This could be a moment to pause and celebrate something. Not the ethics bill that passed the state Senate yesterday (I’ll let Cindi Scoppe tell you about its inadequacies, as she did in this column and this one), but the fact that both candidates for governor are vocal in calling it inadequate:
COLUMBIA, SC — An update to S.C. ethics laws – more than a year in the making – passed the state Senate on Thursday only to be blasted by Gov. Nikki Haley and her likely Democratic challenger for governor in November, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, as not being good enough.
In particular, the two rivals faulted the proposal for not including an independent body to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by lawmakers.
“Let’s be clear, what the Senate passed tonight wasn’t ethics reform – it’s an income-disclosure bill, and while that’s a positive step forward, it’s really only a half-step,” Haley spokesman Doug Mayer said….
Unfortunately, there’s a sour note in this duet:
“Some reform is better than no reform, but this bill is pretty close to nothing,” Sheheen said, before turning his criticism toward Haley. “In order to have open and accountable government, we need full income disclosure, an independent body to investigate ethics violations, and to finally put an end to the governor’s continued misuse of the state plane and vehicles for campaign activities.”…
In defending Sheheen from criticism from our own Doug, I’ve said that a challenger needs to define what’s wrong with the incumbent, in order to give the voter reasons for replacing that incumbent.
But Doug has a point, and once again, Sheheen’s criticism of Haley is coming across as grating. I don’t know how much of it is the content, and how much of it is just a matter of this tone not being natural coming from Vincent Sheheen. This drip, drip, drip of talking points about Nikki feels like the work of consultants; it’s just not the way Vincent naturally speaks. He’s a more affable, get-along-with-people kind of guy.
It would be far better if Sheheen said something like this:
It may not always feel like it, especially when the Senate drops the ball this way on a needed reform, but we’re slowly making progress in South Carolina. Both the incumbent governor and I are taking the same position, which is that our state politicians need to be held to a higher ethical standard. When those who would lead this state are unanimous in calling for more ambitious reform, that’s progress; we’ve moved in the right direction. Now, you’ve heard me say in the past that the incumbent governor has through her own lapses helped illustrate why we need ethics reform. I stand by that, and the record stands for itself. If I thought she did everything right, I’d be voting for her instead of running against her. But today, I want to thank the governor for her leadership in trying to make sure lawmakers don’t commit such lapses in the future, and are held accountable if they do. Whatever she’s done in the past, she’s taking the right position on this now. And I will stand squarely beside her and help with the heavy lifting of trying to move us further forward, and pass real ethics reform. And if I am elected to replace her, I hope she will continue to support this effort. Because all of us who understand the problem — and I think both of us do now — need to work together to overcome the inertia of the status quo.
OK, that’s a little wordy — if I were writing a statement for him I’d tighten it up — but that’s the tone I think he should be striking…