S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley – whose government reform proposal doesn’t contain a single provision she hasn’t previously violated or exploited – testified this week before the South Carolina Commission on Ethics Reform.

Amazingly, lighting did not strike her during this address (… although if wishing made it so).

The governor – who trampled all over state ethics law as a member of the S.C. House of Representatives – got a hall pass from her former colleagues in spite of the damning evidence against her.  In fact Haley’s rigged “show trial” this summer was probably the clearest case of public corruption South Carolina has seen since Operation Lost Trust.

Except this time the lawlessness went completely unpunished …

“Trusting Nikki Haley with ethics reform is like asking Amy Winehouse to be your Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor.  Or hiring Jerry Sandusky to babysit your children.  Or appointing Barry Bonds to investigate steroid use in baseball,” we wrote in our critique of Haley’s plans. “It is the definition of hypocrisy … and stupidity.

Haley’s hypocrisy on ethics reform deserves special consideration as lawmakers debate various “ethics reform” proposals in the upcoming session of the S.C. General Assembly.  Why?  Because the hall pass the governor received raises a pertinent question:  What’s the point of passing new ethics laws if the leaders of our state are given free reign to violate laws already on the books?

Here’s what S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis had to say about this on his Facebook page:

There is lot of talk about ethics reform. I do not want to rain on anyone’s parade, BUT, we have adequate laws. We need elected and appointed officials to standup and be counted. THAT IS WHERE THE SYSTEM FAILS YOU! We need people that will not tolerate dishonesty. deceit or other evil shenanigans!

First of all, Loftis isn’t entirely correct.  Lawmakers clearly need to stop policing themselves and consolidate cases under one roof (as former S.C. Rep. Kevin Ryan proposed last November).  They should also insist on total income disclosure (which former S.C. Rep. Boyd Brown included in his ethics package in January) and require that all branches of government abide by FOIA (as Rep. Quinn proposed in February).

Additionally, there should be a permanent ban against lawmakers and bureaucrats becoming lobbyists – among other reforms.

Are lawmakers going to do any of those things?  No … so far they appear content to pass yet another example of “reform in name only.”

But in the larger sense, Loftis does have a point.  Had state ethics law been followed in Haley’s case, the governor would be sitting in prison right now.  Hell, the campaign finance crimes committed by former S.C. Lt. Gov. Ken Ard were far less serious than Haley’s infractions – and he was indicted and forced to resign his office as a result of them.

Here’s the bottom line: South Carolina isn’t one of America’s most corrupt states because we have weak ethics laws, South Carolina is one of America’s most corrupt states because our politicians habitually break those laws and go unpunished.

While new ethics laws must be passed, Loftis is absolutely correct in identifying the real “system failure” in South Carolina.