Lawmakers Getting Serious About Ethics Reform

DAVIS, SHEHEEN, FINLAY, BERNSTEIN WORKING ON COMPREHENSIVE BILL It’s been less than two weeks since the South Carolina Senate – led by Lowcountry lawmaker Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) – killed a so-called “ethics reform” bill championed by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley (the ultimate hypocrite on this issue). Good for them ……


It’s been less than two weeks since the South Carolina Senate – led by Lowcountry lawmaker Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) – killed a so-called “ethics reform” bill championed by S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley (the ultimate hypocrite on this issue).

Good for them … the bill supported by Haley was absolutely terrible (taking several steps in the wrong  direction on this issue), and Davis did the right thing by filibustering it.

(For more info on why this bill was so bad, click HERE.  And for more info on the filibuster, check out this piece Davis co-wrote with Democratic State Senator Vincent Sheheen – who is running for governor against Haley in 2014).

So … what happens now?

Well, sources tell FITS four lawmakers – Davis, Sheheen, S.C. Rep. Kirkman Finlay (R-Columbia) and S.C. Rep. Beth Bernstein (D-Columbia) – have been holding discussions on the issue over the last few weeks, hoping to prepare bills for the 2015 legislative session.

Good …

Finlay, of course, is the lawmaker who has led the fight on comprehensive income disclosure – one of the key reforms Haley’s bill totally ignored.

Davis and Sheheen, meanwhile, have been among the chief proponents of creating a truly independent entity to enforce the state’s ethics laws – as opposed to the corrupt “self-policing” method currently in use.  Finlay has also been working with his colleagues in the House on such an upgrade.

Again … Haley’s bill totally ignored this critical reform.

Bernstein?  She’s got all sorts of credibility on the ethics issue – pushing legislation to ban corrupt legislator-run political action committees (PACs) and end the “revolving door” of lobbyist influence at the State House, among other long-overdue items.

According to our sources, Finlay and Davis held a meeting on the issue recently in Beaufort, S.C. – and have been reaching out to their colleagues in an effort to win support for the proposals they discussed.  Davis and Bernstein have also discussed what a comprehensive ethics bill might look like – while Sheheen is reportedly set to make the issue a centerpiece of his 2014 campaign for governor.

All of this is good … hopefully these lawmakers will listen to groups like the S.C. Policy Council (and ethics reform advocates like former transportation commissioner Sarah Nuckles and former S.C. Rep. Boyd Brown) as they prepare their legislation for the coming session.

Corruption is out of control in South Carolina, and the only way to rein it in is to pass tough new laws governing the behavior of our elected officials and – as S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis has pointed out – create mechanisms to actually enforce those laws.

You know … as opposed to using corrupt cover-up committees to bury smoking guns.

We’re glad to hear Bernstein, Davis, Finlay and Sheheen are rolling up their sleeves this offseason … we can’t think of four lawmakers better suited to tackle this issue.

Pic: Travis Bell Photography

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GrandTango July 1, 2014 at 10:46 am

Sadly for the Republican haters, ethics reform just is NOT a sexy story. When the voters render democrats unfit, you take the path of litigation. as an equalizer for your failings, politically.

I think you’re wasting your time. People really don’t give a S#!* as a political issue. Sheheen, Scoppe, FITS and Davis are CRAPPING out over your self-righteous call for “ethics” reform. You better come up w/ something else fast.

southmauldin July 1, 2014 at 11:44 am

Your blog is calling. The crickets need feeding.

Tom July 1, 2014 at 11:39 am

None of these people including Tom Davis is even remotely interested in meaningful ethics reform. They just want to be sure what ever system emerges leaves a way for them to get money without disclosing its sources. That is largely why the last bill went down in defeat. No great loss of course. It was a crappy bill. But until all sources of money used to support candidates are identified, there will be no meaningful ethics reform. That means Super PACs must disclose their contributor lists. Otherwise they are just a way for large corporations and wealthy people to funnel money to politicians.

It is of no value to know that that ABC Super PAC spent $50,000 supporting the election of John Politician, unless you also know that virtually all of the money in ABC Super PAC came from John Briber and affiliates of John Briber, who just happen to be pushing for the passage of legislation that is currently before John Politician’s committee or will be before that committee in the near future.
Unless you plug this loophole, which is large enough to put the whole system through, everything else is just for show. It means nothing. Frankly Davis and the other politicians know this. They have no interest in real ethics reform. This is a commission based job for them. They are in this for the money.

Thomas July 1, 2014 at 4:07 pm

The MCCUTCHEON ET AL. v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION concluded aggregate limits are invalid under the First Amendment while preserving base contribution limits. PAC membership contributors and their base contributions they donate for any number of candidates does not rise to a quid quo pro corruption over the candidate or his office. Disclosure of individual contributor’s names opens up the real possibility for retaliation and threats against their protected political speech.

To recap…

1) Individual contributions to PAC’s are C-A-P-P-E-D.
2) Individual contributions to each C-A-N-D-I-D-A-T-E is C-A-P-P-E-D.

There is no quid quo pro corruption with capped contributions. Revealing donors creates an environment/atmosphere for retaliations and threats.

Tom July 1, 2014 at 4:41 pm

What you are saying is simply not true!!!. You are either uninformed or lying. Citizens United has thrown all of that into Chaos. For example on April 24, a federal judge overturned New York’s cap on contributions to independent political-action committees, saying it violates a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows unlimited spending in elections.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty said the state’s $150,000 limit on individual donations to the independent groups, known as super PACs, couldn’t be upheld in light of the 2010 Citizens United ruling that bars government limits on election spending by corporations, labor unions and others as long as they don’t coordinate with a candidate.

Essentially under this ruling I can set up a super pac, contribute a 20 million dollars to it and use every penny to support Candidate A in his re-election bid. I am sure that will have no bearing on candidate A’s action when my bill comes before his committee.

There is absolutely quid pro quo going on here. No one should have the right to anonymously give unlimited cash to politicians. . Anyone who believe we should be able to give all we want to a super pac anonymously, believes we should be allowed to bribe politicians.

Exposure to light is the only cure. We have a right to know who is giving money to support politicians.

Tom July 2, 2014 at 9:54 am

So you are just uninformed. WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS ARGUMENT IS ALL ABOUT. You need to research before you post. This site has nothing to do with Super Pacs, the monster unleashed by Citizens United. And by the way the Republican Party is in the process of filing a law suit alleging these limits are unconstitutional under Citizens United as they apply to political parties. They think political parties should fall under the same rule as Super PACS, i.e. no contribution limits and no disclosure as to who is giving you money. So once again. Citizens United has created a loophole big enough to drive the entire system through!!!.

Disclosure is the only cure!!!. If the Supreme Court is going to allow people to set up entities and contribute unlimited amounts of cash to elect the politicians of their choosing, we must have the right to know who these people are. If we do not, we have no defense. China could set up a Super PAC and pay to have politicians elected that will favor China. Saudi Arabia could set up a Super Pac to elect politicians that are anti US energy independence. And we would have absolutely no right to know they were doing that under your system.

Tom July 2, 2014 at 11:52 am

You are MORON if you believe money is being used to elect politicians with no expectation of return. It is impossible to prove quid pro quo and you know it. The system is set up that way.

I can meet with a politician and tell him what I want him to do. If he says I agree with you on all those things, then I can say well in that event I am going to start a PAC to support people just like you, and to help people like you keep your seat. I have violated no laws. if I do that.

Finally, who cares if people are boycotted for their political beliefs. We also have freedom of association in this country. If I don’t want to do business with someone who is spending money to influence legislation that benefits them and hurts me, I have that right. That is not government action. That does not affect their free speech rights.

Darkness is the illness. Light is the cure.

Thomas July 1, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Areas our General Assembly show concern for is education and raising taxes.

25 sections of 116 sections in 2014’s budget is for education. The last bill passed for 2014 was a law allowing counties w/o a “healthy” accommodations tax revenue to add another penny on the sales/use tax in their county.

87% of SC’s General Fund comes from income and retail sales tax revenue.

46% of the General Fund is spent on education.

The problem is education school districts and school boards are soaking up the 46% of our General Fund revenues each year and their final product, High School graduates, are unfit to even pass the US Military Qualification Tests!

Thomas July 1, 2014 at 12:49 pm

The key sticking point for ethics reform came from the SC Senate. They simply do not trust independent investigations on their members. A compromise for SLED to investigate complaints failed to gained traction.

SC has 46 counties. Each county has a SC Constitutional Officer, duly elected, to handle investigations. Why not an ethics reform overhaul allowing 15 County Sheriffs to hear complaints of legislative member wrongdoing? Don’t tell me they lose jurisdiction if they convened a hearing in Columbia. They are not arresting anyone. They are heading investigations. If they do not represent an impartial panel who can?

Either way, the legislature is not serious about ethics reform and neither is our Governor. Unless a wholesale upset in the November election gives Democrats a mandate for a Governor Sheheen to overhaul our ethics laws and procedures, Republicans will not pass meaningful reforms. Right now, this possibility of Democrat upsets may be a reality if the Harrell ruling vacates Judge Manning’s impaneling of that State Grand Jury and removes AG Wilson as the prosecutor.

Bird of Paradise July 1, 2014 at 1:07 pm

News flash!!!!!!! The Earth is also flat!!!!! Serious .

Cell Mates Harrell and Metts July 1, 2014 at 1:31 pm

None of them give a rats ass about “ethics reform.” Everybody knows that. If they were serious, there would be a ‘voter recall law’ ( failed twice in a house sub committee). If they were serious, the voters would decide on who their circuit court judges would be.
Sick Of The Harrell and His Cronies.

Cell Mates Harrell and Metts July 1, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Meanwhile: ____

Men swim across Rio Grande to get into USA…
AGENT: 70% of Border Patrol Caring for Unaccompanied Minors…
Sheriff: We Come Across Decomposed Bodies ‘Quite Often’…
Officials: Girls Raped, Abused On Trek Into America…
‘Third World Nation’ If Feds Don’t Enforce Immigration Laws…
DEM REP: Obama can ‘heal’ illegal migrants…

anonymous July 1, 2014 at 7:30 pm

“Davis and Sheheen, meanwhile, have been among the chief proponents of creating a truly independent entity to enforce the state’s ethics laws – as opposed to the corrupt “self-policing” method currently in use.” BS, Sic and you know it.

Tom Davis and Vincent Sheheen know Jean Toal believes in her “self-policing the legal profession in absolute secrecy with the most abominable procedures and violations of due process and fair play known in the United States. She is the laughing stock of the ABA.


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