The filing period for Democratic and Republican candidates running for the upcoming SC State House and Senate elections closed last week. We will not know the exact election returns until November, but this we already know: the ‘Good Old Boy Party’ has won.
Yep, that’s right, over 50% of the current members of the legislature will be returned to the State House with no opposition in either the primary or general election. And, if you add in the incumbents that have only token opposition, probably 80-85% of incumbents will win easily.
South Carolinais a one party state, but it is not the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, it is the Good Old Boy Party – the party of incumbents, the status quo, political insiders, and special-interest deal makers.First and foremost, they run state government of, by, and for themselves. We the people come in a distant second. They have rigged the system to suit themselves and the rest of us have been shut out. Just a few examples:
- FOIA – They specifically exempted themselves from Freedom on Information Act legislation so that the public does not have access to their tax-payer funded correspondence, records and emails.
- Special Pension – They created a special pension for state legislators that no other state employees can get. It is hugely generous, such that members of the legislature can get ‘retirement’ payments while still in the legislature.
- Campaign Money – They fund their campaigns with special interest and PAC contributions instead of by individual contributions from the people they are supposed to represent. Most legislators get upwards of two-thirds of their money from these special interests.
- Ethics Commission – Next, they gutted the already meager budget for the State Ethics Commission from $725,000 to a measly $284,000, thus severely limiting the Commission’s ability to monitor and pursue ethics violations.
- Conflict of Interest – They refused to require significant personal financial disclosure by members of the legislature, thus shielding information about un-ethical business dealing with state government.
And on and on it goes. Just last month, a study released by the national Center for Public Integrity rated South Carolina in the top five states most ripe for corruption because of weak ethics rules and requirements.
No one who pays attention to how the legislature and state government operates was the least bit surprised.
Now, it would be wrong to say that all legislators go along with this corruption – they don’t. There are good, decent, and honest legislators of both parties that want big change and real reform, but they have been stymied by the indifference or outright hostility of too many of their colleagues, especially those in leadership positions.
In the last election, both the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor used the word ‘corrupt’ to describe politics as usual in Columbia, but little has changed since then. There have been a few minor proposals that work around the edges – but no real serious attempt at reform.
One bright spot came a couple of weeks ago when Rep. Boyd Brown introduced the most far-reaching and comprehensive ethics reform proposal in a generation. Warning of another impending ‘Lost Trust’ scandal – the crisis in the 1990’s that saw 10% of the legislature plead guilty to corruption — Boyd blasted the current corrupt system.
And what was the response from his colleagues? Only three other legislators, Carl Anderson, James Smith and Leon Stavrinakis, stood with Boyd at the press conference. When asked where everyone else was, Boyd pointed out that many were busy feeding themselves at a free lunch – it was provided by a special interest group.
So, we are back to the Good Old Boy Party running the show, with very little support for real change and big reform from legislators in either party.
So, the next time you hear folks talking about South Carolina being a one-party state, tell them, “Yes you are right, but its not the Republicans or the Democrats, it’s the ‘Good Old Boy Party.’”
They are the party firmly in charge… at least for now.