Being hypocritical doesn’t mean you’re wrong

Posted by Cindi Ross Scoppe on May 5, 2014 

I just got this blast email in which the S.C. Democratic Party demonstrates, as political parties are wont to do, that it cares more about politics than policy:

SHOT: Last week, Nikki Haley rejected a proposed House compromise on ethics reform because: “‘There is nothing independent about legislators investigating other legislators,’ [her spokesman] Mayer said.” [AP, 5/1/14]

CHASER: That’s the exact process Haley used to get herself off after illegally lobbying for Lexington Medical Center while serving in the state House. It’s what she still points to today to defend her unethical behavior.

“The six-member House Ethics Committee had been meeting behind closed doors for more than a month, looking into a complaint alleging Haley lobbied for Lexington Medical Center, which was seeking state approval to build a heart center. Committee members said their inquiry determined state law is vague on what constitutes illegal lobbying vs. legal consulting, leaving room for interpretation on what is appropriate activity by lawmakers.” [The State, 5/3/2012]

“Rainey had accused Haley of illegally lobbying on behalf of Lexington Medical Center as it worked to gain state approval for an open-heart surgery center. He also alleged she exploited her House seat by soliciting donations from lobbyists and companies for the hospital’s foundation. Haley worked as a fundraiser for that foundation from 2008 to 2010, earning $110,000 a year. Committee members said that because Haley never worked for the hospital directly, she cannot be accused of lobbying for its heart center. (Disagreement remains on whether Haley’s work benefitted only the nonprofit foundation or the hospital, too. Haley was paid by the hospital, not the foundation, according to her disclosure forms.)” [The State, 5/3/2012]

There’s only one response to this latest stunning display of hypocrisy by Nikki Haley: Really?!?

Actually, I can think of a second — and much more appropriate — response: Absolutely. As in, the governor is absolutely right.

On a small but important note, the party is wrong when it refers to then-Rep. Nikki Haley’s “illegal” lobbying activities. Her activities were clearly unethical. It is a huge stretch — and one I’ve never been convinced reaches its goal — to say what she did violated the law. That is a reflection of the weakness in our law.

If you assume that letting House members judge House members’ ethics is what kept Ms. Haley out of trouble, then yes, she’s hypocritical. And certainly she’s hypocritical on insisting that elected officials disclose the sort of financial information that she did not disclose as a House member. But that doesn’t make her wrong. Yes, it would be much more effective if she framed these issues more in terms of “I did all this bad stuff, and now I realize that I shouldn’t have, and I want to change the laws,” but the fact that she doesn’t do that does not change the fact that we need to change the law.

I understand the Democrats’ desire to keep reminding us of the governor’s ethical improprieties; I often feel the same compulsion. But unless the party supports unethical government, it really needs to stop shilling for ... unethical government.

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