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#ProbeGate: How To Stop The Corruption




This week’s thirty-count public corruption indictment of S.C. Rep. Jimmy Merrill was a seismic development with potentially far-reaching consequences for Palmetto State politics.

S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe presented a sweeping array of alleged misconduct and ethical lapses involving Merrill – and he made clear his investigation into similar conduct by other lawmakers is ongoing.

Of course the indictment didn’t just expose the self-serving nature of South Carolina politicians (ahem, Nikki Haley), it also exposed the murkiness surrounding the laws by which these politicians have operated.

Several lawmakers – led by S.C. Rep. Kirkman Finlay – have been trying for years to tighten up these rules, but to no avail.

Which is a shame …

This website has also frequently opined as to what we believe needs to be done in order to stop elected officials from taking personal advantage of their positions of public trust.

As far as we see it, fixing the current corrupt system involves three steps: 1) Ending the existing model of self-policing (in which legislative committees determine whether to prosecute current and former members); 2) mandating total disclosure of all income sources; and 3) expanding ethics regulations and imposing real consequences for violations of the public trust – meaning jail time for politicians when they break the law.

It’s not complicated, people.

South Carolina hasn’t had a real overhaul of its ethics laws in nearly three decades – and if the ongoing #Probegate debacle proves anything it’s that another overhaul is long overdue.

The only problem?  The people who must do the overhauling are the ones profiting from the current system.

In other words we have to rely on self-serving politicians (ahem, Hugh Leatherman) to effectuate reform … which is clearly asking them to act counter to their self-interest.

We’ll be addressing specific ethics reforms in more detail in future posts, but in the aftermath of the Merrill indictment we wanted to reaffirm the three basic principles that should guide lawmakers in their deliberations: Independent accountability, total disclosure and tighter regulation (with real consequences for violators).

Let’s hope 2017 is the year these principles are finally adopted …

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