Benjamin, Riley; SC citizens deserve good government

May 8, 2013 

— South Carolina’s ethics law does not go far enough in protecting the public’s interest in a fair and just political process. Time and time again we see special interests whose pockets are deep have a disproportionate impact on decisions in government. Equal access to decision makers is essential to our democratic process. Yet citizens continue to find it difficult to have their voices heard by elected officials over high-powered lobbyists and the unreported payments to officials that can create conflicts of interest.

It is very reasonable for the public to fear that these influences lead officials to act in the interests of their benefactors rather than in the best interests of their constituencies. The public needs to know who is attempting to influence officials at all levels of government and who is paying them.

Well-funded “independent” political action committees fueled by anonymous donations are a serious problem that distorts our political process. Some PACs strip the integrity out of our political process by waging negative campaigns against candidates while providing no information about who is behind them. Heated competition in any political race is to be expected, but slanderous and inappropriate messaging directed against candidates by well-funded, anonymous groups does nothing to inform voters of the best candidate for the job. The public has a right to know who is behind these campaign ads. Leadership PACs, created by public officials, also make it impossible to trace money from its source to the candidate it benefits.

Accountability and transparency are the two most powerful tools we have for preventing corruption in government; as elected officials we have a duty to uphold these values and ensure South Carolinians are fairly represented. Citizens must have confidence in our ability to lead with integrity and build a stronger South Carolina where money and power do not always sit at the forefront. Therefore it is essential that we work toward ethics reform that puts the citizens’ interest above all else. It is most important that we advocate for disclosure rules that support the public’s right to know what their government officials are doing and whose interests they are representing.

Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr.

Charleston

Mayor Stephen Benjamin

Columbia

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