COLUMBIA — After a slow, four-year march toward ethics reform, the South Carolina General Assembly late Wednesday adopted two bills requiring lawmakers to disclose sources of independent income and also creating an independent investigation commission to oversee lawmaker conduct.
They now go to Gov. Nikki Haley for her signature.
Lawmakers in a compromise committee reached an agreement that will require elected officials who file a statement of economic interest — from the governor down to locally appointed boards — to include sources of private taxable income.
Members of the House and Senate voted unanimously for approval.
“This is just one of the elements of ethics reform that we’ve looked at,” said Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, who has led the charge for reform in the Senate all year. “It’s not a big element, but it’s an important element. It’s a start.”
Last fall, the “Capitol Gains” series published by The Post and Courier and The Center for Public Integrity spelled out problems with income disclosure requirements and an ethics system in which lawmakers police themselves. The series found that some lawmakers used their campaign war chests like personal ATM machines, profited off business deals with government and failed to disclose key sources of income while policing their own behavior through internal ethics committees.
South Carolina had earned a D- in the Center for Public Integrity’s State Integrity Investigation in November, ranking 36th worst in the nation in part for its minimal disclosure laws and the not enough independence in its ethics enforcement agencies.