The Ties That Bind

January 8, 2015

Inside Insight

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ariail the ties that bind

Wait . . . $29,297 to . . . the Milano Neckware Fashion Co.?

Rep. Alan Clemmons likes ties and scarves. He likes them so much, in fact, that he spends tens of thousands of dollars on these items – in campaign money, naturally – and distributes them to all and sundry. Is that a campaign expense, or is something else going on there?

Of course, Clemmons is hardly the only state lawmakers who likes to play Santa Claus with his campaign account. Most famously, House Speaker Bobby Harrell pled guilty to several charges related to his practice of using campaign money on things that had nothing to do with campaigns or indeed his official duties. Harrell’s case wasn’t unique, though. The chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means committee has donated more than $20,000 in campaign money to his wife’s employer. And Sen. Hugh Leatherman, now the state’s most powerful politician, spent more than $600,000 in campaign money on Christmas gifts and other niceties during a six-year period when he faced no opposition.

Are lawmakers proposing to crack down on the permissive use of campaign money? A few are, but most aren’t. Indeed, last year’s “ethics reform bill” would have codified the practice by allowing lawmakers to spending campaign money on virtually anything.

Now some lawmakers are openly saying they want to spend campaign money on their own criminal defense. Maybe everybody should be able to defend themselves from criminal prosecution with money that isn’t theirs! Then again, most people wouldn’t have the need, whereas a lot of South Carolina lawmakers certainly do.