S.C. Senate Kills Ethics Bill, Goes Home

Columbia, SC (WLTX) The South Carolina Senate adjourned for the year at 5 o'clock Thursday without taking a vote on an ethics reform bill, which kills the bill. The bill would have required public officials to disclose who pays them, but not how much. It also would have required independent groups that try to influence elections to report some of their donors.

Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee says not requiring that now has caused problems in previous elections. "You have people spending money and we never know who they are, what they spend, how they spent it, where they got their money," he told senators.

The bill also would have banned leadership PACs, or political action committees.

Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, says the bill would have helped voters. "The big thing is it would tell you more about what's going on in the political campaigns. It would require disclosure of private sources of income, which is not the law now. Who you're getting your money from."

But critics stalled on the Senate floor to run out the clock. They say the bill didn't go far enough.

John Crangle, state director for the government watchdog group Common Cause, says, "This bill has very serious defects in it. The biggest one is self-policing, which hasn't worked. It hasn't worked for 23 years. It's not going to work in the future. It also doesn't stop the misuse of campaign money for non-campaign purposes, which has been a source of numerous indictments and will be the source of more in the near future."

By self-policing he means House members and senators would continue to investigate ethics complaints against their own members, instead of an independent group doing it.

Sen. Martin says it would have been better to pass a weak bill instead of nothing at all. "If we have to plow the same ground again, with all these issues that we have pretty much resolved, then it's going to really bog us down to have to go through the same issues all over again," he says.

But Crangle says, "Something is not better than nothing in this case. The problem is once they pass what they call an ethics bill, they won't want to talk about it again for the next 10 or 20 years."


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