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S.C. Rep. Kirkman Finlay (R-Columbia) is pushing an amendment which would dramatically broaden income disclosure requirements for public officials in the Palmetto State.

Finlay’s amendment – which we support – would require disclosure of “the source, amount and type of all income received by any public official from a nonpublic source for the preceding calendar year, as indicated by any and all wage or earnings reporting documents issued to the public official.”

Such disclosure would represent a major leap forward for South Carolina – where politicians habitually operate in the dark, receiving payouts from special interests in exchange for their official advocacy.

Nikki Haley: Poster girl for lack of transparency.
Nikki Haley: Poster girl for lack of income transparency.

Income disclosure has been a major transparency issue since 2010, when then-S.C. Rep. Nikki Haley was busted hiding tens of thousands of dollars in payments received from a company with extensive business before the state. Haley – then a candidate for governor – belatedly disclosed that she had received $42,500 in consulting fees over a three-year period from the former Wilbur Smith Associates, which was the lead firm on a proposal involving the relocation of the S.C. Farmer’s Market.

These fees were not reported on her statements of economic interests. In fact, the vast majority of this income ($40,000) was reported by Haley two weeks after the GOP primary election – and mere hours before Republicans voted in a runoff election between her and former U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett.

Wilbur Smith Associates said it hired Haley because she had “good contacts.” Haley hasn’t publicly said what she did for the firm, although she told numerous people in private that she did “accounting” work for the company. Numerous State House sources have accused her of lobbying for Wilbur Smith, although these allegations were part of a recent “whitewash” of ethics abuses.

The issue of income disclosure was revived earlier this year when FITS published a series of stories detailing millions of dollars in payments received by a construction company co-owned by powerful S.C. Senate finance committee chairman Hugh Leatherman.

South Carolina is the only state in America which doesn’t require its leaders to disclose any private income – which is an incredibly frightening proposition given the extent of corruption that exists here (and the lack of public access to documents).

Clearly this has to change … which is why we support Finlay’s amendment.

In the meantime, we would call on every South Carolina elected official (and agency leader) to voluntarily disclose all of their income sources … now.

Finally, we’d like to take a moment to remind our readers of this reform proposal, which we rolled out a few months ago. Its genius? You can’t have conflicts of interest on income issues if you simply ban lawmakers from taking money from companies impacted by their decisions.

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