ISSUE FRONT AND CENTER IN PALMETTO POLITICS … AGAIN
|| By FITSNEWS || We dogged out the Palmetto State’s mainstream media pretty hard this week – and deservedly so. But evidently our reporting about a controversial South Carolina judicial race – one dominated by allegations of nepotism – conformed to their current definition of “news.”
Our story on the battle between incumbent administrative law judge Carolyn Matthews and Bill Funderburk (husband of S.C. Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk) was all the buzz at the S.C. State House this week … and with good reason.
“All the (representatives) and judges are talking about it,” one lawmaker told us.
“You’re the hot topic among judicial candidates,” a state judge confirmed.
“Media (are) poking around on your law judge story,” a lobbyist alerted us.
Indeed they are “poking around” – in fact one outlet has already filed a story on the race.
“No state law bars the spouse of a lawmaker from running for judge, but the drama unfolding in the (Matthews v. Funderburk) contest has lawmakers wincing at the fight for the seat and how it will reflect on them,” Jamie Self of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper reported.
That’s correct …
As we noted in our initial reporting on this contest, lawmakers are especially sensitive to the nepotism issue given the cloud of corruption currently hanging over the S.C. State House. In fact they’ve been making lots of noise on the issue of “ethics reform” in an effort to get this cloud to move on … although the bills they (and governor Nikki Haley) have advanced are terrible.
The election of a lawmakers’ spouse? That would seem to signal that “business as usual” is alive and well in the Palmetto State … which has seen numerous instances of such familial self-serving in recent years.
Beth Bernstein – one of the State House’s foremost ethics advocates (and a supporter of Matthews) – told FITS the election of Funderburk could set a “terrible precedent” for future judicial races.
“It’s a negative reflection on the institution at time when the public is looking to us for positive leadership and real results on ethics reform,” Bernstein told FITS. “It’s not the message we need to be sending.”
She’s absolutely correct … but lawmakers are likely to elect Funderburk anyway.
In fact one lawmaker told us the rural attorney had “at least a twenty-vote lead.”
It’s simple: Legislators don’t want to vote against one of their own because … for lack of a better term … favor-trading is a two-way street.
Frankly, this is yet another reason why the S.C. General Assembly should enact draconian new restrictions on family members receiving state appointments. Oh, and get rid of the current corrupt judicial selection process. South Carolina is the only state in America in which the legislative branch selects judicial candidates for election – and then votes on them. Which leads to rampant corruption.
Will things ever change?
Don’t bet on it …