TAKE NOTES, WOULD-BE REFORMERS …
There’s been a lot of chatter in South Carolina politics this week about the dramatic floor speech given by S.C. Sen. Shane Massey (R-Aiken) in opposition to the election of liberal “former” Democrat Hugh Leatherman as Senate president.
Massey waxed indignant about Leatherman’s unethical consolidation of additional power unto himself, referring to the diminutive politician as a gangster orchestrating a “hit.”
It was indeed a brave, bold speech … one that drew favorable reviews from reformers (and catcalls from Leatherman’s establishment allies).
But it was just that … a speech. After taking a page from our book (i.e. saying out loud what everyone else is thinking), Massey sat down. He didn’t nominate anyone (or himself) to challenge Leatherman, nor did he demand a roll call vote on Leatherman’s election.
The latter job fell to S.C. Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), who after securing a vote joined Massey as one of the only two members of the S.C. Senate to go on the record against Leatherman’s maestro-like occupation of yet another corridor of power.
The following day, after thumbing his nose at the undisputed king of Palmetto politics, Davis turned his attention to South Carolina’s Queen – a.k.a. Gov. Nikki Haley – and specifically the “reform in name only” ethics bill she’s been advancing.
With this website and other limited government/ free speech/ Second Amendment groups cheering him on, Davis successfully filibustered this fatally flawed legislation – which would have been a major step backward on multiple fronts. Haley’s proposed law would have created a loophole for legislative lobbying, a loophole for leadership PACs (or political fundraising vehicles run by lawmakers), broad exemptions on income disclosure as well as a provision that would have allowed lawmakers to spend campaign funds on virtually anything they wanted.
Not only that, it would have shut down the freedom of the people to publicly challenge their leaders … something Haley gave us a foretaste of this week.
Davis singlehandedly shot this bill down … taking major heat from Haley’s office as well as legislative leaders in the S.C. House of Representatives.
This year hasn’t been Davis’ most productive. He’s seen other lawmakers steal his thunder on big ticket issues – with S.C. Sen. Katrina Shealy emerging as a new go-to reformer on free market tax policy, for example.
But as the session wore on, Davis rallied. And when it came time to put up or shut up – he did what other “reformers” were afraid to do in flatly rebuking the two most powerful politicians in the state.
Davis told FITS he’s going to spend his legislative offseason working with like-minded lawmakers on tax, spending, education and ethics reform. In fact we’ve spoken to several lawmakers who have already received calls from him about drafting bills.
There is no sharper, more principled policy mind in state government than Tom Davis – and when he’s on top of his game (as he was this past week), it’s something to behold. And something that (if he got a little help) could result in a dramatically more prosperous, educated and ethical state.