Standing around the State House, it’s clear Folks knows—and is friendly with—just about everyone who passes by. He stops to chat with the janitor, talks football with the lieutenant governor’s chief of staff, and congratulates another fellow for losing 75 pounds.
He also never misses a chance to make a point. As we walk back to his car, he points out a parking lot behind the State House, which, he says, figured prominently in the “inappropriate physical relationship.”
Not long after we returned to his home, Katrina arrived with their two youngest children. She put Phillippe to bed while Folks encouraged Johanna to eat her Chicken McNuggets. In a scene that did not quite live up to the promised “NON-STOP CHAOS,” Johanna, like her brother, soon went down for a nap, and Folks went back to work.
He punched out the Cahaly article and soon received a text that tipped him off that Major General James E. Livingston, a Medal of Honor recipient, had retracted his endorsement of Rick Perry and was backing Newt Gingrich. Folks tweeted the news and called his source, who encouraged him to break the news on his blog before an official statement was released. Folks cranked out the post. Minutes later, he received a text from the same source asking him to disable comments on the post, to prevent Livingston’s detractors from calling him gay. Folks just shook his head at the request. “They leak the story but then ask this ”
Folks clearly relishes the politics of information. He likes having secrets—almost as much as he likes sharing them. He tells me a “secret,” then minutes later retells it to a source he has managed to get on the line. He dispenses tips and source connections freely—he offered story ideas to Sale during their interview, and during our time together he gave me Haley and Sanford’s cell phone numbers. At the same time, he is proud of his ability to protect information; he enjoys pointing out the mound of papers in his “burn pile.”
That logic of all information distribution as a sort of personal transaction surfaced in an odd exchange Wednesday afternoon. Folks had received an embargoed copy of the Democratic response to Nikki Haley’s State of the State address, which would be delivered at the State House Wednesday night. The text sparked a post idea, and Folks called up a Democratic Party source. After some back-and-forth on why Haley had chosen primary week for her speech, Folks asked if he could write about something in the response. Of course not, his contact said—it was embargoed. Folks pushed back, assuring the contact no one would know who had leaked him the text. Of course they would, the source said, because the document wasn’t a leak, but a release sent to a general press list.
I had to leave soon after, but not before Folks returned once more to the Haley scandal; while he says it’s a battle he “lost,” it’s clear it still consumes him. (“She gave us that pack-n-play for our kids! These lamps!’” he told me earlier, with Katrina nodding in agreement.)
He published three more posts later that day: one about a conservative blogger who had inexplicably drawn a Hitler moustache on a photograph of Rick Santorum, another about a flier that attacked Karen Santorum for having lived with an abortion doctor thirty years ago, and another commenting on the State of the State. Folks says he usually works into the night, though those hours are generally given to “issue consulting” and writing a book, which will chronicle his years in South Carolina politics.
No doubt, he was up early the next morning, working the phones, working his sources—maybe not a “real journalist,” but a force for them to reckon with.