Out-of-state Organizations Should Obey Our State’s Laws

By Representative Bill Sandifer, SC House of Representatives

I want to shed some light on a shady situation going on in our state.  We are being exposed to election tactics never before seen in South Carolina.  Out-of-state organizations are swooping down on our state and trying to control election outcomes.

These groups claim their mission is to educate the voters and hold politicians to high standards.  Well, that is why I am writing this guest commentary.  I want to educate you about exactly who these groups are and ask why these groups don’t hold themselvers to those same high ethical standards.

These groups want you to believe they represent true South Carolina values.  That is just not true, these organizations are wolves cloaked in sheep’s clothing.  Their values lie with the people who financially back their actions – special interest millionaires from places like New York and Washington DC.  Actually, the incorporator for South Carolinians for Responsible Government is a Washington DC, attorney.

With almost unlimited resources, these organizations are attempting to “buy” elections in our state.  An associate editor for The State newspaper said in a recent column that these groups “have become a cancer on our state” and that “they are attempting a libertarian coup of South Carolina’s government”.

There are good reasons why we have strict ethics laws in our state.  We want candidates, PAC’s and other organizations involved in the electral process to disclose where their funds come from so the public can be assured there is no wrongdoing.

Spokesmen for such organizations – like South Carolinians for Responsible Government – have stated time and time again that they plan to ignore South Carolina’s ethics laws.  Those tactics may work up North, where all their money is coming from, but here in South Carolina that dog won’t hunt.

That is why I am pleased that the State Ethics Commission has stated many times that these organizations are subject to our state ethics laws and must disclose their funds.  The Ethics Commission executive director, Herb Hayden, has sent a letter to one of these organizations informing them they are in violation of the laws.  The letter told the group’s president they have been put on notice that their campaign finance reports are required.

Many of us around the state are asking for these organizations to obey the ethics laws that we all obey.  If you are going to come into our state and get involved with public matters, you need to at least include the public and obey the law.

I am not trying to say groups like these should not be involved in the electoral process.  The more involved the public becomes, the more responsive government can be to the needs of the people.  I just feel the people of South Carolina should know they are being misled by groups who misrepresent who they really are.  And I would say to those groups, tell us what your message is, but at least be honest about who you really are. 

The main focus of these groups centers on the narrow issue of school vouchers.  Put Parents in Charge – a school vouchers program – is an issue that is near the top of Governor Mark Sandford’s agenda.  When asked about these groups, Sandford spokesman Joel Saywer said, “We believe any group working to influence political outcomes should disclose”.  Even the governor believes these groups should disclose and prove to the people of South Carolina exactly who they are.

The people of South Carolina should decide who their representatives are, not these out-of-state special interest groups.  It is important that the citizens of South Carolina be properly informed – not purposely misled – about our state’s elected representatives and their accomplishments in the House.

We don’t need outsiders to tell us how to vote for one of our own.

Until these groups decide to abide by our state’s laws and fully tell you who they are and whose values they really represent, I urge you to take their message with a grain of salt.

As a rule of thumb, I try not to trust anybody, or any organization, that openly admits they will not follow the law.