Tuesday’s first editorial:
The ethics reform commission announced last week by Gov. Nikki Haley could be a strong step in the right direction, but the proof will be in the enacted pudding – or the lack thereof.
Coming off a year that saw multiple high-profile ethics cases, the state is primed to reform what has for too long been an insular system that protects its own, lacks teeth and doesn’t bother to ask some of the most basic questions about where politicians earn their money. And the governor’s new commission is a who’s who of people familiar with the current law’s failings and willing to suggest better alternatives – including former S.C. attorney general Henry McMaster, S.C. Press Association Executive Director Bill Rogers and various former ethics officials and U.S. attorneys.
The group assembled is more than capable of assessing the current situation and suggesting a path for the state ahead that helps restore trust in our leaders and integrity to the system. But success will not be measured by the quality of the group’s report, due at the end of January. Success will only be celebrated if and when the group’s recommendations actually become state law. And that’s far from assured.
McMaster pointed out as much more than a decade ago when he was state GOP chairman and on yet another task force looking into ethics and campaign finance reform. The group dutifully produced its report and the legislature happily ignored it. And McMaster was not surprised.
“We knew that from the beginning. Appointing a task force is an old political trick,” McMaster said in 2001. “When you have a problem, you form a study committee.”
This time around, McMaster says the commission is more serious. “This is completely different,” he told The (Columbia) State newspaper when it reminded him of his previous statement.
We certainly hope so, but we’re not exactly holding our breath. We’ll believe it when we see the act.