Legislators spent yesterday responding to a report by the Center for Public Integrity that says the South Carolina’s elected officials are at a high risk for corruption.
Senate President Pro Tem John Courson was in the Legislature in the early 199o’s when the lobbyist-lawmaker bribery scandal called Operation Lost Trust inspired ethics reform. He took the Senate floor Tuesday to say he has asked ethics staff for recommendations.
AUDIO: Courson told colleagues that state ethics laws, once a national model, need another look (7:51)
In a press conference Tuesday, Charleston Representative Leon Stavrinakis yesterday agreed, saying Lost Trust fixed lobbyist oversight—which got a “B” grade in the report.
“After Lost Trust the laws were changed to be much more strict on lobbyists, but as far as legislators and elected officials themselves as concerned, not enough was done, obviously,” he said.”
Some of the issues: the State Ethics Commission’s funding has dropped, the commission does not oversee the Legislature and separate House and Senate Ethics Committees are made up of lawmakers, with much of their work done in closed session.
“We can introduce bills all day long; we do not have the votes to advance a bill on our own and we do not control the committees that these bills would need to move through. It is up to the majority party to get on board with these reforms,” said Stavrinakis.
“We have a role to hold the majority accountable and when they are not taking action on areas that are significant, we ned to call them to action…unfortunately we had to have a story to highlight the need,” Smith said.
AUDIO: Excerpt from Tuesday’s press conference with House Democrats (14:24)