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State Grand Jury Potentially Available to Pascoe in Harrell Investigation

Aug. 20, 2014, 6:16 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

When former Columbia city employee Faye Goodson was sentenced in 2000 for orchestrating what was described as the biggest scam in recent city history, then-Assistant 5th Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe told the judge, “I think it’s obvious when you look at what she got away with, that she had way too much authority.”

Announced New Prosecutor in Harrell Case Has Ties to Speaker

Aug. 18, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

In announcing Saturday that S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson had handed over his case to 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe, House Speaker Bobby Harrell said he just wanted “an independent prosecutor free of political motives and influence.”

Harrell: State Grand Jury Investigation Over; Wilson Off Case

Aug. 16, 2014, 11:03 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

House Speaker Bobby Harrell announced this morning the state grand jury investigation of him has ended, and that S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson is off the case, Bart Daniel, one of Harrell’s attorneys, confirmed to The Nerve.

S.C. Top Court Upholds Legislative Delegation's Power Over School District

July 18, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

If you think that local school districts in South Carolina are controlled by their school boards or superintendents, you might want to check out Act 294 of 2010.

S.C. Supreme Court Supporting Secrecy in Harrell Case?

July 14, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

All courts shall be public, and every person shall have speedy remedy therein for wrongs sustained. – Article 1, Section 9, S.C. Constitution.

South Carolina’s top court, however, apparently ignored the first part of the above sentence last week in its ruling involving House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

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Legislative Power Trip

State Grand Jury Potentially Available to Pascoe in Harrell Investigation

Aug. 20, 2014, 6:16 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

When former Columbia city employee Faye Goodson was sentenced in 2000 for orchestrating what was described as the biggest scam in recent city history, then-Assistant 5th Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe told the judge, “I think it’s obvious when you look at what she got away with, that she had way too much authority.”

Announced New Prosecutor in Harrell Case Has Ties to Speaker

Aug. 18, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

In announcing Saturday that S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson had handed over his case to 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe, House Speaker Bobby Harrell said he just wanted “an independent prosecutor free of political motives and influence.”

Harrell: State Grand Jury Investigation Over; Wilson Off Case

Aug. 16, 2014, 11:03 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

House Speaker Bobby Harrell announced this morning the state grand jury investigation of him has ended, and that S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson is off the case, Bart Daniel, one of Harrell’s attorneys, confirmed to The Nerve.

S.C. Top Court Upholds Legislative Delegation's Power Over School District

July 18, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

If you think that local school districts in South Carolina are controlled by their school boards or superintendents, you might want to check out Act 294 of 2010.

S.C. Supreme Court Supporting Secrecy in Harrell Case?

July 14, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

All courts shall be public, and every person shall have speedy remedy therein for wrongs sustained. – Article 1, Section 9, S.C. Constitution.

South Carolina’s top court, however, apparently ignored the first part of the above sentence last week in its ruling involving House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

Supreme Court Gives Green Light to Grand Jury Investigation of House Speaker

July 10, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson can continue a state grand jury investigation of House Speaker Bobby Harrell and doesn’t need a legislative committee’s permission to do so, the S.C. Supreme Court unanimously said Wednesday.

Taxpayer Tab for House Members’ Salaries, Expenses Pushing $4 Million

July 7, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

A review by The Nerve of House expense records obtained under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act found that taxpayers shelled out a total of $3.85 million last year in salaries and expenses for House members, and $2.9 million for the first five months of this year.

Plenty of Pork to Pass Around in Fiscal 2015 State Budget

July 2, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

S.C. Sen. Paul Campbell serves on the governing board of the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, an annual event in Charleston that draws tens of thousands of visitors and hundreds of artists, exhibitors and wildlife experts from “around the world,” according to its website.

FOIA Suffers Setbacks in Legislature, Supreme Court

June 30, 2014, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Reformers of the Freedom of Information Act in South Carolina – which recently received a flunking grade in a national study on access to public information – are finding few friends in the S.C. Legislature or Supreme Court these days.

Ex-Lawmaker Justices Grill A.G.’s Side in Harrell Hearing

June 25, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

It wasn’t an easy day Tuesday in the state’s top court for S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson and one of his top prosecutors.

Creighton Waters, an assistant deputy attorney general, was grilled by the S.C. Supreme Court in the state grand jury case of House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who was among a crowd of at least 150 who packed the small courtroom and overflowed into the lobby of the courthouse, located across the street from the State House.

Lawmakers Fight to the End for Their Own Pay Raise

June 20, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

You won’t find it in the official S.C. Senate Journal, but there initially were more “yes” than “no” votes cast by senators this week for a big pay hike for the 170-member General Assembly.

Metts and Harrell Cases Illustrate Different Views of State Ethics Act

June 18, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

In a stunning announcement Tuesday, Bill Nettles, the U.S. attorney for South Carolina, revealed that longtime Lexington County Sheriff James Metts was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges he accepted bribes to help several inmates detained at the county jail under an immigration-enforcement program.

Scrap Ethics Bill, Government Watchdog Says

June 13, 2014, 9:36 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

A touted “ethics-reform” bill awaiting action next week by the S.C. Senate likely would do little to curb House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s influence over fellow lawmakers, or stop certain campaign-spending abuses by public officials, a review by The Nerve found.

Federal Disclosure Forms Reveal Financial Details about U.S. Senate Candidates

June 11, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Over the past year or so, S.C. Sen. Brad Hutto made $282,441 from his law practice while he and his wife received investment income ranging from nearly $246,000 to more than $1.4 million, according to his federal income-disclosure report filed last month for his U.S. Senate bid.

Top Court Rejects – Again – Request to Review Grand Jury Records in Harrell Case

June 9, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

It’s not very often that South Carolina’s chief prosecutor can officially vent a little against the state’s top court, but it happened just days ago in the state grand jury case of House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

Lawmakers Approve Higher Hotel Reimbursements for Themselves

June 6, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

If Gov. Nikki Haley doesn’t veto a budget proviso passed Wednesday by the General Assembly, lawmakers would get reimbursed for their hotel stays – courtesy of S.C. taxpayers – at rates that are at least 37 percent higher than the current federally authorized rate, a review by The Nerve found.

Some Lawmakers Not Reporting County Delegation Payments

June 4, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Sumter County this fiscal year shelled out a collective $39,000 to seven lawmakers who represent the county in lieu of providing them a local delegation office as mandated by state law, county records obtained by The Nerve show.

Charleston Attorney Asks U.S. Attorney General to Consider Harrell Case

May 28, 2014, 7 a.m. by Barton Swaim

Charleston attorney Dusty Rhoades has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to look into the case of House Speaker Bobby Harrell. 

Harrell-Affiliated PAC Flying Below the Radar

May 27, 2014, 6:45 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

A political action committee with ties to House Speaker Bobby Harrell apparently has quit disclosing its contributions and expenditures to the State Ethics Commission, but the ethics watchdog agency doesn’t plan to do anything about it.

S.C. Top Court Asked to Review Secret Grand Jury Records in Harrell Case

May 25, 2014, 8:45 p.m. by Rick Brundrett

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson has asked the state’s top court to review certain documents in secret related to the state grand jury investigation of House Speaker Bobby Harrell, The Nerve has learned.

Senators Ignore Constitution in Hiking Lawmaker Pay

May 23, 2014, 7:17 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The S.C. Constitution requires that “annual expenditures of state government may not exceed annual state revenue.”

Yet the state Senate last week skipped over Article 10, Section 7 (a) of the constitution when it approved,  by a 25-20 vote, to allow all 170 lawmakers to claim an additional $12,000 yearly in “in-district” payments, which is considered taxable income.

Chief Justice Silent about Stepping Down in Harrell Case

May 21, 2014, 6:49 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Under an obscure S.C. Supreme Court order, Chief Justice Jean Toal would appoint the trial judge if House Speaker Bobby Harrell is indicted by the state grand jury.

Study: S.C. Lawmakers Should Get Big Pay Raises

May 19, 2014, 7:59 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

S.C. lawmakers would see salary hikes of up to 192 percent, while House Speaker Bobby Harrell and Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson would each receive an additional 36-percent pay increase, based on recommendations of a salary study quietly authorized two years ago by the General Assembly.

Judge Cancels Criminal Investigation of House Speaker

May 12, 2014, 9:40 p.m. by Rick Brundrett

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson or the state grand jury can't investigate whether House Speaker Bobby Harrell broke any criminal ethics laws – at least for now, Circuit Judge Casey Manning said in a ruling issued late this afternoon.

County Money Flows to State Lawmakers’ Wallets

May 12, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Every quarter, Sen. Paul Campbell says he receives a check from Berkeley County for about $1,600.

The Big Cheese

May 8, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) is attempting to get a pay raise for legislators into the state budget. For some reason, though, he doesn't seem to want anyone to know who's doing it.

Harrell Reimbursed Himself $70,000 for Unidentified Staff Expenses

May 5, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s reimbursement from his campaign account for use of his private plane wasn't the only questionable payment to himself in recent years, a review by The Nerve has found.

Legal Loophole Could Benefit Harrell in Ethics Case

April 28, 2014, 7 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

South Carolina lawmakers are justly famous for writing exceptions for themselves into state law. It appears House Speaker Bobby Harrell's lawyers have found one that will benefit their client.

House Speaker Reveals Little about ‘Legislative’ Expenses

April 23, 2014, 7:36 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Since January 2011, S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell has used $150,000 in campaign funds for various expenses that he has labeled in campaign disclosure reports as “legislative,” a review by The Nerve found.

House Members Stand by Embattled Speaker

April 14, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

It appears that arguably the most powerful lawmaker in the S.C. General Assembly would hold his title if his colleagues voted today.

S.C. House Proposes New Prosecution Powers for Lawmakers

April 10, 2014, 7:15 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

In what critics describe as an unconstitutional power grab, the S.C. House on Wednesday quietly introduced legislation that would give lawmakers the authority to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate criminal violations of state ethics laws by the governor, attorney general and other executive-branch officials.

New Legal Twist Emerges in Harrell Ethics Case

April 4, 2014, 7:03 p.m. by Rick Brundrett

There apparently will be a Round 2 in the court battle between S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson and state House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who is trying to stop Wilson from handling his ethics case before the state grand jury.

Court Records in Harrell Ethics Case Still Secret

March 24, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Despite explosive testimony in Friday’s unprecedented court hearing pitting South Carolina’s top prosecutor against arguably the state’s most powerful lawmaker, questions remain about what happened in a private meeting last year in the Attorney General's Office.

Court Hearing Set for Friday on Harrell Ethics Case

March 20, 2014, noon by Rick Brundrett

A court hearing has been scheduled for Friday regarding reported efforts by S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell to secretly try to remove state Attorney General Alan Wilson from an ongoing ethics investigation of the speaker.

House Speaker Rigging Outcome of Ethics Case?

March 17, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell – arguably South Carolina’s most powerful lawmaker – was visibly angry after state Attorney General Alan Wilson announced that an ethics investigation of Harrell had been referred to the state grand jury.

S.C. Public Service Commission: Women Need Not Apply?

March 10, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Nancy S. Campbell last year was hoping to land a $102,000-a-year seat on the S.C. Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities in the Palmetto State.

Farm Industry Ex-Lobbyist Says He Hasn’t Crossed Ethical Line

March 5, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The South Carolina Farm Bureau, considered the state’s most influential farm organization, has not been secret about its opposition to state legislation that would regulate large water withdrawals by farmers.

Sen. Leatherman Doles out Campaign Money for ‘Charity’

Feb. 24, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Over the past six years, longtime S.C. Sen. Hugh Leatherman – the Senate’s most powerful lawmaker – spent more than $600,000 from his campaign account, though he faced no opposition in either the 2008 or 2012 elections.

Chief Justice’s Potential Ties to Harrell Case Questioned

Feb. 12, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

It’s no secret that S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell actively campaigned for state Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal, who won re-election last week in a rare judicial race decided by the General Assembly.

More Cops Coming to S.C. State House?

Jan. 27, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Although S.C. taxpayers already provide armed police officers on the State House grounds – in addition to separate security staffs for House and Senate members – lawmakers are once again proposing the creation of a “Capitol Police Force.”

Harrell Still Won’t Release Campaign Expense Records

Jan. 15, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

From 2008 through 2012, S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell reimbursed himself more than $234,000 from his campaign account for legislative and other trips, campaign expenditure reports show.

Harrell Ethics Case Goes to State Grand Jury

Jan. 14, 2014, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

When interviewed by The Nerve last September, Bart Daniel, one of S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s attorneys, seemed confident about the outcome of a State Law Enforcement Division investigation of his client.

Sen. Bright Explains Discrepancies on Income-Disclosure Forms

Jan. 2, 2014, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

When U.S. Senate candidate Lee Bright, a Republican state senator from Spartanburg County, filed his required federal income-disclosure form last month, he listed a company he owns as one of his private income sources.

Chumley Says He Will Fight Ethics Allegations

Dec. 18, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

S.C. Rep. Bill Chumley will finally get his day in court before the House Ethics Committee – two days before Christmas.

State Plane Use: Different Rules for Certain Lawmakers?

Dec. 13, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

In January, S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell and his spokesman, Greg Foster, took a state plane trip to Greenville for an unspecified speaking event and meeting with local government officials, state flight records show.

Funeral Legislation: Pay Up or We’ll Keep the Body

Dec. 6, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Although he’s a funeral home director and owner, S.C. Rep. John King doesn’t see any conflict of interest in sponsoring legislation that would allow funeral homes to keep the bodies of families’ loved ones until their funeral tabs are paid.

Lawmakers’ Self-Policing Powers Debated in Lawsuit and Legislation

Nov. 27, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

As state lawmakers plan to continue debate next year whether to relinquish their self-policing powers, defendants in an ongoing ethics lawsuit involving a newly elected senator are staking out the status-quo position.

S.C. Rep. Keeps His Grip on Dillon County Schools

Nov. 25, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

In November 2010, Dillon County voters overwhelmingly approved a proposal to have the county board of education popularly elected instead of being appointed by the county’s legislative delegation.

Former Senator Ford Says He Was ‘Sacrificial Lamb’

Oct. 23, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Ex-Sen. Robert Ford, who resigned in May amid a Senate Ethics Committee hearing into allegations that he used campaign funds for personal expenses, claims the committee “needed a sacrificial lamb and they chose me.”

S.C. Research Authority Executives Receive Big Bonuses

Oct. 18, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Since Jan. 1 of last year, S.C. Research Authority CEO Bill Mahoney has received $108,752 in “incentive” compensation above his current annual salary of $280,000, organization records show.

Rankin Raking in Millions in Workers' Comp Fees

Oct. 14, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

At last Tuesday’s meeting of a special S.C. Senate ethics study committee, Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Horry and the committee chairman, said despite a local editorial calling on people to contact him to push for ethics reform, “Not one person has mentioned anything to me that’s not inside this political arena we’re in to urge me to do anything.”

Public Kept in Dark on House Ethics Fines

Oct. 9, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Jordan Bryngelson of Ridgeville didn’t make it past the June 2012 GOP primary for the S.C. House seat held by Democratic incumbent Patsy Knight. After losing the primary, the Dorchester County Republican Party chairman said he closed his campaign account.

S.C. Senate Staffers Receive Hefty Pay Raises

Sept. 27, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

In the pay-raise race, the S.C. Senate is running neck and neck these days with the House.

Harrell Investigation Ongoing Seven Months after Complaint Filed

Sept. 18, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

A State Law Enforcement Division spokesman said Tuesday an investigation of S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell is “still open and ongoing,” seven months after the South Carolina Policy Council – The Nerve’s parent organization – filed an ethics complaint against the Charleston Republican.

S.C. Sen. Shane Martin: 'Mr. Magic Man'

July 22, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Here in the Palmetto State, S.C. Sen. Shane Martin is kind of like “Mr. Magic Man” – at least when it comes to revealing to the public what he does for a living, which just so happens to be connected to NASCAR.

An investigation by The Nerve found at least one instance where Martin's lack of transparency as a lawmaker might have allowed him to engage in an apparent conflict of interest related to his work in the racing world.

Family Ties to State Insurance Fund Pose No Conflict of Interest, Rep. McLeod Says

July 12, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

As the great-nephew of a deceased South Carolina governor, state Rep. Walt McLeod III has a family history steeped in public service and the law.

Lawmakers Hide Their Pet Projects in State Budget

July 5, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

It may be hard to miss a pig in a dress, but some South Carolina legislators apparently go to great lengths to hide pork in the state budget.

Case in point: The Senate's votes last week on Gov. Nikki Haley’s vetoes of a section of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources’ budget for next fiscal year, which started Monday.

Easy Road from the State House to the Court House

July 3, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

If you want to put on the black robe in South Carolina, it pays to have connections in the General Assembly.

Your chances are even better if you were once part of the legislative club.

Line between Lobbyist and Campaign Consultant Blurred for Rep. Sandifer

July 1, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Consider this ethical sticky wicket:

A state politician hires registered lobbyists as election campaign “consultants.” Some of the lobbyists' clients donate money to the politician's campaign during the period when the lobbyists acted as the politician's consultants. 

Illegal?  Not necessarily – at least in the Palmetto State.

Midwife Supporters Claim Doctor-Lawmakers Trying to Limit Competition

June 28, 2013, 8 a.m. by Ron Aiken

While one profession lays claim to being the world's oldest, there's another that's just as ancient  – midwifery.

 

Sen. Setzler: Lawyer to the Lobbyists?

June 26, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

There’s no question that state Sen. Nikki Setzler is the proud father of four children.There’s also little dispute that the Lexington County Democrat is one of South Carolina’s most influential lawmakers, having served in the Senate for more than 36 years and currently holding the title of Senate minority leader.

Rep. Cobb-Hunter Sponsors $200,000 Earmark for Her Nonprofit

June 25, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

A $200,000 earmark in next fiscal year’s proposed state budget is a minuscule fraction of the state spending plan for 2013-14, but it’s apparently a big deal to longtime S.C. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter.

State Rep. Bedingfield Receives Full-Time Salary for Part-Time Federal Job

June 24, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

When it comes to taxpayer-funded payrolls, Eric Bedingfield might have one of the most unusual working arrangements in the United States.

Leatherman's Hand in $50 Million Transportation Cookie Jar

June 18, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

S.C. Sen. Hugh Leatherman, who wields more power than most legislators, apparently is still in the driver’s seat on a bill that would direct $50 million to the state Transportation Infrastructure Bank, which is governed by a board that includes the Florence County Republican.

DOA Bill Conferees Unable to Resolve Differences in First Meeting

June 6, 2013, 8:15 a.m. by Curt Olson

House and Senate conference committee members who met for the first time Wednesday afternoon on a bill that would restructure state government have significant differences about who should have the authority to purchase goods and services, and allow agency deficits.

Leatherman Circumvents Legislative Process to Push Funding Proposal

June 5, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

With just two days left in the General Assembly’s regular session, one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers has found a way around the normal legislative process to get his funding proposal in a transportation bill.

Businesses with Ties to S.C. Lawmakers Raking in Millions in Medicaid Payments

June 4, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Over the past six fiscal years, medical businesses with ties to five S.C. lawmakers collectively have received more than $10 million in Medicaid payments, The Nerve found in a review of state Medicaid records.

Will Sen. Ford’s Ethics Case Push Ethics-Reform Bill Across the Finish Line?

June 3, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

The referral of an ethics complaint against Sen. Robert Ford to the S.C. attorney general could reignite the push to pass a stalled ethics-reform bill in the final days of the 2013 legislative session.

Day One of Ford Ethics Hearing Takes Titillating Turns

May 31, 2013, 8 a.m. by Ron Aiken

For four-plus hours Thursday afternoon, the S.C. Senate Ethics Committee heard testimony – some of it fairly sensitive for a legislative hearing – alleging how over a period of four years Sen. Robert Ford used campaign funds for such things as car payments, gym memberships, adult superstore items and an erectile-dysfunction treatment drug.

Senators Poised to Raid $112 Million ‘Rainy-Day’ Fund

May 29, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

The S.C. Senate’s debate on the 2013-14 budget dragged into a third week Tuesday, and it could continue another day or so as the chamber must also approve the $112.6 million Capital Reserve Fund, which lawmakers have drained in recent years for typically non-emergency purposes.

S.C. Funeral Licensing Panel Discourages Sales of Cheap Caskets, Critics Contend

May 24, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

Death isn’t cheap these days.

Senate Budget Debate Could Move into Third Week

May 23, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

The S.C. Senate is running out of time.

House Speaker’s Drug Company Dropped from Income-Disclosure Form

May 21, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

A Charleston-based  pharmaceutical company led by S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell filed official paperwork with the state in April to dissolve, then reversed that decision this month for unexplained reasons, according to records obtained Monday by The Nerve.

State Lawmaker Claims He Wouldn’t Benefit From Proposed Tax Break for Constables

May 16, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

A legislator who also is a volunteer state constable has co-sponsored a bill that would allow volunteer constables to claim a maximum state income-tax deduction of $3,000 a year.

Eco-Devo Groups with Legislative Ties Poised to Get Taxpayer Funding Again

May 14, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The S.C. House and Senate Finance Committee versions of the fiscal 2014 state budget include $5 million for regional economic-development groups.

Senate Panel Rewrites Disputed House Ethics-Reform Bill

May 8, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

A Senate panel Tuesday scrapped major parts of a controversial House ethics-reform bill, putting investigations of lawmakers under a reconstituted State Ethics Commission and proposing tougher penalties for ethics violations.

Stepping Up to the Plate: More Lawmakers Respond to ‘Project Conflict Watch’

May 7, 2013, 7:59 a.m. by Kelli Weston

More S.C. lawmakers in the past week have responded to the recently launched “Project Conflict Watch” by The Nerve’s parent organization, the South Carolina Policy Council, bringing the total number of responses to date to 25.

All in the Family: Charleston Lawmaker's Ties to Relative’s Airport-Related Businesses

May 2, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

An investigation by The Nerve found that S.C. Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston and a member of the Charleston County Aviation Authority, has not publicly revealed airport-related businesses with ties to his uncle.

S.C. House Rushes Through Amended Ethics-Reform Bill

May 1, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

After delaying debate several times over the past week, the S.C. House took less than an hour late Tuesday afternoon to approve an amended ethics-reform bill, though two opposing lawmakers complained afterward they didn’t have time to review the changes.

FOIA Reforms Hung Up Again Over Legislative Exemption

April 30, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

Since last year, citizens and some lawmakers have pushed to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in South Carolina, ranked by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigation news organization in Washington, D.C., and several other groups as the worst state in the nation in terms of public access to information.

Grassroots Activist Shares His Experience with ‘Project Conflict Watch’

April 30, 2013, 7:59 a.m. by Kelli Weston

The South Carolina Policy Council – The Nerve’s parent organization – recently launched “Project Conflict Watch” in an effort to reverse the Palmetto State’s dubious distinction as being the only state that requires public officials to disclose just their sources of government income.

Foster's Fortune: Speaker's Spokesman Earns Big Bucks from Multiple Sources

April 29, 2013, 8:01 a.m. by Ron Aiken

A review by The Nerve found that Greg Foster, chief spokesman for S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, has received tens of thousands of dollars in recent years from side jobs connected with Harrell.

House Leaders Plan Changes to ‘Ethics-Reform’ Bill in Secret; Debate Delayed Again

April 26, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

A controversial S.C. House “ethics-reform” bill criticized for being shrouded in secrecy grew even more mysterious Thursday when House leaders delayed floor debate yet again after a secret meeting on a planned overhaul of the legislation.

Citizen Participation Would Be Stifled Under Controversial ‘Ethics-Reform’ Bill, Critics Say

April 24, 2013, 3:57 p.m. by Rick Brundrett

Citizens would have to register as lobbyists to speak before committees of the General Assembly or state agencies under a controversial House bill that also would decriminalize many state ethics violations, representatives of citizen groups said this afternoon at a State House press conference.

Lawmakers Insist They Will Fix ‘Ethics-Reform’ Bill, Enact Tougher Penalties

April 24, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

It took a controversy last week over decriminalized ethics violations to underscore the point to S.C. House members that a rushed and secretive “ethics-reform” bill contained weak penalties for public officials who violate state ethics laws.

Pharmacist-Lawmaker Frequent Prescriber of Pharmacy Legislation

April 23, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

State Rep. Kit Spires, R-Lexington, denies he had any conflict-of-interest issues in sponsoring seven pharmacy-related bills since becoming a lawmaker in 2007.

Secretive House 'Ethics-Reform' Bill Would Decriminalize Ethics Violations

April 19, 2013, 4:37 p.m. by Curt Olson

Public officials would no longer face criminal penalties for many state ethics violations under an S.C. House bill that wasn’t put in writing for the public to review until Thursday evening –a week after the legislation was first announced.

‘Shell Bill’ Would Require Disclosure of Private Sources of Income

April 17, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

An ethics-reform bill that had been a mystery until a House Judiciary subcommittee meeting Tuesday would, among other things, require lawmakers to disclose their private sources of income.

S.C. Politicians Don’t Reveal Who Pays Them, Nerve Investigation Finds

April 16, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

An investigation by The Nerve has found that South Carolina lawmakers typically don't reveal their private sources of income, including, for example, Sen. Hugh Leatherman, who has ties to a concrete company that has received more than $30 million in state funding since 1993.

Lawmakers Moving Slowly to Clean Up Their Ethical Act

April 12, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

Ethics-reform bills that would force S.C. lawmakers to change their behavior remain stuck in committees with an important deadline approaching.

Relatives of Lawmakers Could Have Greater Presence on MUSC Board

March 28, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

The makeup of the Medical University of South Carolina’s governing board might soon include the relatives of three sitting state lawmakers, along with a legislator who left office last year.

Politicians’ Federal Income-Disclosure Statements Reveal More Than State Forms

March 26, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

For politicians, the difference between state and federal income-disclosure forms is like comparing routine teeth cleaning to a root-canal operation.

The Ties That Blind

March 20, 2013, 8 a.m. by Ron Aiken

That O.L Thompson and Bobby Harrell are political allies is a no-brainer.

South Carolina’s Billion-Dollar-Plus Hidden Budget

March 11, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

What S.C. House members likely won’t be talking about today as they begin debate on the fiscal 2014 spending plan for South Carolina is the billion-dollar-plus hidden budget.

House Bill Emerges To Restructure State Government

March 6, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

A new government-restructuring bill in the S.C. House Representatives would move state-purchasing control to the new Department of Administration under the governor and abolish the longstanding Budget and Control Board and recently created Public Employee Benefit Authority.

 

New State Agency Not Under Governor’s Control

March 4, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Despite all the talk in the Legislature about giving the governor more control over the executive branch, South Carolina’s newest state agency is largely unaccountable to the Palmetto State’s chief executive.

GOP House Members Tight-Lipped About Harrell Controversy

Feb. 20, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

Embattled House Speaker Bobby Harrell faced his colleagues for the first time Tuesday since state Attorney General Alan Wilson referred an ethics complaint to the State Law Enforcement Division on Valentine’s Day.

BCB-Like Authority Would Keep Bonding, Procurement Powers

Feb. 18, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

The Senate Finance subcommittee examining a massive government-restructuring bill would allow a Budget and Control Board-like authority to retain some of the same powers, under a bill version that goes before the full committee Tuesday.

S.C. Policy Council Files Ethics Complaint Against Harrell with Attorney General

Feb. 14, 2013, 5:02 p.m. by Rick Brundrett

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson’s acceptance today of an ethics complaint against state House Speaker Bobby Harrell highlights conflict-of-interest weaknesses in state law dealing with the House Ethics Committee. Ashley Landess, president of the South Carolina Policy Council, the parent organization of The Nerve, this afternoon filed a formal complaint against Harrell, R-Charleston, with the attorney general, whose office said it would be over to the State Law Enforcement Division.

Challenging Harrell ‘A Lot Like Playing with Fire’

Feb. 8, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

High-ranking officials with two state pharmacy organizations in 2010 expressed concerns then that S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell was using his legislative position to help his pharmaceutical company, according to emails obtained this week by The Nerve.

Sounds of Silence on Possible Harrell Investigation

Jan. 31, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Ethics experts outside South Carolina weigh in on handling of ethics case involving S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

Commission Recommends Major Ethics Reforms, Though Gaps Remain

Jan. 29, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

The S.C. Commission on Ethics Reform on Monday proposed sweeping reforms to state ethics laws, which include requiring state legislators and other public officials to report their private sources of income.

Nerve Story on House Ethics Committee Makeup Prompts Bill

Jan. 28, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The makeup of the S.C. House Ethics Committee isn’t illegal if you ask new committee Chairman Kenny Bingham, though he introduced a bill last week in response to a Nerve story that raised questions about the legality of the committee’s size.

Will Senate Bill to Abolish Infrastructure Bank Gain Traction?

Jan. 24, 2013, 8 a.m. by Curt Olson

Despite a Senate bill that would eliminate the controversial S.C. Transportation Infrastructure Bank as a separate state agency, that idea received no attention in a hearing Wednesday before a House budget-writing subcommittee.

S.C. Policy Council Mulls Ethics Complaint against Harrell

Jan. 22, 2013, 11:22 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The South Carolina Policy Council – The Nerve’s parent organization – is considering filing a formal ethics complaint against state House Speaker Bobby Harrell, council President Ashley Landess revealed during a hearing this morning before the S.C. Commission on Ethics Reform.

Restructuring Bill Won't Kill Joint-Hearings Requirement

Jan. 18, 2013, 8 a.m. by Ron Aiken

Section 11-11-90 of the state code is an inconvenient truth for the General Assembly, and thanks to a decision Thursday by a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, it will stay that way at least for now.

Makeup of New House Ethics Committee Violates State Law, Critics Say

Jan. 17, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The makeup of the newly reorganized state House Ethics Committee violates state law, critics say.

Will ‘Bobby Bucks’ Taint Possible Ethics Probe?

Jan. 15, 2013, 8 a.m. by Ron Aiken

A review by The Nerve found that all five Republican members of the S.C House Ethics Committee, which might be called on to investigate possible campaign-violation allegations involving House Speaker Bobby Harrell, each has accepted campaign contributions from a political action committee associated with Harrell.

Senator Proposes Scrapping Judicial Election System

Jan. 14, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

A state senator is proposing a major overhaul of the way judges are selected in the Palmetto State, though he acknowledges his legislation faces an uphill battle in both chambers of the General Assembly.

Senator Amenable to Keeping Joint Budget Hearings Law

Jan. 11, 2013, 8 a.m. by Ron Aiken

Language that would strike an obscure state law currently being ignored by the General Assembly could be removed from a massive government restructuring bill, a state senator told The Nerve Thursday following a Senate panel hearing on the legislation.

Government Watchdog Group Wants A.G., Not House Panel, to Investigate Harrell

Jan. 10, 2013, 8 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The head of a government watchdog organization says he plans to ask the S.C. House Ethics Committee to give the state’s top prosecutor first crack at investigating House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s campaign reimbursements over the past several years.

Midlands Senators Receive Hotel, Meal Payments Totaling Tens of Thousands

Dec. 31, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

From January through November this year, 11 Midlands senators received a total of nearly $98,000 in "subsistence" payments meant to cover hotel and food costs while the Legislature is in session, a review by The Nerve found.

S.C. Senate Runs Away From Recording Votes

Dec. 28, 2012, 6 a.m. by Kelli Weston

Once again, the S.C. Senate has rebuffed the chance to elevate South Carolina from its status as one of the least transparent states in the nation.

Senators Propose Eliminating Joint Budget Hearings; Legal Opinion Sought

Dec. 20, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Three state senators have proposed repealing a longstanding law requiring that the Legislature's budget-writing committees hold joint public hearings on the governor's proposed budget.

FOIA-Reform Bill Reintroduced in S.C. House

Dec. 19, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

An S.C. House member on Tuesday reintroduced a bill proposing major reforms in the state’s open-records law, and added more enforcement teeth in his latest version.

The S.C. Senate: Where Many Bills Go To Die

Dec. 11, 2012, 6 a.m. by Kelli Weston

 

Nerve Citizen Reporter Larry Barnett of Fort Mill shows no signs of slowing down his campaign to reform Senate rules with a new legislative session right around the corner.

 

House Chamber’s Fiscal 2014 Spending Plan Still Secret

Dec. 10, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

In keeping with tradition, the S.C. House has not released its proposed spending plan for fiscal 2014, which starts July 1.

Incumbent Midlands Lawmakers Won’t Give Up ‘Subsistence’ Payments

Dec. 5, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Incumbent Richland and Lexington County House members surveyed by The Nerve won't commit to give up "subsistence" payments meant to cover hotel and food costs during legislative sessions, despite pledges by two incoming lawmakers to do so.

Judicial Candidates Nominated Despite Complaints

Dec. 3, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The S.C. Judicial Merit Selection Commission nominated eight of 10 judicial candidates who had formal complaints filed against them during the screening process.

Embattled Richland County Elections Director Quietly Hired by Legislative Delegation

Nov. 28, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Less than a month after Gov. Nikki Haley signed a 2011 law allowing Richland County’s legislative delegation to hire a county elections director, the delegation quietly selected Lillian McBride to oversee the newly combined elections and voter registration offices at a starting salary of $85,000, records show.

No Movement On Harrell Investigation; Ethics Panel Gets Earful

Nov. 9, 2012, 6 a.m. by Derek Legette

 

The state’s top prosecutor isn’t budging from his position that the S.C. House Ethics Committee should first investigate House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s campaign reimbursements over the past several years, the longtime leader of a state government watchdog group said Thursday.

 

House Speaker Reimbursed for Flying and Driving During Legislative Sessions

Oct. 26, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

A review by The Nerve of flight logs and other records found that S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston was reimbursed for flying and driving during legislative session weeks since 2008.

Tens of Thousands of Tax Dollars Spent on State Plane Flights with No Oversight

Oct. 18, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Over the past year, Gov. Nikki Haley, state lawmakers, Clemson University officials and others collectively took at least 118 mostly round trips on two state-owned planes at a total taxpayer cost of more than $215,000, state flight records show.A joint investigation by The Nerve and WLTX-TV in Columbia found that no one at the state level is checking to make sure that travelers are using the planes for legitimate purposes.

S.C. Attorney General Not Rushing to Investigate House Speaker

Oct. 10, 2012, 6 a.m. by Derek Legette

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson might be willing to investigate the use of campaign funds by state House Speaker Bobby Harrell, though he apparently is in no rush to do so.

S.C. Attorney General’s Office Backing Off Harrell Case?

Oct. 8, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The Nerve examines the role of the state grand jury in connection with a campaign-finance case involving S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

Public Often Left in Dark About Sanctions Against S.C. Lawmakers

Sept. 24, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Fines and other sanctions against S.C. lawmakers are not published online and usually are not released publicly unless there is a specific request.

S.C. Judicial Nominating Panel Unlike Most in U.S.

Sept. 17, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

South Carolina is only one of two states in which its legislative leaders control the makeup of a panel that nominates judicial candidates, The Nerve found in a review of judicial screening committees nationwide.

General Assembly Has Too Much Power, Says Legislative Delegation Watchdog Don Rogers

Sept. 13, 2012, 6 a.m. by Kelli Weston

Nerve Citizen Reporter Don Rogers discusses his views on the Delegation Watchdog Project.

$2.5 Million for S.C. House Sound System Repairs – Really?

Aug. 28, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Nearly two months after state lawmakers quietly slipped in an additional $2.5 million for the S.C. House chamber’s budget for this fiscal year, House leaders continue to be tight-lipped about specifics on how the tax dollars will be used.

Becoming an S.C. Lawmaker Ticket to Money Train for Lawyers?

Aug. 15, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Nearly 30 S.C. attorney-lawmakers or law firms they worked for collectively earned more than $5.3 million in legal fees from state and local government agencies in 2011, according to The Nerve’s review of the legislators’ most recently filed income-disclosure forms.

Two Lawmakers Often Control Pay Hikes for High-Paid Legislative Staff

Aug. 7, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Two lawmakers typically control pay raises for legislative staffers earning at least $50,000 annually.

S.C. House Clerk, Other High-Paid Chamber Staff Get Big Raises

Aug. 1, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

As of March, 32 S.C. House staffers earning at least $50,000 annually had received raises ranging from 5 percent to 55 percent compared to the previous fiscal year, according to a review by The Nerve of a state salary database and House records.

Absent S.C. Lawmaker Continued to Receive State Pay

July 26, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

An S.C. House member was paid more than $12,500 in legislative salary and expense reimbursements from January through June, despite racking up unexcused absences for virtually all of the legislative session this year, a review by The Nerve found.

Silver Haired Legislature Gets Tax Dollars to Powwow at State House

July 23, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Since 2007, a total of $85,500 in state tax dollars has been appropriated for a private, nonprofit group to hold annual meetings at the State House in Columbia to craft its legislative agenda for the upcoming year.

Governor’s Budget Vetoes Omit Legislature Flouting Law

July 9, 2012, 6 a.m. by Eric K. Ward

Perhaps more importantly, this section of state law mandates public hearings on the budget that the Legislature has not been conducting – thereby denying taxpayers their due input in the setting of the state’s spending priorities.

Lawmakers Quietly Approve $2.5 Million Budget Hike for S.C. House

July 5, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

 

The S.C. House of Representatives is poised to receive $2.5 million more than the chamber originally requested for the fiscal year that started Sunday – a last-minute appropriation quietly approved by a state budget conference committee and signed off by the Legislature.

S.C. Legislature Maintains Its Vise Grip on Judiciary

July 2, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The selection of judges in South Carolina is controlled largely  by state lawmakers, which critics contend needs to be reformed.

Watchdog: Stiffer House Ethics Penalties Would Not Apply to Haley

June 28, 2012, 5:55 a.m. by Blake Welch

If the S.C. House Ethics Committee finds Gov. Nikki Haley guilty of allegations that she illegally lobbied while a member of the House, Haley would not be subject to stricter ethics penalties the House adopted in May, a government watchdog says.

Legislative Ethics Chairmen Want to Consider More Income Disclosure

June 21, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The chairmen of the S.C. House and Senate Ethics committees said Wednesday they are open to discussions in their respective chambers about requiring lawmakers to declare legislative pensions on state income-disclosure forms.

Hilton Head Citizen Reporter: Ballot Denial Unfair

June 12, 2012, 6 a.m. by Tom Hatfield

This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. It is a simple matter of a fair legal interpretation.

Bid to Bolster State FOIA Law Falls Short

June 8, 2012, 6 a.m. by Kevin Dietrich

Efforts to strength South Carolina's Freedom of Information Act were scuttled in the state Senate this week.

State Funds Slated for Economic Groups with Legislative Ties, Big Paychecks

June 4, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Lawmakers are once again seeking to funnel nearly $5 million in taxpayer funds to seven private regional economic development organizations, two of which have at least one state senator on their governing board.

Bill Putting Budget-Writing Committee Chairmen on SCRA Board Advances

May 29, 2012, 5:55 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

A bill allowing the chairmen of the two powerful budget-writing committees in the General Assembly to serve on the S.C. Research Authority’s governing board is one step closer to becoming law.

County Delegations to Retain Control Over Veterans’ Offices

May 28, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The long-held control of county legislative delegations over county veterans' affairs officers will remain intact for at least another year.

Outside Groups Spent $130,000 on Lawmakers' Travel in 2011

May 23, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Outside groups collectively spent more than $130,000 on lawmakers' travel in 2011, The Nerve's review of state ethics records found.

Governor’s Ethics Case Could Lead to More Reforms

May 22, 2012, 6 a.m. by Eric K. Ward

An ethics case involving Gov. Nikki Haley already has been the apparent source of a change toward more openness in the S.C. House, and it could lead to additional reforms in the chamber.

S.C. Legislators Say 'No Agenda' on Trip to Turkey

May 16, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Although South Carolina has a relatively small Turkish population and no major trade with Turkey,  eight S.C. senators apparently thought  it was important enough to go on a 10-day, all-expenses-paid trip to the Middle Eastern country last year.

House Panel Drops Ethics Case against Governor after House Changes Its Rules

May 7, 2012, 8:49 a.m. by Eric K. Ward

The S.C. House last week danced a conspicuous ethics two-step, in what one State House watchdog describes as exactly the kind of bull pucky that makes taxpayers cynical about politicians and government.

Greenville Citizen Reporter: Committee Chairmen Agree to Record Votes

May 3, 2012, 6 a.m. by Kevin Dietrich

Fourteen of 20 of the chairmen of key S.C. legislative committees have agreed to record votes taken at the committee and subcommittee levels, according to an Upstate transparency advocate.

Senator Proposes Putting Himself on SCRA Board

April 30, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

One of the state’s most powerful lawmakers has authored a bill that would put himself on the board of trustees and executive committee of a little-understood, state-controlled technology and real estate company.

Senators Keep Magistrates on Short Leash in 'Holdover' Status

April 11, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Dozens of S.C. magistrates are still on their bench even though their four-year terms have expired - some years ago.

Padding the Legislative Session?

April 9, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

If S.C. Rep. Seth Whipper has his way, the 124-member House would start meeting every Monday when the General Assembly is in session.

House Pension Bill Protects Current Lawmakers

April 2, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

A House bill would allow current lawmakers to continue receiving their state pensions while remaining in office.

Governor, Former Lt. Governor Cases Highlight House Ethics Secrecy

March 30, 2012, 7:45 a.m. by Eric K. Ward

A judge’s recent dismissal of an ethics lawsuit against Gov. Nikki Haley serves as yet another example of secrecy surrounding ethics matters in the S.C. House. So does the case of former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard, who pleaded guilty to seven campaign finance violations and resigned earlier this month.

Senate Clerk Still Mum on Budget Details

March 28, 2012, 5 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

S.C. Senate Clerk Jeffrey Gossett apparently is in no mood to publicly discuss his chamber’s proposed $12 million-plus budget for next fiscal year.

Power Trip: The Legislature’s Double Standards on FOIA, Ethics and Spending

Feb. 29, 2012, 6 a.m. by Eric K. Ward

In South Carolina, there is one set of rules for state legislators, and another set of rules for everybody else – even state and local elected officials.

S.C. Legislature Uses Secrecy Law to Thwart Records Requests by Grassroots Groups

Feb. 28, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Grassroots groups pushing for more accountability and transparency in state government are running into a wall of secrecy in the S.C. General Assembly in trying to obtain legislative communications involving a controversial bill.

Still No Sunshine on S.C. House, Senate Spending

Feb. 21, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The S.C. House and Senate continue to bypass the normal budgetary process when it comes to adopting annual budgets for the two chambers.

Hundreds of Thousands Spent Annually Wining and Dining S.C. Lawmakers

Feb. 1, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

An investigation by The Nerve found that several hundred thousand dollars likely will be spent before June wining and dining state lawmakers. A plethora of private organizations and public agencies host the events in an effort to get legislators’ ears – and ultimately, their votes – for the groups’ pet issues.

Secret Budget Process Continues in S.C. General Assembly

Jan. 26, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The S.C. House and Senate typically release their respective chamber budgets months after most other state agencies do so, allowing lawmakers to quietly increase their own budgets with little public scrutiny.

Senator Proposes Pension Changes for Lawmakers

Jan. 3, 2012, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

S.C. Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston pre-filed a bill (S. 1038) that would close the defined-benefit retirement program for the 170-member General Assembly after this year and move lawmakers into a defined-contribution plan mirroring the state Optional Retirement Program, which is like a 401k plan.

Legislators Exempt Themselves from Sunshine Law They Created

Dec. 9, 2011, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The state's open-records law for more than 30 years has shielded the S.C. General Assembly from releasing documents showing what it does behind the scenes.

State’s Top Court Asked to Remove Legislators from Aviation Authority

Dec. 6, 2011, 6 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The S.C. Supreme Court has been asked to determine whether a 2007 law that appointed two state legislators to the Charleston County Aviation Authority, which owns Charleston International Airport, violates the state constitution.

Lawmaker State Plane Travel: Frequent Frivolous Miles

Oct. 12, 2011, 8:45 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The Nerve’s review of Aeronautics Commission flight logs and manifests, or passenger lists, shows that from Jan. 1, 2010, through the end of last month, legislators collectively have approved at least 29 state plane trips for themselves, staff members or others to destinations in and outside South Carolina.

Midlands Lawmakers Still Milking Subsistence Cow

Oct. 5, 2011, 8:45 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

A review by The Nerve of state House and Senate expense records, obtained under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, found that from the start of last year through August of this year, 23 Richland or Lexington County legislators living within 25 miles of the State House have received subsistence payments equal to or greater than payments to lawmakers who live farther away.

Dozens of S.C. Pensioners Earning Six Figures

Sept. 28, 2011, 8:45 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

As S.C. lawmakers grapple with how to close a recently projected $17 billion gap in the state pension system, 169 state retirees or their beneficiaries earn more than $100,000 annually in retirement benefits, while more than 3,500 individuals in the system receive at least $50,000 yearly, a review by The Nerve has found.

High Court Rejects ‘Power-of-One’ Practice

Aug. 31, 2011, 8:45 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

In a 4-1 vote, the state’s top court said the General Assembly violated the S.C. Constitution last year when it overrode former Gov. Mark Sanford’s veto of a bill (H. 4431) involving the Fairfield County School Board.

House Proposes to Boost its Budget by $2.3 Million

June 13, 2011, 8:55 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

A year after the Senate received a $5 million overall budget increase for its 46-member chamber – as first reported last year by The Nerve – the 124-member House is seeking a nearly $2.3 million hike for itself, which was quietly slipped in a state budget amendment on the last day for regular business this legislative session.

Tens of Thousands Spent on Sign Namings

Feb. 15, 2011, 8:30 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Since 2006, South Carolina has spent at least $60,000 on highway and other structure signs named after state lawmakers or other individuals, The Nerve found in a review of state transportation records.

Budget Secrecy Is Tradition at S.C. Legislature

Jan. 11, 2011, 8:30 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

As the S.C. General Assembly begins its 119th legislative session this week, the two chambers are maintaining a tradition of secrecy about their own operating budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.

The Nerve on Dec. 6 submitted requests under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act to House Clerk Charles Reid and Senate Clerk Jeffrey Gossett for their proposed chamber budgets for next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Millions Flow to Senators’ Businesses

Jan. 6, 2011, 8:30 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

For some S.C. senators, it pays to have connections with state government.

From 2007 through 2009, S.C. Sen. Kevin Bryant’s pharmacy earned $5 million in payments through the state health plan and Medicaid programs, according to his statements of economic interests filed with the S.C. Ethics Commission.

Court Case Tests ‘Power of One’

Dec. 7, 2010, 9 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The Legislature's single-vote practice of overturning vetoes on local legislation is being challenged in the S.C. Supreme Court.

Amid Recession, S.C. Senate Staff Gets Pay Raise

Nov. 10, 2010, 8:30 a.m. by Eric K. Ward

A nearly $5 million budget increase this year for the S.C. Senate is helping to cover pay raises for Senate staffers, despite assertions by leaders of the chamber that the money was needed for other, pressing concerns.

 

Lt. Gov Bauer Paid From Two Taxpayer Pots

Oct. 12, 2010, 8:30 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Besides his salary as lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer has been paid thousands more is his role as the Senate president.

Midlands Lawmakers Feasting on Subsistence

Oct. 7, 2010, 4:38 p.m. by Rick Brundrett

Republican S.C. Sen. Jake Knotts of West Columbia lives less than 10 miles from the State House in downtown Columbia.

Democratic state Rep. Joe Neal’s home in Hopkins is only about 16 miles from the state Capitol.

Yet an analysis by The Nerve of legislative records found that the two veteran Midlands lawmakers were among 26 current or former Richland or Lexington County legislators who received a total of at least $500,000 over a 2.5-year period in “subsistence” payments.

Legislators Get an Average 32K Per Year

Oct. 6, 2010, 8:30 a.m. by Eric K. Ward

Taxpaying South Carolinians, if your state lawmaker looks you in the face and says his or her legislative salary is a lowly $10,400, he or she is not telling you the whole story.

At the very least.

At worst, a member of the General Assembly poor mouthing to that effect without mentioning several other forms of compensation legislators pocket would be downright disingenuous.

Exclusive: Lawmakers Cost Taxpayers Millions

Oct. 5, 2010, 8:30 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

The S.C. Legislature is no cheap date for taxpayers.

From Jan. 1, 2008, through this past July 31, state taxpayers shelled out at least $14.8 million to cover salaries and expenses for 202 current or former House and Senate members, The Nerve found in a review of records from each chamber, obtained under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

Golden Parachutes for State Lawmakers?

Aug. 17, 2010, 8:25 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

In South Carolina, retired legislators earn an annual average of $19,605 in gross retirement benefits, based on July figures from the state retirement system.

S.C. Senate: Charity Starts at Home

May 4, 2010, 8:30 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

Assuming the budget passed Thursday by the full Senate mirrors an earlier version approved by the Senate Finance Committee, it would be the 46-member chamber’s largest-ratified budget in at least the past 12 years, according to a review by The Nerve of ratified state budgets since fiscal year 1998, the most recent data available

High-Priced Help at the State House

Feb. 25, 2010, 8:30 a.m. by Rick Brundrett

South Carolina taxpayers will shell out nearly $6.5 million this fiscal year for top-paid state House and Senate staffers.