Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to use money for “It’s a Great Day SC,” a new $1.5 million leadership PAC, to fight the reelection of Sen. Hugh Leatherman because she thinks he is blocking the ethics reform bill — which happens to ban leadership PACs. She also might use some of the money against Rep. Stephen Goldfinch because he did not want to cut the state income tax enough for her rich campaign donors.
Of course, S.C. voters know all about ex-Speaker Bobby Harrell’s old leadership PAC, which collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for Harrell and his playmates. As soon as Harrell was thrown out, new Speaker Jay Lucas put an end to the fun and games. Harrell’s hired playmates were kicked out, and the House adopted Rule 4.16, H(3), which bans leadership PACs in the House.
BUZZ: Who will pro-Haley group target?
Even before Lucas cleaned the speaker’s House, the Senate in 2011 at the request of Common Cause/SC adopted Rule 54, sponsored by Sen. Jake Knotts, which killed off leadership PACs in the upper chamber.
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The ethics bill that Haley blames Leatherman for stopping, H.3184, proposes to codify the Senate and House bans on leadership PACs and extend the ban to the executive branch and local officials. If adopted, it would outlaw Great Day SC.
The reason the Senate and House banned leadership PACs and the ethics bill would put that ban in state law is that they are a brazen abuse of public office, a pay-to-play scheme to entice and coerce special-interest groups to give money to officials’ political slush funds to be handed out to cronies and used to attack enemies.
A leadership fund controlled directly or indirectly by a governor or a Senate or House leader exploits that official’s power to reward those who donate and punish those who refuse. Leadership PACs can buy candidates and elections and easily extort money and make corrupt payments to control both policy making and policy execution.
SC House moves to limit speaker’s terms, ban some PACs
Although it is not clear how Haley will collect and spend money, it does not seem that a legislative candidate could ethically accept any money from a Haley leadership PAC because such PACs are banned by Senate and House rules.
If no candidates will risk the accusation of unethical conduct and take Haley’s money, her scheme to use it to target her enemies will be a flop.
And if the ethics reform bill passes, it will be a bad day and the last day for Great Day SC.
John V. Crangle
Executive Director, Common Cause/SC