Ethics Reform – Not So Fast

S.C. Legislators Campaign Funds for Foreign Trips

By Paul Gable

At least in the use of campaign funds, there seems to be bi-partisan support among S.C. legislators for trips abroad.

According to a recent article in The State newspaper, 11 representatives (8 Republicans and 3 Democrats) and a lone Republican senator made use of their campaign funds to pay for a trip to Israel.

According to the article, the legislators who made the trip were: Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Georgetown and Reps. Alan Clemmons, R-Horry, Heather Crawford, R-Horry, Stephen Goldfinch, R-Georgetown, Garry Smith, R-Greenville, Raye Felder, R-York, Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, Mike Forrester, R-Spartanburg, Mike Gambrell, R-Anderson, David Weeks, D-Sumter, Todd Rutherford, D-Richland and MaryGail Douglas, D-Fairfield.

Clemmons said in the article that the legislators used their campaign funds to cover the cost of the trip.

Obviously, the story raised questions about improper use of campaign funds and possible ethics violations, as well as claims of economic development meetings and an informal opinion from a House Ethics Committee staffer okaying the use of campaign funds to pay for the trip.

Leaving those questions and answers to other media venues, I believe this really comes down to a question of character.

Character is defined as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.

Former UCLA basketball coaching legend John Wooden once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

When a politician accepts campaign donations, does he or she consider themselves morally bound to spend those funds only on campaign expenses or do they constitute a “slush fund” for other uses?

One way to counter this type of use is to stop donating to politicians or vote out of office those that use campaign funds for other purposes.

I have an Israeli son-in-law. He and my daughter go to Israel every few years to visit his family. Maybe I should suggest to my daughter to run for office, raise a whole lot of campaign money and, win or lose, use the excess to fund their next trip to Israel.

Is that really any different?


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