New ethics bill with major changes raises concerns - - Columbia, South Carolina

New ethics bill with major changes raises concerns


A new ethics bill has passed through the House and now has a chance to become law.

This new bill offers new changes such as requiring both elected officials and their families to disclose all their sources of incomes. However, South Carolina Policy Council President Ashley Landess says what she found in the 42-page bill is anything but good.

"For the past several days," Landess said, "we have been really deep looking into this legislation."

Landess and John Crangle, leader of Common Cause South Carolina, believe there are three sections of the bill that have some far-reaching consequences.

In Section 25, Landess says the language in this portion of the bill would allow political groups to give money to candidates and not disclose their contributions as long as it's less than 50 percent of the group's total earnings.

"They could get away with disclosing nothing," Landess said.

Section 45 notes that family members have to disclose their income, but the section also specifies when elected officials and family can be reimbursed with taxpayer dollars for travel expenses. For Crangle, the problem is the bill doesn't say what isn't allowed.

"It allows you to take family members on so-called political junkets," Crangle said.

The language in Section 31 deals with campaign ads, endorsements, and communications, but Landess says it's too vague and it ropes in any group that so much as mentions a candidate for office forcing the group to name their donors.

"What they've done," Landess said, "is exclude political action committees and go after citizens."

Although state Sen. Katrina Shealy is supporting the bill, she says it's nowhere near what was initially proposed. Shealy said that passing nothing is worse than passing a bill that leaves work to be done.

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