Ethics reform advocates blast recent version of ethics bill - - Columbia, South Carolina

Ethics reform advocates blast recent version of ethics bill


In light of numerous investigations this year alone into misconduct by public officials, many had high hopes for ethics reform in the state legislature. But so far, many say this most recent ethics reform bill is missing the mark.

Pro-reform advocates say the language criminalizing ethics violations has been stripped from the most recent version of the bill pertaining to offenses like consulting fees paid to legislators.

"The use of campaign funds for personal use is leaving the door wide open for bribery," said Ashley Landess, president of the libertarian-leaning South Carolina Policy Council.

What's also troubling to many is the lack of transparency while the bill was being drafted and discussed earlier this week.

"That bill was not online, and it was not available to the public and no one here behind me nor I have ever seen them do that," said Landess.

In a statement released this week, one of the bill's sponsors, House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister defended the bill, promising it would be amended.

"It was not my intent to decriminalize serious and intentional violations of the Ethics Act. Nobody is perfect," said Bannister. "That's why pencils have erasers."

Both sides are determined to come to some compromise, if possible, during the House debate on Thursday.

"You want to know your state representatives are making their assessments based on the good of all people in the state," said Lynn Teague from the League of Women Voters.

There are some good points to the bill that most seem to agree on. That includes the creation of an independent commission to investigate and punish ethics violations.

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