Why ethics reform now?

May 19, 2013 

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  • Why now?

    Demands for ethics reform coalesced amidst a string of ethics scandals, a study that tied the scandals to flaws in our laws and the first election after a federal judge threw out a key component of our campaign reporting law:

    Our memories were still fresh of then-Gov. Mark Sanford paying a record fine for misusing state resources and campaign funds when Lt. Gov. Ken Ard was convicted for misreporting and misusing campaign funds. Gov. Nikki Haley was investigated and cleared of illegally logrolling her position as a House member. House Speaker Bobby Harrell came under SLED investigation for allegedly using his position to help his business and putting campaign funds to personal use. Sens. Jake Knotts and Kent Williams were reprimanded for accepting and concealing illegal campaign donations; last month, Sen. Robert Ford was accused of similar violations.

    Amidst all this, a landmark national study said South Carolina was more susceptible to political corruption than all but five other states because of shortcomings in our ethics, campaign finance and public information laws.

    Meantime, because the Legislature failed to rewrite a law that was invalidated in 2010, independent groups didn’t have to report anything in 2012 about where they got the money for electioneering, or how they spent it.

— Demands for ethics reform coalesced amidst a string of ethics scandals, a study that tied the scandals to flaws in our laws and the first election after a federal judge threw out a key component of our campaign reporting law:

Our memories were still fresh of then-Gov. Mark Sanford paying a record fine for misusing state resources and campaign funds when Lt. Gov. Ken Ard was convicted for misreporting and misusing campaign funds. Gov. Nikki Haley was investigated and cleared of illegally logrolling her position as a House member. House Speaker Bobby Harrell came under SLED investigation for allegedly using his position to help his business and putting campaign funds to personal use. Sens. Jake Knotts and Kent Williams were reprimanded for accepting and concealing illegal campaign donations; last month, Sen. Robert Ford was accused of similar violations.

Amidst all this, a landmark national study said South Carolina was more susceptible to political corruption than all but five other states because of shortcomings in our ethics, campaign finance and public information laws.

Meantime, because the Legislature failed to rewrite a law that was invalidated in 2010, independent groups didn’t have to report anything in 2012 about where they got the money for electioneering, or how they spent it.

Cindi Ross Scoppe

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