S.C. Flunks State Integrity Report
South Carolina near the bottom for corruption risk
South Carolina ranks among the states most likely to suffer from government corruption, according to a study released Monday.
The Palmetto State earned an "F" in the study, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity, because it lacked accountability, its ethics commission was deemed inadequate and campaign finance laws were not strict enough.
"An undercurrent of fear and political interference bubbles throughout the state’s civil service, one that is shot through with cronyism and patronage," Corey Hutchins, the State Integrity Investigation reporter for South Carolina, wrote in his report.
The report graded states on 14 categories from the public's ability to access information to internal auditing to legislative accountability. South Carolina received a failing grade in nine of the 14 categories.
South Carolina's highest grade, a B, came in the lobbying disclosure category.
The recent indictment of former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard and the saga of former Gov. Mark Sanford provided examples of corruption in South Carolina, but they did not lead to the state's failing grade.
"Keep in mind we're not measuring cases of corruption, but the systems in place to prevent it, and encourage openness and transparency in government," said Gordon Witkin, the managing editor for the Center for Public Intergrity.
Hutchins' report cited five major problems with South Carolina's political oversight and accountability.
"The biggest problems that exist are the manipulative fashions by which political parties are financed; antagonism by politicians toward a transparent government; hostility to the press; the corruptive influence of leadership political action committees; widespread institutional secrecy in disclosing assets, and loopholes in the state’s ethics laws large enough to dock a Confederate submarine," Hutchins wrote.
Gov. Nikki Haley's spokesman said that the governor continued to work to make her administration the most transparent in recent memory, according to a report in The State.
“We’re continuing to make this the most transparent administration in history,” said Haley's spokesman Rob Godfrey. “Agenda-driven D.C. groups can say what they want, but the strides made in South Carolina under the administration are undeniable.”
Only five states — Virginia, Maine, Wyoming, Georgia and South Dakota — fared worse than South Carolina during the assessment. New Jersey earned the highest grade, a B+. North Carolina ranked 19th.