” We turned and grabbed the check before he realized his mistake and refused to give it back until he came clean.
We can now reveal the identity of Folks’ financier: Walter [last name withheld]. Walter is an 18-year-old student at USC, and he reluctantly discussed his arrangement with Folks, under the condition we not reveal his last name.
“It’s all about boobies,” Walter said. “I really love boobies. A lot. Really, a whole lot. My parents are kind of big-wigs in the Republican party here and they knew Will from his days with Sanford. They’re also a couple of prudes and put some software on my computer that limits the websites I can visit to news and politics. No boobies there. So anyway, I came into some money when my Nana died a few years ago and I came up with the idea of paying someone to put lots of boobies on a political blog. I was having a hard time finding someone to take me up on the offer until I remembered Will and something my Mom had said about him when he was over for dinner once. At the end of the night, she said ‘Wow, that guy really likes boobs; I’ll know not to wear this blouse next time.’”
“Will thought it was a great idea,” Walter continued, “and I’ve been giving him a check every month ever since. The only conditions are that his politics need to line up with whoever my parents are backing at any given time, and that he needs to put as much Lindsey Lohan on the site as possible.”
We contacted Folks last night to corroborate Walter’s version of the story.
“He told you that?” Folks demanded. “That little fucker! This better not screw things up for me or I’ll kick his ass.”
Asked to verify the story, Folks would only concede that “yes, his mom has a nice rack.”