By Caitlin Ginley
In response to South Carolina's failing grade from the State Integrity Investigation, House Democrats there have proposed historic ethics reforms. South Carolina was ranked 45th out of 50 states, with a score of 57 percent.
"It is time for South Carolina to get serious about ethics reform," said Rep. Boyd Brown, (D-Winnsboro), in a press release that cited the investigation's "scathing" assessment of South Carolina. "Corruption is plaguing our great state and it's high time we do something about it. South Carolina is ripe for another 'Operation Lost Trust' and I refuse to stand idly by while that happens again."
Operation Lost Trust, a vote buying scandal that involved more than two dozen lobbyists and lawmakers, sparked a major ethics overall in South Carolina in the early 1990s, severely restricting gifts and campaign contributions from lobbyists. The new proposal includes term limits, a revamping of the State Ethics Commissions and a two-year ban on the revolving door between legislating and lobbying.
South Carolina's scores on the State Integrity Investigation indicate the state has a variety of problems. Out of the 14 categories investigated in the project, South Carolina received an F in nine areas: public access to information, executive accountability, legislative accountability, judicial accountability, state budget processes, state civil service management, state pension fund management, ethics enforcement agencies, and state insurance commission oversight. The state received B grades for lobbying disclosure, procurement, and redistricting.
On Tuesday, a day after the release of the State Integrity Investigation, state Senator John Courson announced plans to meet with members of the legislative ethics committee and State Ethics Commission. Courson said he was stunned by South Carolina's F grade, since he was involved in passing reforms in the state after the Operation Lost Trust scandal. "Other states have copied our laws as a model," he said in a news report.
South Carolina Lt. Gov. Ken Ard was indicted earlier this month on seven ethics violations, including spending campaign money on personal items - like football tickets and a flat-screen television - and failing to disclose campaign expenses in the 2010 election. Ard resigned his post.
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