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MARY TINKLER: “ONLY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY CAN BRING ABOUT ETHICS REFORM”

Yesterday, I welcomed the news of the South Carolina Supreme Court’s decision that Attorney General Alan Wilson has the authority to investigate and prosecute public corruption. We have heard too much recently of our public officials doing bad things. The opinion dealt a blow to the legislators who believed that they alone had the ability to determine whether they could be criminally investigated by the Attorney General for corruption. It is a step in the right direction.

However, the courts can only do so much. Only the General Assembly can bring about the ethics reform that is truly needed. One of those changes that I strongly support is an elimination of the ethics committees that have the exclusive oversight of our legislators’ activities. Allowing legislators to police themselves creates an environment ripe with conflicts of interest, where legislators are influenced to protect their fellow legislators from scrutiny. Placing that oversight authority in the hands of the State Ethics Commission is necessary to restore our faith in our elected officials.

Of course, other changes are necessary. Legislators must be subjected to more stringent disclosure requirements when they report their sources of income and their campaign finances. Transparency is the most effective way to keep our public officials honest and working for us.

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