Much is being made of South Carolina’s so-called “new” ethics commission – a panel of political appointees which is supposed to assume responsibility for policing members of the S.C. General Assembly and all other candidates for public office in the Palmetto State.
The panel – scheduled to begin work next week – isn’t going to be ready. Only five of its eight members have even been nominated, and none of them have been appointed. And only one of them – former S.C. Department of Revenue (SCDOR) director Rick Reames – has any credibility when it comes to defending the public trust.
Reames, who was nominated by Republicans in the S.C. Senate, is the genuine article – as evidenced by his efforts to hold so-called “penny tax” scammers in Richland County accountable for their lawlessness with public money.
Unfortunately, he got no backing in his efforts from S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson – who refused to advance this probe.
Sound familiar? It should …
Incidentally, several of governor Henry McMaster‘s appointees to this panel are ex-employees of the attorney general’s office – which doesn’t inspire much confidence as to their willingness to root out and eliminate corruption.
At least McMaster has made appointments, though. Democrats in the Senate – and Republicans and Democrats in the House – have yet to put forward names for this panel.
They may as well not bother as far as we’re concerned …
This whole experiment is a waste of everyone’s time. A joke. In fact, it’s probably going to wind up pushing real accountability further away …
“When considering an accusation of wrongdoing, six of the eight commission members must agree to move the investigation forward to the House or Senate ethics committee,” reporter Maya Prabhu of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier noted earlier this week. “The legislative committees have the final say on making an investigation public.”
That’s right … as far as lawmakers are concerned, a three-quarters majority of this secretive panel must find probable cause just to advance a charge. And even then, authority to investigate the allegation would still be referred to the self-policing “ethics” committees of the S.C. House and Senate, which are notorious for helping lawmakers (and former lawmakers) evade accountability for their actions.
In other words this committee actually does nothing but provide an additional buffer between legislators and the consequences of their misdeeds.
Oh, and get this … all eight of the panel’s appointees must be vetted and confirmed by lawmakers before taking their seats.
Like other so-called “ethics reforms” originating in the state legislature, this is a joke … and given the rampant scandals being exposed in state government by an ongoing criminal probe, it’s not a particularly funny one.
Here’s an idea for lawmakers: After passing draconian new ethics laws containing real consequences for betrayals of the public trust – let those laws be enforced by the existing court system.
In other words, get rid of all these politically appointed panels that exist for no reason other than to impose fines (the government has to get its cut of the action, you know) and subject our leaders to the same system of justice the rest of us live under.
Oh wait … lawmakers vet and appoint all of the state’s judges, too, don’t they?
Wonder why nothing ever changes in South Carolina? Wonder no more …
Until those in power submit to real accountability, none of them will ever be held accountable.
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