need to fully fund education for the students of South Carolina.
We've been working too hard to improve education and we can't
go backwards now. The children deserve an education and our
elected officials were charged with doing the right thing
for children. Forget about the politics and get on with educating
Carol Tempel, James Island More.
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Elections may never
be the same
SC Statehouse Report
JUNE 15, 2003 - - Elections may never be the same in South Carolina
following passage of a sweeping, but mostly unheralded, campaign
finance reform bill that will take effect after next year's elections.
The bill, which is expected to be signed into law soon by Gov.
Mark Sanford, closes campaign finance loopholes, calls for stricter
disclosures of donations, toughens lobbyist rules and provides for
better reporting of contributions from people or groups that want
to influence the outcome of elections.
But perhaps the biggest change is the new law will limit the amount
of money political parties can give to candidates. In an election
cycle, parties will be able to give no more than $50,000 in total
to statewide candidates and $5,000 in total to all other candidates.
In other words, funds from a national party, state party and local
party combined cannot exceed the new limits.
For candidates, particularly those in targeted races, that's a
big change, says S.C. Sen. Tom Moore, D-Clearwater, who has been
pushing for tougher campaign disclosure laws for years.
"Everybody will play by the same rules," he said. "It
means you can't just back a Brinks truck up three days before the
election and buy the election."
Moore said the new rule would make it tougher for candidates to
rely on glitz, slick packaging and last-minute high-pressure tactics
to woo voters. (Of course, all of those things will remain in
political campaigns - - just maybe not as much).
Instead, candidates will be forced to focus more on issues and
run substantive campaigns.
"It will put people more on an equal footing," Moore
Other major provisions of the 33-page campaign finance bill include:
- Tougher lobbyist disclosure. Under current rules, lobbyists
are prohibited from giving to candidates. But there's nothing
to prohibit somebody from terminating their lobbyist registration
after the legislative session, giving to a candidate and then
re-registering the next day. New rules still will allow lobbyists
to terminate, but they'll be prohibited from giving through the
end of the calendar year.
- Legislative PACs. The new law will put tighter control
and disclosure requirements on so-called leadership political
action committees. The just-passed bill will prohibit political
action committees controlled by candidates from donating to other
- Internet reporting. The new law also calls for campaign
donations to be disclosed publicly on the Internet through the
State Ethics Commission. Currently, anybody who wants to see who
gives to a candidate has to go to Columbia to look at paper records.
- Outside efforts. The measure will force committees that
try to pass ballot measures or that make independent expenditures
to influence elections to disclose contributions to their efforts.
Any committee that accepts more than $500 will fall under disclosure
requirements. The move will allow voters to learn who is trying
to influence elections and keep big donors from hiding behind
the veil of anonymity of committees.
- Electioneering complaints. The reform package also outlines
a new complaint procedure for candidates to use if they think
opponents are engaged in irresponsible behavior. Currently, the
Ethics Commission's hands are virtually tied in cases of election
complaints before elections. The new law will let candidates who
believe they've been injured sue in court and get a hearing within
While the new law provides tougher requirements across the board,
there does seem to be one area that's more relaxed - - food, lodging,
transportation and drinks to state officials. Current law prohibits
lawmakers from receiving anything of value over $25 per day or $200
total per year from a company that employs a lobbyist. Under the
new law, the General Assembly doubled the daily and annual limits
- - which means lawmakers will be able to get some more free dinners.
Oh well, some things never change. At least the new law will have
more teeth than there is currently.
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