By Paul Gable
As we look back on the news of 2012, the top story in South Carolina this year was the election filing mess that kept nearly 300 candidates off the ballot.
Most candidates affected were challengers to incumbent Republicans, although many Democrats got left off too, in the June primary. They were ineligible to be certified as candidates because the state and local Republican and Democratic parties did not understand, and did not make allowance for, a minor change in state law that required electronic filing of the candidates’ Statement of Economic Interests.
The party leaders never saw it coming and they blew it. I don’t believe it was a big conspiracy to keep new candidates off the ballot. Some newcomers did file properly and did get certified, too few for a real democratic process, however.
The parties weren’t about to take the blame. They tried to pin it on the S.C. Supreme Court for issuing a strict ruling on state law rather than bowing to the arguments of party attorneys.
Was the law flawed? Absolutely. But some challengers, albeit few, did get the process completed properly, seriously diminishing the arguments of those who didn’t.
The blame for the election filing mess lies firmly with state and local party leaders. Maybe when party conventions come around again, election of the leadership will be less about popularity and rewarding party hacks and more about electing leaders.
Following closely on the heels of the election debacle was the ethics difficulties of Gov. Nikki Haley when she was a representative.
Republican Party activist John Rainey submitted a well-documented ethics complaint about Haley’s actions in the House.
Rainey alleged Haley “traded on the influence of her office (representative) for her personal benefit and the benefit of those paying her by (1) lobbying a state agency, (2) failing to disclose that her reason for recusing herself from voting on legislation was because the legislation’s beneficiary was secretly paying her, (3) failing to abstain from a vote authorizing payment of public money to a corporation paying her, (4) soliciting money from registered lobbyists and lobbyist principals for the benefit of her employer and (5) concealing all of this activity by making false and incomplete public disclosures.”
The House Ethics Committee initially tried to dismiss the complaint out of hand. When that didn’t work, a hearing was held during which Rainey was never called to testify and his exhibits were never scrutinized. Haley was allowed to “testify”, a self-serving statement in which she insisted on her innocence, without ever answering any of the charges.
Once again, we all learned there are no ethics in South Carolina to which public officials are forced to adhere.
Two stories we heard about in 2012 and will hear much more about in 2013 are the attempt by the gaming industry to firmly establish internet sweepstakes cafes in the state and the effort by state treasurer Curtis Loftis to overhaul the South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission.
While these stories got some headlines in 2012, they are getting ready to break wide open in 2013. Stay tuned.
On the Grand Strand, the elevation of Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice to the U.S. House of Representatives from the new 7th Congressional District takes top billing.
Rice and his handlers parlayed the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation’s infamous Project Blue into claims of job creation through the general election. The project fell through a month later. Its demise brought on when the smoke and mirrors were swept away and the project was exposed as the latest iteration of the ‘emperor’s new clothes.’
During his two years on county council, Rice demonstrated he understands little about politics and less about government. We can only hope he improves in Washington. Additionally, we wonder what lies in store for the MBREDC now that Rice won’t be around to protect it.
With the coming of a New Year, hope springs eternal or something like that.