Throwback Thursday: Government jobs for former lawmakers

June 27, 2019

Inside Insight

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At the close of this week’s one-day special session, the Senate confirmed – without warning – the appointment of former state Rep. Mike Pitts to a magistrate seat in Laurens County. 

Pitts’ first attempt to secure a government job fell through earlier this year. After his Senate confirmation for the directorship of the Conservation Bank ran into opposition, Pitts withdrew his name from consideration. His appointment Tuesday as a magistrate came with no advance notice to the senators who vote to confirm magistrates, and sailed through on a voice vote.

Under state law, senators control the appointment of magistrates. County Senate delegations recommend candidates to the governor for appointment; in Pitts’ case, he was nominated by Danny Verdin, the sole senator in Laurens County.

The revolving door between the State House and well-paying government jobs is nothing new. In fact, opposition for ex-legislators seeking government posts is the exception rather than the rule. This week’s throwback reviews not only Pitts’ first attempt, but several other notable examples of this legal but questionable practice.

Lawmakers usually find it easy getting other government gigs

Ex-S.C. Rep. Mike Pitts’ decision this week to drop his quest to become the next director of the state land preservation agency is a rarity compared to the steady stream of former lawmakers who glided into high-paying government jobs.

The Laurens County Republican, who last year was the House Ethics Committee chairman and had been in the House for 16 years, announced his resignation from the Legislature in early December, effective Jan. 3, after accepting an offer from the state Conservation Bank board to become its next director. Under state law, eight of the bank’s 14 board members are appointed by the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore.

The position had been vacant since former longtime director Marvin Davant retired from his $97,135 job at the end of 2017. A version of a bill last year dealing with the Conservation Bank would have banned lawmakers from being hired for the director’s job within a year after leaving office, but that provision was removed from the final version.

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