SC is known throughout the land as one of the most corrupt states for politics. Fox lists us at #6 behind Maine, Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Georgia. Why does Georgia always win? Anyways the point is whether it's high profile deals like the FBI came in and ran a sting on our Statehouse with Operation Lost Trust, or it's little things like current House Speaker Bobby Harrell looking suspicious over "reimbursing himself" $325,000 but providing no details. We have a lot of shady things going on in our state and always have.
Last October the Governor created an ethics panel. But most people assume it was because she was upset after being under suspicion for ethics violations most of the year. Even the Republican's voted unanimously to reopen the investigation last May.
The SC State Ethics Commission had their budget cut 6 times in the past 3 years. Back in 1999 the budget was $725,000 today it's $284,000. Do you think politicians want us to take a serious look at ethics?
The problem then is the problem now. If the Governor or any politician is suspected of ethics violations they are investigated by people who have a vested interest in either protecting or creating a scandal. We now have an ethics reform committee made up of Columbia insiders like the co chairs Henry McMaster and Travis Medlock trying to set rules for a powerless ethics commission. They have 23 suggestions and they pretty much line up with everything the Governor said last year. But what would you expect from a panel she appointed?
Some of their suggestions include; Allowing the use of the state plane for bill signings and news conferences. Haley reimbursed the state $9,590 last year after an Associated Press report found she used the state plane for bill signings and news conferences, not considered official duties under current rules. So make the rules easier for her? Also raise the fines for ethics violations. But we don't catch anyone! You could make the fine a trillion dollars but you are working with a commission that can't catch a cold!
If you want ethics reform then you are going to need a lot of money. You are going to need to hire more people who have no party affiliation to work on the commission. They need to be the authority. As the SC Policy council pointed out while commenting on the lack of action regarding Bobby Harrell's issues we don't have a controlling legal authority. I agree with the suggestion that the House and Senate can't have an ethics panel investigate their own members. But completely disagree with the suggestion of creating a Public Integrity Unit to investigate officials suspected of criminal behavior. Isn't that what SLED should be doing? Public Integrity Unit is just something else that people can be appointed to, and if that's the case then they can be easily corrupted. I agree with the suggestion of increasing lobbying fees from the pitiful $100 a year it is now. But that money needs to be directed towards the Ethics commission budget. As always I look forward to hearing your response on the phone between 3 and 6 or leave a comment on our Facebook page.