Editorial: Leadership PACs need to be tossed

  • Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013 12:01 a.m.

The S.C. Senate has already done it. Now it’s time for the S.C. House to do so as well.

The elimination of so-called Leadership Political Action Committees – commonly called PACs – should be a top priority when legislators return to Columbia in January.

PACs are political fundraising groups with ties to legislative leaders. However, the groups should be considered a plague at the State House. Perhaps the most prominent is the Palmetto Leadership Council – a group with ties to S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

According to the Charleston Post and Courier, the group channeled about a half-million dollars from 2008 to 2012 to the S.C. House Republican Caucus, the state GOP and to more than 130 candidates for legislative office.

While this could be seen as merely Republican helping Republican or Democrat helping Democrat, it really opens the door for a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” mentality.

State law doesn’t ban PACs, and consequently, under S.C. House rules, they are allowed. However, the S.C. Senate – foreseeing possible issues – prohibit such groups.

According to Herb Hayden, executive director of the S.C. Ethics Commission, part of a piece of legislation that stalled on the S.C. Senate floor last year has a provision that would delete the section of state law that allows Leadership PACs. If that passes, neither the S.C. House or S.C. Senate could use such groups since neither body’s rules trump state law.

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley said this week that any legislator who fights ethics reforms is a “legislator we have a problem with.” We agree.

Legislators shouldn’t pursue such a goal merely because it’s politically expedient. Too often the need for ethics reform is reduced to buzz words such as transparency and accountability, but the resulting law has little bite.

By making such legislation a priority, and passing it through the General Assembly, our State House will be less susceptible to greed and corruption.

Such groups undermine our confidence in how the State House operates. That trust can be redeemed, at least to some degree, by ditching these special interest groups.

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