A Tweet this morning from Wes Hayes, the Republican senator from York County, brought my attention to this statement he had put out on Facebook:
It has come to my attention that a press release circulated by South Carolina Democrats today makes potentially misleading claims on my position and motivations for co-authoring an Op-Ed with Senate colleague Vince Sheheen calling for bipartisan efforts in the Senate to pass ethics reform.
All my years in the State Senate, I have sought to work both sides of the aisle to deliver reforms to make our state stronger; today’s Op-Ed is simply a continuation of my willingness to put partisanship aside to benefit our citizens.
The fact is that Governor Nikki Haley has been a champion for passing meaningful ethics reform and has worked closely with the legislature to ensure real reform is accomplished to rebuild the public’s trust in their elected officials. Even in the wake of partisan gamesmanship, she has led the collective efforts to get this passed. Governor Haley is to be applauded for her efforts, not attacked. It’s time to move forward in the Senate and pass this important legislation.
Please read the OpEd I co-authored with Senator Sheheen here: http://www.thestate.com/2013/05/30/2792454/hayes-sheheen-ethics-reform-all.html
Sen. Hayes has my sympathy for apparently getting in trouble for doing the right thing. I’m not sure what “press release circulated by South Carolina Democrats” made “potentially misleading claims” about his position. I had seen a release from Kristin Sosanie over at SCDP, which forwarded a message sent out by Phil Bailey of the Senate Democratic Caucus.
All Ms. Sosanie had said was:
ICYMI – Sen. Sheheen teamed up with GOP Senator and “Dean of Ethics” Wes Hayes in an op-ed in The State this morning calling on elected officials to put politics aside and finally pass ethics reform for South Carolina.
Which I thought was rather nice. I almost commented on it yesterday, it’s so unusual for one of the parties to refer to a member of the opposite party in such laudatory terms as “Dean of Ethics.”
That comment from Ms. Sosanie led into the forwarded email from Phil Bailey, which said:
Sheheen & Hayes urge electeds to put politics aside, stop delaying ethics reform in bipartisan op-ed
Columbia, SC- Today, Sen Vincent Sheheen penned an op-ed with Republican Sen Wes Hayes, calling for the Senate to put politics aside and immediately pass ethics reform in order for SC government to regain public trust. Sen Sheheen also released this statement:
“For the past seven years, I have fought for government restructuring and ethics reform. For the last three weeks, I have worked across the aisle to improve the House’s watered-down ethics bill so that it will actually reform ethics laws. For the past two days, I have voted and spoken up for the need to pass ethics reform. It’s time for the Governor, her Republican leadership in the legislature and members on both sides of the aisle to come together and finally pass real reform. The partisan bickering has to stop. The naked self-interest of the governor and other officials has to stop. We need real ethics reform, now.
“For months now, members of both parties have talked about the need for ethics reform. But action hasn’t followed. I am disappointed that for the past several days the Senate has delayed taking up ethics reform. Enough is enough. The Senate needs to move on ethics reform today, and the legislature should not adjourn until all its work is completed and that means we have reformed our ethics laws.”
Read Sen Sheheen’s bipartisan op-ed with Sen Hayes in today’s State newspaper:
That was followed by the text of the op-ed.
Maybe it was another release, but if it was that one, well… it doesn’t characterize Sen. Hayes position or motivation in any way, other than to say that he and Sheheen “urge electeds to put politics aside, stop delaying ethics reform.” And the op-ed did indeed conclude:
Together, we can effect real change, but those who are holding this effort up must start by putting politics aside and putting the interest of the people of South Carolina first.
So what was misleading? Nothing — technically. But only technically.
If this was indeed the release in question, all I can conclude was that Hayes was blamed by some fellow Republicans for the language attributed in the release to Sheheen, specifically:
It’s time for the Governor, her Republican leadership in the legislature and members on both sides of the aisle to come together and finally pass real reform. The partisan bickering has to stop. The naked self-interest of the governor and other officials has to stop. We need real ethics reform, now….
I have two things to say about that:
- First, someone in the GOP caucus needs to work on his reading comprehension skills. But that’s a minor point.
- More importantly, Vincent Sheheen did the wrong thing in putting out that statement. And Phil, and whoever else was in a position to advise him not to should have spoken up. But the responsibility lies with Sheheen.
This was wrong for Sheheen to do on several levels. There he was, fixed firmly on the high road with his joint op-ed with Hayes, and he has to come out with a statement the next day blaming the governor and the Republicans?
Did Sen. Sheheen not notice that only seven Republicans voted against putting the ethics bill on special order Wednesday, while 13 Democrats did? And at least the Republicans had an excuse — namely, that some of them are certifiable, and trying to revive nullification.
The Democrats who voted against didn’t have a coherent excuse — not even a loony one.
Finally, it was completely inappropriate to embarrass Sen. Hayes by associating him, however indirectly, with such a comment. No, no one said that Hayes had said these things — you have an airtight defense there. But it was wrong to go on the defensive against the governor and her party within the context of talking about the op-ed — especially since the Democrats have so much more to answer for on this issue.
It was even against Sheheen’s own self-interest to do this. This was a leadership opportunity for him, a chance to impress independents and even some Republicans with statesmanship. What he should have done was chew out his fellow Democratic senators who had voted the wrong way.
Wes Hayes was doing the right thing. I’m sorry if it got him in hot water. This is the kind of mess that keeps people from stepping out from behind their parties and leading.
I hope Vincent Sheheen is sorry about it, too.