One day after a special investigator released its report on the State Grand Jury investigation into corruption at the State House, Governor Henry McMaster said legislators need more transparency.
“We can legislate many laws, which we have, but until we have complete openness and transparency, which the thrust of the Freedom of Information law is aimed to accomplish, until we have that we will continue to have problems,” Governor McMaster said Wednesday when asked to comment on the grand jury report released Tuesday.
McMaster said state legislators should not be exempted from regulations under the Freedom of Information Act.
“Any time you have money involved in government you need to have total and complete transparency,” he said. “It needs to be open.”
“We need to broaden and strengthen our ethics rules so that everyone who is paid by anyone to approach the government in any fashion as a lobbyist needs to be recorded as doing so and we must have full disclosure by the legislature,” he said.
In 2012, McMaster was appointed to chair an Ethics Reform Commission by Governor Nikki Haley along with former Attorney General Travis Medlock.
“We had a number of recommendations,” McMaster said. “Some have been adopted. There are more that need to be adopted. We need to have greater investigative strength for the Ethics Commission. We need to have Freedom of Information Act applied to legislators — all government officials.”
McMaster said the state needs stronger enforcement of ethics laws.
“We also need to have all those who are lobbying the government — any government — the state government, county governments, municipal governments, they need to register. That’s not required at the county and municipal level and it needs to be,” McMaster said.
McMaster said the State Grand Jury is a valuable tool for investigating misconduct, corruption and other white-collar crimes.
“That’s what you need to prosecute white-collar crime. That’s why, until our State Grand Jury was created, we had no prosecutions of white-collar crime in South Carolina until we had the sting investigation of Lost Trust, which was a sting. It was not a white-collar investigation,” he said.
McMaster credited Medlock with establishing the State Grand Jury, which he had proposed in 1985.
“We had one hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and that was as far as it got,” he said. “Travis Medlock picked it up and made it a reality.”
When asked his opinion on the validity of the report, McMaster said he had not read the report, but replied, “From what I know it has proceeded along the path that I would expect from a grand jury investigation.”
McMaster said he was never asked to meet a corporate client of political consultant Richard Quinn or his son, former legislator Rick Quinn. The younger Quinn was sentenced to two years of probation earlier this year after pleading guilty to misconduct in office.
“Richard Quinn and Associates worked with me on the campaigns,” he said. “They were campaign consultants and helped with advertisements and political consulting and that’s all.”